What is the Children's Court Clinic?
The Children’s Court Clinic is an independent, statewide service in Victoria which conducts psychological and psychiatric assessments of children and families for the Family and Criminal divisions of the Children’s Court of Victoria. The Clinic team consists of approximately 40 clinicians which include psychiatrists and psychologists of varying specialisations such as forensic, clinical, neuropsychological and educational and development psychology.
The reports provided by the Clinic are used to assist magistrates in making decisions regarding the care of children where concerns about their welfare have been raised.
COVID-19 government restrictions have impacted Clinic operations to date. Since Stage 4 Victorian government restrictions were put in place, the Clinic has been unable to conduct face-to-face assessment interviews and is therefore completing Criminal Division psychological and psychiatric assessments via video technology.
The majority of Family Division psychological assessments and all neuropsychological assessments require face-to-face assessments. This is due to the nature of the interviews that typically occur for most Family Division assessments (i.e. observational assessments of children and adults, interviews with infants and young children, and a safe, private space for children to participate in interviews), as well as cognitive testing involved in neuropsychological assessments. If any matters are restricted to questions such as the mental health of a parent or a risk assessment, these can be completed via video technology.
Building works are currently being undertaken to modify the Clinic interview rooms to enable the Clinic to resume ALL assessments face-to-face in a safe manner, without compromising the quality of the assessment. It is expected that these works will be completed in late October 2020.
What is involved?
The Children’s Court Clinic clinician will typically conduct a series of interviews with families over the course of one day in protection matters and a shorter period of time for criminal matters. Interviews might be undertaken with family members together and alone. Sometimes psychological tests are also administered to aid the clinician’s understanding of each family member’s issues.
In some cases, a neuropsychological assessment might be required. This enables the magistrate to get some more information about an individual’s thinking skills and how these could be affecting their everyday life.
How long does it take?
Depending on the nature of the case and how many family members are involved, assessments can take up to a day to complete.
What do you need to bring?
Because assessments can typically take the whole day, it is best to set a whole day aside and bring food for lunch and snacks. There are cafes nearby if you prefer to purchase your lunch.
What if I am worried about my safety?
If you have concerns about your safety when attending the Children’s Court Clinic, please contact the Clinic prior to your appointment so that these concerns can be discussed, and a plan can be put in place.
Is the information I discuss kept confidential?
All information that is discussed in the Clinic assessment could be written up in a report that the clinician provides to the Court. It is up to the magistrate to decide whether the report is released to anyone in the case. The Clinician might also be required to give evidence in Court.
What happens if I don't attend?
In cases where families/young people do not attend their scheduled appointment, the Clinic is required to report this to the Magistrate. This also means that the report might not be able to be completed by the date set for the next hearing.
Appointments can generally only be changed in exceptional circumstances.
All Clinic clinicians are registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Regulatory Authority (AHPRA), with endorsement in specialised areas of practice. Many clinicians are also members of the Australian Psychological Society. Clinic clinicians conduct themselves and their work in line with the ethical principles and standards outlined in the APS Code of Ethics and the Expert Witness Code of Conduct, Practice Note SC CR 3 and Practice Note SC CR 7 of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
For more information about the Clinic, including directions on how to get to the Clinic and parking options, please download Children's Court Clinic general guide.