My Library
Child abuse and neglect defense is a tricky business. Everything takes place in closed court rooms. The rules of evidence don't apply. Everyone in the court room but the parents generally know each other, and are in court frequently together. Parents can't imagine when they first walk into court how heavily the deck is stacked against them. If they're not prepared for this experience, they tend to make a lot of mistakes. I've spent seven years now studying, learning, and preparing for trial work in this area. These are some of the books I've picked up along the way. Some are more useful for parents; others are more useful for lawyers, and one is very useful for school districts in interpreting child abuse laws. Hopefully this list will help lawyers raise the level of professionalism in defending these cases. Some of them I've picked up at the National Child Abuse Defense and Resource Center's Continuing Legal Education seminars.

Books for Parents


This is the first book I bought when I got my first case. My client loaned it to me, but as soon as I returned it, I bought my own copy. Richard Wexler calls the war on child abuse a war against children. It's a good overview of the child protection system, with particular emphasis on how it can devastate innocent families. He makes some good recommendations for changing the system. He now works for an organization that files amicus briefs in child abuse cases. I can't remember the name of the organization, but one was filed in the case of "In Re: H.G., a Minor," an Illinois case that successfully challenged the 15 month time limit for children to be in foster care as a sole condition for terminating parental rights.

Scott, Brenda, OUT OF CONTROL, Who's Watching Our Child Protection Agencies?

This book has different information, with a good outline of how the courts violate parents' constitutional rights.


This book is older, and out of print. I got my copy from, but they don't have a page for it. Worth searching for.

Surgenor, Robert, NO FEAR, A Police Officer's Perspective

I met Robert Surgenor in a case that involved spanking. He gives excellent reasons why parents SHOULD spank kids, namely his experience working for years as a the juvenile crime officer for an Ohio police department. He's debated the king of the anti-spankers, NH's own Murray Straus. I don't think much of Murray Straus's work. Robert Surgeonor is not a PhD researcher, but I think his conclusions are a lot more valid than the anti- spanking crowd. It doesn't give any information on defending child abuse allegations resulting from spanking your kids, but good information to know.

Parent, Marc, TURNING STONES My Days and Nights with Children at Risk

This book is a well written diary of an investigative child protection worker in New York City. It's not about parental rights, but it does give you some empathy for the social workers, and where they're coming from. It's not a good book to read when you're in the middle of a nasty investigation or case, but it did add some depth to my understanding of social workers.

Campbell, Terrence W., SMOKE AND MIRRORS, The Devastating Effects of False Sexual Abuse Claims.

If you've been falsely accused of sexually abusing your child or step child, this book explains a lot about why it happened. If you're accused, I would put this book on the "must read" list before you have a trial. Give it to your lawyer as well. There is a separate section on recovered memory claims, which have been discredited in New Hampshire and other states.

Books for Attorneys

These books are more in depth. Great for preparing to cross examine both social workers and expert witnesses.


This book is useful for the defense attorney who needs to cross examine a social worker, in particular if it involves an interview with a young child. There are very specific methods that work, and others that don't. In particular with allegations of abuse, how the child is questioned is critical to the validity of any statement the child makes.

Doris, John, THE SUGGESTIBILITY OF CHILDREN'S RECOLLECTIONS, Implicatons for Eyewitness Testimony

Also a good book, and it cites some studies on children, which every psychologist who's evaluated a child for abuse should know about. More good preparation for cross examination, and good to review before hiring a psychologist for defense.


This book is most useful when the state is seeking to terminate parental rights. It gives background on the law, ethical issues for psychologists, assessments, reviews emperical research, and talks about standards for expert testimony. If a defense lawyer want to know what to expext from a defense expert, it's very good. Since DCYF generally doesn't use psychologists that use this information, it's also handy to prepare to cross their experts. probably one of the most useful in my collection.

Ceci, Stephen and Bruck, Maggie, JEOPARDY IN THE COURTROOM, A Scientific Analysis of Children's Testimony

Read the transcript of the child's interview. Read the book. Reread the transcript. You'll know a lot more about whether or not the interview resulted in valid disclosures. An excellent resource by respected researchers in the field.

Canter, Bennett, Jones, and Nagy, ETHICS FOR PSYCHOLOGISTS, A Commentary on the APA Ethics Code

I couldn't find this at It's available from the American Psychological Association.

After getting a hold of psychological records for these kids who are supposedly abused, it's fun to go through this book and figure out how many of the rules the DCYF hired guns have violated! Then report them to your state licensing board.

Reece, Robert M., CHILD ABUSE, Medical Diagnosis and Management

Medical textbook on child abuse. Very useful for complicated cases. If there's a MEDICAL diagnosis of child abuse, you MUST do some reading on that diagnosis. It's hard to decide if this book is more useful than Monteleone. I'd get both this one and Monteleone to prepare for trial.

Monteleone, Brodeur, CHILD MALTREATMENT, A Clinical Guide and Reference

WARNING - THIS TWO VOLUME SET IS DISTURBING AND GRAPHIC. It's packed full of information. True confession: I've used both Reece and Monteleone to find some of the best experts in the country. New Hampshire physicians don't bother to read these books, so having them in your library is a huge advantage for the defense.

I got a weekend consult a few years back where the father was looking at possible murder charges for shaken baby syndrome. The baby had stopped breathing, and he, panicked, picked her up and shook her a bit to wake her. I read the entire chapter on shaken baby syndrome in Monteleone at 1:00 in the morning, and got word to the dad that lack of oxygen and shaken baby both produce bleeding behind the eyes. Lack of oxygen, however, produces a different type of bleeding, that can be seen on autopsy. The baby died, but I got information to his lawyer beforehand to ask for a frozen section of the child's eyes on autopsy, as it's an indication of whether or not it was shaken baby or lack of oxygen. I never heard if it was done, but just by asking, the dad's attorney looked like a genius. The dad was never charged. Enough said. Get it for your library.


If you have medical exam results to review, with or without photographs of a child, this book is immensely helpful in interpreting those records. Also information on medical interviews of children.


Two volume set. This is the definitive legal reference for trial preparation. Even though the rules of evidence don't apply in my cases, knowing basics about children's understanding of time, testimonial competence, hearsay, physical and sexual abuse, hearsay, and character evidence is useful for trial preparation. An absolute must for the criminal child abuse defense attorney.

Kalichman, Seth C, PhD, MANDATED REPORTING OF SUSPECTED CHILD ABUSE, Ethics, Law, and Policy

Mandated reporters, whoever they are, don't have to report EVERY possible instance where it COULD BE child abuse. They're free to skip the report if they don't reasonably believe it IS child abuse. If every school principal would read this book, the schools could skip a lot of reporting.

Contact Paula Werme, Esq. or return to Law Practice home page.

Last updated 2003 November 24.