Child and Family Forensic Evaluation Service (CAFFES)

About the Child and Family Forensic Evaluation Service

The Child and Family Forensic Evaluation Service (CAFFES) is a forensic service that operates as a component of our Center of Excellence for Children, Families, and the Law.

Consistent with William James College's mission to "meet the evolving mental health needs of society," the Child and Family Forensic Evaluation Service believes that highest-quality and forensically sound psychological evaluations are of great assistance to individual children and families in situations arising at the intersection of the legal system and behavioral science. Since those situations (including but not limited to divorce, guardianship, or adoption) are a relatively common occurrence in our society, on a larger scale we believe that the expertise provided by CAFFES can support positive development and interests of children as families undergo change, and so benefits individuals, families and society as a whole.

Who We Serve

CAFFES offers forensic and clinical mental health expertise for courts, attorneys, state protection agencies and others who are involved in court, mediation, or other contexts in which the resolution of disputes would be  assisted by forensically sound behavioral health evaluation and recommendations.

Who Might Need Our Services

  • Attorneys who represent clients in litigation or mediation
  • Judges
  • Mediators
  • Parents who have been court-ordered to participate in evaluations related to child custody proceedings
  • Individuals who have been court-ordered to participate in classes focusing upon parenting, co-parenting, etc.

What We Do

CAFFES provides forensic psychological evaluations that are prepared by psychologists and/or post-doctoral psychology fellows under the close supervision of highly qualified and experienced doctoral-level professionals. Below is an explanation of our reports.

We can address a wide variety of questions that may be posed by courts, attorneys, or others, regarding children and families going through stressful, challenging or disputed circumstances.

In most circumstances, the service is offered at a fixed, flat fee, which is unique feature of our program and services. Please see below for more details about payment and fees.

CAFFES provides state of the art, comprehensive mental health expertise in situations which arise at the intersection of the family, the legal system, and the mental health professions. CAFFES has an unsurpassed ability to provide timely "state of the art" forensic evaluations and consultations due to our staff affiliated with CAFFES and the professional resources associated with William James College.

Custody and Other Family Court Evaluations

The type of investigation and evaluation, ultimately resulting in a written report, that CAFFES offers, is most commonly thought of and referred to in Massachusetts as a "GAL report," and in other states as a "custody evaluation." Strictly speaking, in Massachusetts a GAL (Guardian Ad Litem) is a mental health or legal professional who is appointed by a court (as evidenced by a written appointment document that is signed by a judge).

CAFFES will make top-quality GAL-type or custody evaluation reports available to all families at a reasonable cost, in a short enough time frame to truly assist children and families in crisis or turmoil. We offer two types of fixed-fee evaluation reports. The first, at cost of $8,000-$10,000 (depending on a number of factors), is a traditional GAL type of evaluation and report. The second, at cost of $6,000, is a "Brief Focused Assessment" (BFA) report. Click here for a description of a BFA.

CAFFES also provides evaluations of youth and families involved with the juvenile justice and child welfare systems (in counties other than Norfolk and Suffolk counties). For example, we offer services to attorneys, judges or agencies seeking evaluations to address a juvenile's competence to stand trial, criminal responsibility, general mental health needs, aid in disposition needs, or specific risk assessment questions. We can also offer services to attorneys, judges or agencies seeking assessment of the relationship between a child and the parent(s) or foster parent, an individual's parenting capacities and overall functioning, the nature of a child's special needs and the impact on separation, transition planning, and a child's overall needs. We are a CPCS vendor.  Evaluation costs vary. We typically request an allowed motion for $4,500.

In a case where one parent has been absent from a child’s life for a substantial amount of time: under what, if any, conditions would it benefit the child to establish a relationship with the parent and what are the risks to the child and current caretakers that should be carefully monitored over the course of any attempt to develop a relationship?

In a case where there are allegations of substance abuse or mental health impairment in a parent: what are the true circumstances of that parent’s alleged substance abuse or mental health condition, and how does it impair that parent’s ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the child during their parenting time? Does the parent suffer from a mental illness or substance abuse, and, if yes, how does this impact their ability to provide a consistent and safe environment during their parenting time?

