Case Workers in Family Court: A Therapeutic Jurisprudence Analysis

Children and Youth Services Review 68, 107-114, 2016

29 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2016 Last revised: 5 Nov 2016

See all articles by Vicki Lens

Vicki Lens

Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY

Colleen Katz

Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, CUNY

Kimberly Spencer Suarez

Columbia University, School of Social Work

Date Written: June 27, 2016

Abstract

This study explores interactions between judges and caseworkers in child maltreatment cases. We examined the extent to which judges demonstrated therapeutic jurisprudence principles (TJ) in their courtroom interactions in light of past findings linking such practices with positive outcomes. Ninety-four child maltreatment proceedings were observed over a one-year period between 2012 and 2013. We found that while some judges created respectful, empathetic, and supportive environments that included caseworkers, other interactions were more negative. Although caseworkers had the most knowledge of, and experience with families, their participation was limited, and conversations were often directed through the attorneys. Shaming rituals also occurred, with judges criticizing workers for the quality of their work, the slowness of the bureaucracy, and other deficiencies. The findings highlight the importance of applying the principles of TJ to all court actors, especially in the family court milieu, where courtrooms are populated by a team of professionals who share the common goal of rehabilitating families when appropriate.

Keywords: Family Court, Child maltreatment proceedings, caseworkers, judges, therapeutic jurisprudence

Suggested Citation

Lens, Vicki and Katz, Colleen and Spencer Suarez, Kimberly, Case Workers in Family Court: A Therapeutic Jurisprudence Analysis (June 27, 2016). Children and Youth Services Review 68, 107-114, 2016, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2860255

Vicki Lens (Contact Author)

Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College, CUNY ( email )

2180 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10035
United States

Colleen Katz

Silberman School of Social Work, Hunter College, CUNY ( email )

2180 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10035
United States

Kimberly Spencer Suarez

Columbia University, School of Social Work ( email )

622 W. 113th Street
New York, NY
United States

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