Preserving families: Creating evidence-based court reports

Course overview

A workshop by Andrea Landini, MD and Patricia M. Crittenden, PhD

Family courts need pertinent and accurate information that can lead to the most helpful and least harmful decisions regarding services to families and child placement. Currently, most information provided to family courts is about parents’ limitations and children’s needs. Some information is not relevant at all and other information is unverifiable clinical opinion. This workshop will offer a protocol for assessing attachment, show examples of the protocol, and give participants practice in creating service plans from protocols of assessment.


Four problems are central:

a. Most assessments used for child protection were developed for other populations. Whilst most child protection parents’ behaviour is atypical, it does not usually meet criteria for psychiatric diagnoses. Instead, such parents use specific extreme attachment strategies.

b. Attachment is not usually formally evaluated even though it is used in most court decision-making. Indeed, ‘anxious’ or ‘disorganized’ attachment is often incorrectly considered sufficient to recommend removal.

c. Parental readiness to learn is not usually considered when choosing services. Selecting services progressively builds resilience and differentiates restorable and supportable families (who can be helped to keep their children) from inadequate families (for whom no service structure can keep the children minimally safe). Restorable families need carefully sequenced services that move from least demanding to those requiring greater competence. Supportable families need external resources to fulfil functions that the parents cannot.

d. Separation elicits extreme threat, with foster care creating new trauma for children and parents. It is especially concerning that 50 years of child protection has produced a new generation of child protection mothers who were separated from their parents and raised in foster care. Often such mothers move directly from being in foster care to being under child protection supervision with the birth of their first baby.

For these reasons, the IASA* Family Attachment Court Protocol (Crittenden, et al., 2013) emphasizes:

1. Using unbiased, evidence-based assessments developed and validated on child protection populations to identify child needs and parental readiness to learn.

2. Identifying dangers, including separation, experienced by family members, family members’ protective strategies, and the implications of those strategies for family well-being.

3. Integrating assessment and history to understand why parents behave as they do, thus identifying causal conditions that could become the focus for intervention.

4. Creating service plans that build on parents’ competence and readiness so as to prioritize family preservation.

*IASA: International Association for the Study of Attachment

In this presentation, prototype court reports using the IASA Protocol will be viewed. The advantages of having authorized experts carry out the assessments and then interpret the assessments in the light of a full history, including professional reports, will be outlined. Participants will develop plans that can restore families to adequate functioning or support less capable families without foster care. Access to free, downloadable materials will be offered to participants.

Andrea Landini, MD is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, specializing in cognitive-constructivist and family psychotherapy. He is the Director of the Family Relations Institute in Reggio-Emilia, Italy and Miami, USA. His clinical practice includes psychotherapy with adolescents and families and supervision of professional staff caring for out-of-home youth. For two decades, he has taught the DMM, published research on attachment, and collaborated with Dr. Crittenden in the development of the Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) of Attachment and Adaptation. He co-authored Assessing Adult Attachment and Attachment and Family Therapy.

Patricia M. Crittenden, PhD, has degrees in special education (M. Ed.), developmental psychopathology (Ph.D.), and sexual abuse (post-doc). She trained with Mary Ainsworth and John Bowlby, ultimately developing the Dynamic-Maturational Model (DMM) of Attachment and Adaptation. She has published empirical research, treatment guidelines, and several books, including Raising Parents: Attachment, Representation, and Treatment. She developed a life-span set of DMM assessments of attachment.

This course will take place on Thursday 12 December 2019 from 3pm - 6pm
Certificate of attendance
The Tavistock Centre, London
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