Community Care Programs is a specialized mental health clinic providing comprehensive testing and assessments for youth, families and county partners. We believe that every mental health contact can be the beginning of healing and growth. Because of this, our evaluations strive to be collaborative and search for client strengths as well as needs. Our reports are written in ‘plain-speak’ and offer specific, follow-up resources for youth, clinicians and families.
Community Care Programs specializes in the assessment of youth sexual offending, emerging mental illness in children and adolescents, the impacts of trauma on home and school functioning and family reunification planning. We involve the youth’s family in the assessment, with the goal of beginning the healing process during the assessment. Our experienced clinicians have been evaluating youth and their families for over 20 years and understand how to foster a collaborative, problem solving process for all.
We offer a variety of clinical assessments, including:
- Sometimes our county partners have complex questions about the ‘goodness of fit’ between a parent’s strengths/needs and those of their children. Often times these questions come up in the context of placement decisions or Termination of Parental Rights actions.
- Our county partners can rely upon Community Care Resources and Programs for a Parenting Assessment that surveys 9 domains of parental functioning from ensuring physical safety to nurturing and guidance.Dr. Donna A. Rifken, Ph.D. Psychologist, meets with parents, guardians, youth and county workers to understand the questions being asked. Then she engages the youth and adults in clinical interviews and testing specifically targeting parenting skills and attachment. The final report is written so that it offers timely and specific recommendations to our county partners.
- When testimony is required, Dr. Rifken is prepared to present her information and conclusions to the court.
Another service available through the S.T.O.P. program as a separate service is the Psychosexual Assessment. Psychosexual Assessment referrals are accepted for both male and female youth that exhibit problematic sexual behaviors. The psychosexual Evaluation is a trauma-informed comprehensive assessment of the youth’s risk for sexual recidivism. The assessment process employs research-based tools such as the J-SOAP-II (Juvenile Sexual Offender Assessment Protocol, Prentky et al, 2000) and the ERASOR (Estimate of Risk of Adolescent Sexual Offense Recidivism, Worling and Curwen, 2001) and tools such as the Abel, Becker & Kaplan Adolescent Cognitions Scale Revised (Judith Becker, Ph.D. and Meg Kaplan, Ph.D.) and the sexual arousal graphs (James Worling, Ph.D.) Results from the evidence based tools are combined with the information gleaned from clinical interviews with the youth and his/her parents and information collected from collateral interviews to generate a report that is provided to the referral Social Worker within two weeks of the clinical interview.
Issues addressed in the Psychosexual Assessment include but are not limited to the following:
- Psychological functioning
- Youth’s Trauma History
- Information regarding a youth’s sexual development, values, and beliefs
- Developmental history of the youth (strengths and needs)
- Youth’s view of family/school//environmental circumstances
- Dynamics of the sexual offense
- Risk Factors and Protective Factors
- Recommendations regarding placement (if requested), juvenile sex offender registry, safety and supervision planning, and treatment including recommendations regarding reunification of siblings in situations of interfamilial sexual abuse.
Occupational Therapy Assessment
Our experienced clinicians believe that youth behavior problems are like an iceberg. The problems that bring youth to the clinic are the parts of the iceberg you can see. The solutions to those problems can be found by understanding and intervening with what lies below the water line – trauma, abuse, neglect or addiction.
We bring our compassion and professional expertise to every youth we treat, individualizing their treatment because ‘one size fits one’. Our clinicians work to understand how a youth’s current behavior problem might have started as a creative solution to an unlivable situation. We carefully evaluate the impacts of family mental health history, early environment, and trauma on the behaviors under scrutiny. We consult with parents, teachers and physicians to craft a comprehensive road map to wellness.
Dr. Rifken’s mental health assessments often include simple instructions on how our emotional brains work. Brain language simply takes blame and shame out of the treatment room so people feel safe and willing to seek help. Dr. Rifken uses Trauma-Informed Care principles to ‘bridge’ into all sorts of discussions about ‘inside feelings showing on the outside’ and even self-harm or suicidal feelings. Her approach includes a focus on the youth’s strengths and needs.
For an example of what is involved in a Youth Assessment, please read Jamal’s Story.
Jamal was 7 when he was referred to our on-site clinical psychologist, Donna A. Rifken. He was living in one of our treatment foster homes after suffering terrible physical abuse at the hands of his biologic father, with whom he lived. In his young life, Jamal had witnessed parental drug use, a fatal shooting in his front yard over drugs and repeated domestic violence against his mother. His older siblings were ‘farmed out’ to family members, but no one was able or willing to take Jamal.
Jamal had suffered so many traumatic experiences that his brain was stuck in ‘fight’ mode. He startled easily to male voices, didn’t sleep well and had bad dreams where unseen adults tried to kill him. At school, he cried easily, and lashed out physically at teachers and peers alike. Small frustrations escalated into half hour tantrums where Jamal threw books and overturned chairs. School had assigned a 1:1 aide but Jamal bit her and spit in her face when she tried to help him manage his emotions.
Dr. Rifken saw Jamal in a quiet, comfortable family treatment room, surrounded by toys. Jamal played quietly while Dr. Rifken spoke with his treatment foster parents and clinical case manager. He watched the adults carefully with a serious, suspicious look on his face. He appeared ready to explode if anyone challenged or bothered him. All his caring adults could feel the tension in the room.
When Dr. Rifken brought in the anatomical model of a body and brain, Jamal immediately noticed and cautiously moved closer to take a look. The psychologist invited him to take the brain apart so he could see “what lives inside everyone’s brains”. For the next 20 minutes Jamal allowed Dr. Rifken to teach him the names of brain organelles and what jobs they perform. To the surprise of the adults, he wanted to know and pronounce the anatomical name, “amygdala”, which we also call the brain’s “danger alarms”.
Dr. Rifken introduced the family to Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavior Therapy (TF-CBT) and spent important time educating the family and caregivers about the impacts of chronic, complex trauma on a youth’s brain and body. She coached Jamal and his foster parents on the foundational skills of relaxation, affect regulation and cognitive coping, using every-day experiences as opportunities for practice. When Jamal and his foster parents were ready, Dr. Rifken supported Jamal as he recorded his memories of good and bad events, re-reading them to de-sensitize the intense emotional memories. At the end of the treatment, Jamal read his narrative to his foster parents, stopping now and then to share the good that had come out of the bad. Jamal is done with his treatment for now, although ‘booster’ sessions are always available. He no longer has bad dreams at night, feels happier and calmer at school and has made solid, healthy friendships with peers. At home, his brain is less reactive to small frustrations and more able to soothe itself. This is a huge improvement for Jamal and a blessing for his treatment foster parents.
- Cognitive assessments and screenings for learning challenges. She works closely with school staff to understand a youth’s strengths and needs in the educational setting.
- Guardianship evaluations for youth aging out of foster care who need continued support.
- Assessments for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and ADHD, helping to clarify the overlap and provide on points of intervention.
- Assessments of Autism Spectrum Disorder and its impacts on social and emotional functioning.
- Assessments of complex mental health symptom pictures in youth of all ages.