• Children, Families and the Law

    The Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law (CECFL) recognizes the life-changing decisions that are made when children and families come before Courts.

Certificate in Child and Family Forensics

The Certificate in Child and Family Forensics provides students with a solid foundation in the concepts, theories and practices in child and family forensic mental health work and will help professionals hone their skills and increase their knowledge to prepare them for work in child welfare, juvenile delinquency, sexual offending, domestic violence, divorce custody and post-divorce parenting contexts. The five courses include: Child Custody Evaluation, Intimate Partner Violence, Mental Health and Juvenile Justice , Child Maltreatment,  and Parenting Coordination. These courses will review the law and systems, describe and practice protocols for evaluations, and review empirically based best practices and interventions through in-depth didactic instruction and opportunities for practice and consultation.  

Each course is a blended learning format and spans 4 weeks of online coursework for 13 hours and 15 hours of on-site instruction over a weekend in residence. Each course is 28 hours and 28 Continuing Education Units. Courses are open to mental health professionals, attorneys, judges, mediators, court personnel and other professionals interested in child and family forensic issues. Students who choose four classes will obtain a Certificate in Child and Family Forensic Issues from William James College

Jessica P Greenwald OBrien PhD

Dr. Jessica P. Greenwald O’Brien is the Director of the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law. She has practiced in the field of child and family forensic psychology for the past 25 years, in both the family and juvenile courts of Massachusetts. Her forensic evaluation practice with youth and families includes child custody, guardianship, relocation matters within the family courts and child welfare/child protection and delinquency matters in the juvenile court. She consults with attorneys and courts on topics of trauma and child maltreatment impacts on attachment, child development, intimate partner violence, parenting, delinquent behavior and risk, and mental health functioning of children and parents involved in the legal system. She teaches and trains other psychologists as well as legal professionals in the field. She serves on the certification committee of the Division of Forensic Mental Health for juvenile court clinicians, and mentors certification candidates.  Additionally, she has worked with teachers, school specialists, mental health professionals, and administrators to augment trauma-sensitivity in schools.

Dr. Greenwald O’Brien received an AB in psychology with honors at the University of Michigan and then earned her doctorate in clinical and forensic psychology at the University of Nebraska in 1993. Her post-doctoral training in trauma and family forensics took place through the Victims of Violence Program at The Cambridge Hospital and the Children and the Law Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, both of the Harvard Medical School.

Upcoming Course Schedule:

  • Child Maltreatment: March 4-April 6, 2019
  • Parenting Coordination: April 15-May 18, 2019
  • Child Custody Evaluation: April 15-May 18, 2019
  • Intimate Partner Violence: November 4-December 7, 2019
  • Post Certificate Course: Advanced Parenting Coordination: January 6-February 2, 2020
  • Mental Health and Juvenile Justice: 2019 course is full. 2020 course to be announced.

Course Descriptions and Registration:

Child Custody Evaluation

Instructor: Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, PhD

This course is designed for professionals who aspire to use empirically-based research and methodology and best practices to provide or understand forensic psychological assessments in contested custody matters for the courts. William James College and the Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law will offer the Child Custody Evaluation course for continuing education credits. This 28 hour training provides 28 Continuing Education Credit and will examine the role and process of a child custody evaluator. The course is a blended learning format and spans 4 weeks of online coursework for 13 hours and 15 hours of on-site instruction over a weekend-in-residence. Mental health practitioners, mediators, attorneys and other professionals will have the opportunity to expand their practice and skills in this emerging area.

Online Course Dates:  April 15 - May 12, 2019
On Campus Residence at William James: May 17 - 18, 2019

Register Online

Child Maltreatment

Instructor: Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, PhD

Child Maltreatment is designed for professionals engaged in providing services to youth, families, and the courts who seek to provide or understand best practices of investigation, evaluation, and testimony in matters of child abuse or neglect including sexual abuse in the context of divorce. Participants will distinguish between forensic and clinical evaluations, enhance reliability of interviews of children, apply a systematic approach to providing a sound evidence-based report and opinion, and identify ethical issues inherent in evaluations and testimony. This training provides 28 Continuing Education Credits. The course is a blended learning format and spans 4 weeks of online coursework for 13 hours and 15 hours of on-site instruction over a weekend-in-residence.

Online Course Dates:  March 4 - March 31, 2019
On Campus Residency at William James: April 5 - 6, 2019

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Intimate Partner Violence

Instructor: Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, PhD

This course will expose participants to emerging research in interpersonal violence and best practices using available guidelines and standards for evaluation of IPV. The course is a blended learning format and spans 4 weeks of online coursework for 13 hours and 15 hours of on-site instruction over a weekend-in-residence. It provides 28 Continuing Education Credits. This course in Intimate Partner Violence is designed for professionals engaged in providing services to children, adults and families and the courts who seek to provide or understand best practices of investigation, evaluation, and testimony in matters where domestic violence is alleged. Mental health practitioners, mediators, attorneys and other professionals with graduate degrees and a license or certification will have the opportunity to expand their practice and skills in this emerging area.

Online Course Dates: November 4 - December 1, 2019
On Campus Residency at William James: December 6 - 7, 2019

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Mental Health and Juvenile Justice

Instructors: Robert Kinscherff, PhD, JD and Jessica Greenwald O’Brien, PhD

Mental Health and Juvenile Justice is designed for professionals engaged in providing services to youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system who aspire to improve outcomes for youth and families through enhancing their programs and services, and by more effectively partnering with public and private agencies and providers (state, local, tribal or other). Participants will apply emerging research in trauma and neurodevelopment to describing developmental trauma impacts in court-involved youth, identify key points on the research-based "cradle to prison pipeline" for high-risk youth involved with juvenile justice, describe "best practices" for youth involved with juvenile justice, and identify competencies for a program to meet the mental health needs of court-involved youth. 

Online Course Dates:  2019 course is full. Check back soon for 2020 offering

Parenting Coordination

Instructor: Robin Deutsch, PhD, ABPP

Parents who are in chronic high conflict pose particular difficulties for the courts, the professionals who are involved with them, and their children. Increasingly, courts are appointing Parenting Coordinators to help reduce parental conflict and protect the children. This training provides 28 Continuing Education Credits and will examine the role and functions of the Parenting Coordinator and the interventions helpful to reduce conflict. The course is a blended learning format and spans 4 weeks of online coursework for 13 hours and 15 hours of on-site instruction over a weekend-in-residence.  Mental health practitioners, mediators, attorneys, and other professionals will have the opportunity to expand their practice and skills in this emerging area. 

Online Course Dates: April 15 – May 12, 2019
On Campus Residency at William James: May 17 - 18, 2019

Register Online

Post Certificate Course - Advanced Parenting Coordination

Instructor: Robin Deutsch, PhD, ABPP

Participants in this advanced training will learn advanced strategies and techniques to work effectively with difficult clients including those with personality disorders, and manage cases where children resist contact with a parent and where young children are involved. Participants should have completed either the William James College Parenting Coordination course or another minimum two-day core training course on Parenting Coordination and have some experience providing or referring to parenting coordinator services.

Online Course Dates:  January 6 - February 2, 2020
This is a fully online program. There is no on campus residency requirement.

Register Online