Forensic Psychology And The Juvenile Offender


When children find themselves on the wrong side of the law, it can be troubling for all involved. The parents, the children, and even the law enforcement and court officials who have to deal with the case are going to have to tread carefully to understand what really happened, so that the court will be able to take the right actions. This is not something that’s always easy to do, and it will often require the help of someone who has a forensic psychology degree to make all of the assessments when it comes to the competency of a minor who may have to face trial. A recent and heartbreaking case coming out of Maine is a perfect example of this.

What Happened to Baby Brooklyn in Maine?
Last July, Nikki Greenway had to face the nightmare that every parent hopes never to experience. When she had a night off from work and went out, she left her infant daughter Brooklyn in the care of a friend, believing that the baby would be safe and secure until she returned. Instead, tragedy struck. Nikki received a call that the sitter had found the baby not breathing, and told Nikki that she had to get to the hospital right away. Unfortunately, the three-month old died, and the ME office ruled the death to be a homicide.

Nikki Greenway said that the baby died due to ingesting ADHD medication and suffocation. The suffocation was evident because of bruising on the baby’s body. The daughter of the woman babysitting is charged with manslaughter and is currently in custody of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services. She is also undergoing psychological evaluation to see if she is going to be able to stand trial. The girl is the youngest person in Maine to ever have been charged with manslaughter.

The Competency
The state’s forensic service is conducting an evaluation of the daughter currently. Led by Dr. Debra Baeder, they are looking into all facets of the child’s life to determine whether she is going to be competent enough to stand trial or not. Dr. Baeder knows that determining this is not going to be easy, and it is going to take due diligence. They are looking into the school records, and they are conducting interviews with family, caregivers, and guardians, as well as others who know the child. In cases where forensic psychologists need to work with juvenile criminals, they will look to see if there are any other mental health records as well, as this can aid in their determination.

In order for the girl to be able to stand trial, she has to be able to understand her own rights in the case. They also need to be able to understand how to refrain from self-incrimination. The youth needs to have reasoning skills that are age appropriate, as well. If she does not, then they may have to wait for her to stand trial. If they discover she’s not competent currently, they could wait a year and hold the trial then. If, at that point, they find that she’s still not able to stand trial, the court will look for alternatives to help the child. Should she stand trial, the forensics team will be able to help determine whether she should be held criminally liable for the death. The outcome of this case is something that no one is going to be able to predict, whether he or she is an attorney or holds a forensic psychology degree. The only thing that all will be able to agree upon is that this is a truly sad case for all involved.

Anita Schepers provides advice and information on how to get a forensic psychology degree online at

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