Attorneys, psychologists, judges, child advocates and other professionals will gather in Washington, D.C., June 3-5, for a national conference on how the legal system and the courts can better meet the needs of children and adolescents.
The meeting--the National Conference on Children and the Law--is a biennial event sponsored by the American Bar Association's Center on Children and the Law. For the first time, APA will co-sponsor the conference--a development that is reflected in the conference theme: "Lawyers and psychologists working together."
"Lawyers and psychologists so often seem like different cultures when trying to collaborate and communicate," says Robert T. Kinscherff, JD, PhD, chair of APA's Ad Hoc Committee on Legal Issues, which is helping to organize the event. "This conference bridges differences in training and roles to find common ground in the service of children and families before the courts."
The conference will offer psychologists up to 15 continuing-education credits, including 4.5 hours of ethics credits. Another seven credits are available at pre-conference workshops. Attorneys can also obtain continuing legal education credits.
Pre-conference participants can select one of four all-day sessions on:
Discussing how legal and mental health professionals can better ensure the well-being of children and adolescents involved in the courts.
Training on attorney trial skills in child welfare cases involving parental mental health issues.
Examining the role of psychology in contested child custody cases in family court.
Improving the legal system's response to maltreated infants and toddlers--a session held in collaboration with Zero to Three, a national nonprofit that promotes healthy infant and toddler development.
Plenary sessions include:
Judicial decision-making affecting children: Hollywood vs. reality, a discussion of how the fictional TV court process--from which many people get their ideas about the legal system--differs from real life.
How youth experience "the system," a panel of adolescents who will discuss their experiences in the legal system.
Other planned sessions will cover minimizing the court system's negative effects on children, identifying junk science, providing mental health services to foster children, conducting and communicating the results of forensic evaluations in child protection cases, conducting child custody evaluations, and assessing decision-making competency in adolescents. The juvenile death penalty and school violence and harassment will also be addressed.
The conference is the eleventh in a series sponsored by the Center on Children and the Law, says its director, Howard Davidson, JD, noting that APA's participation will add a new dimension: "This one will focus more on practical and ethical aspects of interdisciplinary collaboration to address the interests of children involved in the legal process," he explains.
The advance registration deadline is April 30; the conference is limited to the first 600 registrants.
--D. SMITH BAILEY
For more information, visit www.abanet.org/child/conference2004.html.