Lawmakers weigh pros, cons of videotaping pyschologist sessions with child abuse victims

A  bill that would have a psychologist’s sessions with a child who is the subject of an abuse allegation be

A  bill that would have a psychologist’s sessions with a child who is the subject of an abuse allegation be videotaped was heard Thursday in committee.

S57, which would require  a psychologist to video record such sessions with a child who is the subject of an allegation of child abuse or neglect was discussed  in the Senate Health, Human Services, and Senior Citizens Committee, but was not voted on.  The purpose of the proposal is to protect the interests of psychologists and children should issues or questions arise regarding the therapy provided during the sessions.

Sponsor  Gerald Cardinale, (R-39), Cresskill, said the bill tackles a difficult but important topic.  He said there are at least 50 professionals against it.

Many people are afraid of liability, and many psychologists simply do not want another professional looking over their shoulders, Cardinale said. He explained that some are fearful of a chilling effect of having a TV camera in front of a child.

But he defended his proposal, citing examples of psychologists doing harm to subjects in diagnostic sessions, “implanting” words or ideas in their heads, and he argued that this bill would help protect all involved.

However, opposition came from several professional quarters, including the state’s Department of Children and Family Services and the N.J. Psychological Association.

Dr. Brett Biller, a forensic psychologist with the association and its legislative affairs committee chairman, said although he understands the spirit of the bill,  argued that protecting the children is their paramount concern. The presence of a third party in any form could prove harmful, opponents stated.

“We are seeking to protect the children who are most vulnerable,’’ he said, and they fear that introduction of videotaping equipment could affect the outcomes of the sessions and impede a child from talking about what happened.

Cardinale said that he believed technology has advanced to the point where videotaping could be done in an unobtrusive fashion.

Committee Chair Loretta Weinberg, (D-37), Teaneck, suggested that there may be some common ground that Cardinale and the bill’s opponents could find if they meet and work together.

The committee dealt with other bills:

S2212, which would set up a New Jersey Multiple Sclerosis Task Force in the Department of Health and Senior Services to develop strategies to identify and address the unmet needs of persons with MS in order to enhance their quality of life, was approved. The primary sponsor is Fred Madden, (D-4), Turnersville.

S2331,  which would require  the Commissioners of the Department of Human Services (DHS) and Department of Children and Families (DCF) to collaborate to establish uniform contracting requirements with respect to reporting procedures, audit schedules, and centralized licensing review procedures for certain social services organizations, cleared the committee.  Primary sponsors include Jennifer Beck, (R-12), Red Bank, and Barbara Buono, (D-18), Edison.

S113, a  resolution that urges the Department of Children and Families to apply by a June 2 deadline to the Center for Mental Health Services for a planning grant for expanding the Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services for Children and their Families was approved.  Robert Gordon, (D-38), Fair Lawn, is the primary sponsor.

S55, which designates May 20 of each year as “All Health Causes Day” in New Jersey in order to enable patients with chronic and acute illnesses and disorders and their family members to come together  to share common experiences, was approved. Primary sponsors include Jeff Van Drew, (D-1), Cape May, and Sandra Cunningham, (D-31), Jersey City.

S67, which permanently designates May as “Lupus Awareness Month” in New Jersey in order to promote public awareness about lupus, its symptoms, and the need for effective treatments for the disease, and to join the Lupus Foundation of America-New Jersey Chapter in advocating for increased funding for research, education, and community services for persons with the disease, their caregivers, and their families, was approved. Primary sponsors are Weinberg and Robert Singer, (R-30), Jackson. Lawmakers weigh pros, cons of videotaping pyschologist sessions with child abuse victims