Social Studies

Social Studies are completed under the supervision of Aaron Robb, M.ED., NCC, LPC-S of Forensic Counseling Services. Please specify on the Order for Social Study Evaluation and Social Study Advisement form that you are requesting Mindy Harrison complete this evaluation. If you are interested in having Mindy Harrison, LCSW complete your social study please contact Mr. Robb at 972-360-7437 and complete the initial paperwork.

Child Custody Evaluations - Overview
"Child custody evaluation is a process through which recommendations for the custody of, parenting of, and access to children can be made to the court in those cases in which the parents are unable to work out their own parenting plans."

From "Model Standards of Practice" of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts (1994). The most current version of the AFCC model standards can be found here.

When conducting a social study the goal is to evaluate the ways in which each parent contributes to the physical, emotional and social development of the child or children in question. The role of any professional conducting a social study is that of a neutral evaluator. Evaluators should always strive to serve impartially, never as an advocate for one parent or the other. In the end the goal is to make a recommendation to the court as to how both parents can best meet the needs and interests of the child or children involved.

It is necessary to complete a number of forms prior to and during the course of a social study. The initial forms, as well as general instructions for clients participating in a contested custody social study can be found here.

Contested custody evaluations are done by court appointment only. This generally means that both of the parties and/or attorneys agree to the appointment before submitting an order to the court for the social study. Please contact me in advance of any court order appointing me to conduct a social study in a particular case so that I may confirm that I am able to make whatever deadline the court intends to set for you.

Adoption Social Studies - Overview
Many stepparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others choose to adopt children whose lives they are already involved with. Although many courts and evaluators recognize that for most stepparent or relative adoptions the legal process cements an already existing relationship, the State of Texas still requires that an adoption social study be filed in most cases. While adoption of unrelated children (outside of a traditional adoption agency process) is somewhat less common it is still fairly regularly seen in the local courts. Unrelated adoptions are more complex, both in terms of paperwork and interviewing, and involve multiple visits and reports to the court. Please contact me directly for forms and information regarding adoption studies.

Similar to contested custody cases, adoption social studies are done by court appointment only.

"Home Studies"
We have been receiving an increasing number of requests for "home studies." In general this has meant an examination of the basic physical environment of one parent. Some jurisdictions, especially those outside of Texas, may use the phrase "home study" and "social study" interchangeably so it is important to have clarity in these cases as to what type of service the court is requesting. We are available to perform basic review of a parent's physical home environment (generally in the context of arranging for that parent to spend time with their child(ren) in their home), as well as more extensive background checking and interviewing as well. Please make sure to clarify what your case specific needs are with us prior to beginning the "home study."

Depending on the specifics of the case a "home study" may be done at the request of an individual attorney or by court appointment. In the case of a court appointment the order should spell out, in detail, any special requests or issues that the court wishes examined. Orders without specific instructions will be responded to as a request for a minimal physical environment assessment.

Fees for Child Custody Evaluations
Completed social studies by Mindy Harrison are billed at a flat base rate of $1000.00 per party. This base rate covers interviews of up to five adults and/or children involved in the case. There is an additional charge of $100.00 per party ($50.00 per party for staff) for each additional adult or child to be interviewed beyond the first five.

The base rate also covers collection of standard collateral information, review of basic documentation, and completion of a report to the court. It does not cover review of depositions over one hour in length per party, review of extensive Child Protective Services records, or other substantial records review. Such additional work is billed based on a standard hourly rate of $100.00 per hour.

Fees for Adoption Social Study Evaluations
In stepparent or other relative adoptions there is a flat fee of $550.00. For non-relative adoptions the fee is $700.00. As with contested custody evaluations, there are occasionally unusual circumstances that require additional fees. Assistance in completing the Health, Education, Social, and Genetic History report for an unrelated adoption can be provided at the standard fee of $100.00 per hour.