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Jose and Sarah's Story: The Usefulness of Roleplay in an Ethically-Based Evaluation of the Present and Future Family Court, 21 Pacific Law Journal 897 (1990)


Few participants in court proceedings involving families would deny that the family court "system" is flawed in both the processes employed and the results produced. Yet the awesomely complex task of systemic change daunts even seasoned professionals. How can participants in this system begin a meaningful evaluation which addresses a perspective neither too narrow to be comprehensive, nor too broad to be concretely constructive?

This Article proposes one starting point for a constructive ethical approach to evaluation of both the existing family court system as well as proposed systemic change. This approach focusses upon the concrete operation of professional roles as experienced by the professionals offering services as well as by the clients receiving them. In a hypothetical case study, professionals undertaking this approach in a group assume various identities, including both professional and client personalities. Experiencing however briefly or marginally a particular professional's ethical dilemma or a particular client's concrete disappointments in a professional relationship can ground systemic reformers in the day-to-day reality of the system they are examining. Such experiential exploration can also allow reformers to "pretest" proposed systemic reform by experiencing how that reform will concretely affect a given parent, child, or family.

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