What the child talks about with you is important for you to learn what his or her personal needs are. As a Court Appointed Special Advocate, the court is the only party to whom you are required to report what the child tells you. This is done within your court report as you give the facts supporting your decisions. You are not required to talk to anyone else about what the child says. If it involves illegal activities or things detrimental to the child's well-being, you should report it to Child Protective Services (CPS). CASA volunteers should inform their coordinators about the possible criminal activity.
After compiling data about the child you are evaluating, the painstaking task of putting together what you've learned from others and your own interviews begins. The more clues you have, the better you will understand the child. It is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You have these pieces and you have to put them together to create a picture that is clear enough to allow you to formulate a recommendation. Sometimes, however, there are contradictory clues--pieces that don't fit. It is very important not to reach a conclusion prematurely or to allow any one piece of information to influence your thinking before you corroborate it through other sources. As an evaluator, you need to carefully sift through the information with an awareness of your own biases or counter transference issues. It is possible to have a certain reaction to a parent that could prompt you to interpret the child's play in a way that is favorable or not favorable to one parent or the other. You need to question what you see, hear, and experience in the interviews with the child.
Before summarizing your conclusions, think about the jigsaw puzzle again. Ask yourself if the pieces really fit or if you might be trying to make certain pieces fit. Consider the many possible reasons for the behavior you have observed. Sometimes all the pieces do not fit and you need more information. Your task, as an evaluator, is to put together a picture that is as accurate as possible, using the resources which are most helpful to you.
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