In a case where a child is very young or has special needs: Given a parental agreement or court ruling on legal and physical custody, what specific parenting schedule would be developmentally appropriate? Are there several variations which could be equally appropriate? Is there a type of parenting schedule that should be avoided?

In a case with a young child and unsubstantiated allegations of abuse: How can access be allowed in a safe, developmentally appropriate and careful manner while the allegations are investigated and determined, especially if there has been a lapse in contact?

In a case where relocation has been allowed by the court: what would be a developmentally appropriate access plan, given the circumstances of the parties and the child(ren) and the upcoming move?

In a case where one parent asserts that a child wishes to change residence and live with the non-custodial parent: a BFA of the circumstances of that request could be useful. The assessment might include: What is the legitimacy of the parent’s assertion that the child so desires? What is the context of and basis for the child’s wish to change residence; is the child able to articulate his/her reasoning in a developmentally appropriate way; what is the parents’ report of the history of this request as well as the parenting and attachment history, are there concerns about parental influences on the child’s thinking/wish; does the child have any special needs and what would be the impact on the child of such a change were it to be granted?

In a case of a child who appears aligned with one parent to the exclusion of the other: what are the true dynamics of the parent-child relationship, can the relationship be improved if appropriate to do so, and how?

In a case where it is reported that a teenage child or children wishes to address the Court to express his/her preference(s): is that wish accurately reported and would it be in the child’s best interest and if so how might it be accomplished?

In a case where a previous custody evaluation has been done but is now stale: what updates are now needed (with specific areas of focus identified—such as a new parenting plan schedule, whether a parent has completed certain tasks that were suggested in the previous evaluation, etc.)?

In a case where concerns are raised about the conditions and safety and appropriateness of one parent’s home: what does a home study reveal?

Examining allegations of: parent coaching, manipulating, biasing or disaffecting a child from the other parent.

What if any are the needs for visitation supervision? And if visits should be supervised presently: what steps need to be taken to remove the supervision restriction?

What school(s) should the child(ren) attend: including an evaluation of the educational/learning/psychosocial needs of the child(ren)?

For children from birth to age three: what is the nature and quality of the child’s attachment to each parent, and what is the most appropriate time share plan both presently, and in increments as the child progresses from age one to two to three?

What specific child-exchange provisions: time, place, persons present or prohibited, etc., will best serve the children (including protecting them from conflict)?

What specific legal custody language could be tailored to the child(ren) and parents at issue? That is, what specific division or assignment of who will decide what issues, would best serve the children? (to include health care, academics, extracurricular activities, etc. etc.)

Determination of the best plan for sharing holidays/school closing days/summer vacation days.

Choosing between two or more proposed time sharing plans: i.e. one week on/one week off vs. 2-2-5-5 vs. some other proposed plan(s) to determine which will best serve the children’s interests.

Appropriateness of childcare providers: including hired child care, family members, etc..

Jessica Greenwald O'BrienExpert Consulting

Jessica P. Greenwald O'Brien, PhD, has been a practicing forensic and clinical psychologist for over 25 years, conducting a full range of evaluations for the Probate and Juvenile Courts, and teaching and training professionals in the field.

Our expertise includes, but is not limited to, the following

  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Child welfare and attachment=
  • Mental illness and/or substance abuse and impact upon parenting
  • Divorce and visitation disputes
  • Visitation Resistance
  • Spousal and intimate partner violence
  • Foster care, permanency planning and adoption
  • Factitious Disorder by Proxy
  • Parent Coordination in on-going post-divorce conflict
  • Parental relocation/removal during or following divorce
  • Juvenile delinquency and Youthful Offender matters, including homicide
  • Juvenile competence to stand trial
  • Juvenile criminal responsibility
  • Juvenile sexual offender cases
  • Forensic psychological and neuropsychological testing/assessment in the context of legal proceedings
  • Assessment of the impact of exposure to adverse/traumatizing events
  • School related issues and conflicts, including threat assessment
  • Risk assessment


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Children, Families and the Law Information

1 Wells Ave, Newton MA 02459
Click here for directions

Contact Jessica P. Greenwald O'Brien, PhD, Director, Center of Excellence for Children, Families and the Law, and Director, Child and Family Forensic Evaluation Service
Email Jessica
Phone: 617-327-6777 x1424
Fax: 617-477-2014

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