Webinar presenter Lindsay Gephardt answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Make the Call: Child Discipline or Child Abuse? Here are just a few of her responses.
Audience Question: Is a warrant needed to obtain school and or DCS records?
Lindsay Gephardt: Not necessarily a warrant. If you’re in law enforcement, you can obviously write a warrant if that’s easier for you. More than likely what you’re going to do is you’re going to talk to the prosecuting agency that you’re dealing with for these cases, they’ll be able to do a subpoena of some kind and get those for you. In our jurisdiction, we have to subpoena DCS records. Our law enforcement isn’t able to get them. With school records probably along the same lines.
Audience Question: Are you aware of any more recent, or updated stats about child physical discipline? You shared some of those, and those last ones, or at least the studies. But wanted to know if you had any more statistics about how commonly accepted it is in society today?
Lindsay Gephardt: Yes, so the one website I found extremely helpful was End Corporal Punishment, and it’s the international community’s compilation of child physical discipline statistics across the globe. So, it looks at the United States, and then it looks across international communities and what they’re doing as well. So, I would refer you to that. Straus is good, I noted him in a couple of my slides, however, I think his most recent study is from 2009. Really, what we’re seeing is a decline in child physical discipline, which is good. A less wide endorsement as you get to certain communities, more on the East Coast and the West coast. It’s still pretty prevalent in the south and rural communities, however.
Audience Question: Would you be able to share some more details and examples of the diversion programs that you’re able to offer in Maricopa County?
Lindsay Gephardt: Yeah, absolutely. So, Maricopa County has a parenting skills course. It is a pretrial diversion program. We are moving it to postfile diversion. Essentially, what it used to be, and now I guess what it is, is we get a referral from a law enforcement agency, and if you have a case that meets the criteria and the certain factors we’re looking at. We used to send a letter to the parent and say, if you participate in this pretrial diversion program, then we won’t file charges. And essentially, what it is, is a six-week, six-class parenting class. It goes through individualized parenting courses and goes through individualized therapy, needs, and resources. And as long as the parent completes that successfully, we would not file charges. Now, it’s sort of shifted to a post file where we file the charge of child abuse, and then we send them to the parenting course and suspend prosecution in the process. And then, again, as long as they complete the parenting course then they are going to, then we’ll dismiss the charges with prejudice. On our website, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, if you search, there is a tab on there with a flyer for our diversion program. It’s super helpful. It delineates all of the aspects of the parenting program and the curriculum that we follow. Super helpful, I would check it out.
Audience Question: Do you have recommendations on how to intervene and address child physical abuse when the parent belongs to a culture that supports physical violence, especially if the person is intervening from a different cultural background? Any suggestions in that scenario?
Lindsay Gephardt: That’s a difficult position to be in obviously. As I said, we need to make sure that we’re checking any of our biases that are implicit in or non-implicit, and make sure that we’re really being sensitive to these other aspects that may be we’ve never experienced before. The one thing that I think is particularly helpful is reaching out to maybe faith and religious leaders within their community. And maybe see if you can get some sort of intervention, maybe through maybe some church-based services or religious-based services within that culture. Or maybe trying to get an advocate with a similar background, who’s able to help out and identify with them from that level. You know, Maricopa County has a great resource of all different sorts of advocates from all different sorts of backgrounds, and I’m hoping that within your jurisdictions, you have those same resources, so that’s a good place to start.
Audience Question: Brendan is wondering if whether or not you can talk about tips and tricks for investigating delayed reports of abuse or neglect?
Lindsay Gephardt: Yes. So, this is one of the things that we’ve seen a lot during the COVID pandemic is that we’re getting children starting to disclose abuse that happened maybe while they were in the home during quarantine and isolation. And now, we’re kind of playing catch up. You know, the dedicated forensic interview is going to be so important during this. Obviously, the more detail of where, when, things as simple as, you know, locating the house that maybe they have moved. You know, this happened at the house on Green Street. And being able to get all of those small details that you can pinpoint and say this matches up with what the child is saying. You know, if the injuries are already gone, maybe you can try and see if there’s any record of it in the pediatric records or anything like that. And then siblings within the home maybe they saw or observe something, neighbors whether they saw or observe something. You know, obviously, the corroboration is, the main evidence is going to be your child, and any little thing that helps corroborate that child is going to be the key in those types of offenses.
Audience Question: Do these investigations look to see if there was emotional or sexual abuse occurring as well?
Lindsay Gephardt: Yes, so as part of the forensic interview of the kid, the forensic interviewer is always going to ask those questions. That usually comes at the end of the interview. If there is if there are no disclosures prior to that. They’re going to ask them, “Has anyone touched you inappropriately in any spots that are not okay? Have you ever seen any videos or images of naked people?” And then, during the interview, they’re going to ask questions along the lines of, “When he hit you, what did you feel?” Things like that, that are going to give you an idea of the child’s frame of reference. And then they’re going to ask also, “Do they say any mean things to you?” Things like that. And then you’re going to start to learn some of what the bad things are that the parents are saying in conjunction, which goes a long way in helping secure an emotional child abuse charge.
Host: Okay, and since you mentioned forensic interviewing, I wanted to also let folks know that Lindsay is back with us on August fifth to talk about Forensic Interviewing of Children: What Justice Professionals Need to Know. Same thing as before, in terms of being able to register for that. The webinar date is August fifth. Be sure to register as soon we already have over 140 registrations for that one, and I suspect just like this, and we’re going to end up having to close down registrations when we hit capacity.
Audience Question: Can a parent take the parenting class if they’re in a custody battle due to child abuse and neglect that didn’t have to do with hitting the child?
Lindsay Gephardt: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s going to depend on what type of intervention the Children’s Services is doing. With us, obviously, we all for the prosecutor’s perspective, we always take into consideration if there’s ongoing litigation in that realm. We try not to get involved with it, it’s not really part of our analysis, but it is a fact that we consider whether or not the witness says the other parent is credible or not. But really, I mean, if they’re, if it otherwise meets the criteria for getting into a diversion program, we would, I mean, there isn’t really a reason why we wouldn’t do that.
Audience Question: Could you share a little bit more information about the liberty tests that you talked about earlier in the presentation?
Lindsay Gephardt: Okay. Yeah, so, with the Supreme Court case, the 2000 case, Justice Stevens was talking about, in his dissent, how there is this idea of, we have to make sure that we’re balancing the interests of the parents right to raise their children how they want. Because that’s the Supreme Court’s position is that the parents have this protected constitutional right to raise their children. But they have to balance it with the state’s interest in the welfare of the child. So, essentially, you’re weighing both the constitutionally protected right, as well as the state interests. And what it really boils down to is the idea of when can, and when should the state intervene in parenting. Because we have the policy, this idea that parents are there in the best position to take care of their kids and raise their kids. And so, what the court really noted is that there’s this competing interest, though, that we have to make sure that the kids are protected as well.
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