Who Can Become a Volunteer Evaluator?
All volunteer evaluators must be fully licensed physicians, nurse practitioners, or mental health providers (licensed social workers, licensed counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists). At this time, immigration courts are not accepting evaluations conducted by medical residents or mental health counselors with associate-level licensure.
All volunteers must also pass a background check, provide two references, and complete onboarding paperwork for the International Rescue Committee.
What Does An Evaluation Entail?
Medical Evaluations include an assessment of physical scars and ongoing health complaints that are attributed to the traumas and tortures reported (e.g. are scars consistent with reported traumas?).
Psychological Evaluations typically include a diagnostic mental health assessment and a general evaluation of any past or current mental health impacts of traumas experienced. Some evaluations may also address other specialized topics, including the possible presence/absence of malingering, the possible presence/absence of cognitive, developmental, or intellectual disabilities, memory issues, etc.
Medical and Psychological Assessments are then written as affidavits that can be used as part of the applicant’s asylum claim. Volunteer evaluators have the final word on these affidavits and can pull their affidavit at any time (or decline to complete the affidavit if concerns arise during the evaluation). Although it is relatively rare, evaluators may be asked to testify in immigration court. They are not legally obligated to so, however, and may decline if they are asked.
What Is The Time Commitment?
The time it takes to conduct and finalize an evaluation varies greatly depending on the case and the evaluator. The following are rough estimates:
Medical evaluations include about 1-2 hours of face to face time, plus 3-5 hours write, edit, and finalize the written affidavit. This is done over the course of 2-4 weeks, for a total of 4-7 hours.
Psychological evaluations typically take a little longer: about 2-4 hours of face to face time, plus 8-12 hours to write, edit, and finalize the written affidavit. Complex cases may take longer and the writing/editing processes tend to take a little longer for new volunteers. This is typically done over the course of 4-6 weeks, for a total of 10-16 hours.
We ask that all volunteers commit to at least 1-2 evaluations each year. New volunteers can be connected to experienced evaluators for support and mentorship.
Where Do Evaluations Take Place?
Currently, all evaluations are taking place remotely via a secure Zoom account or similar platform.
Typically, however, evaluations would take place at the provider’s private office or clinical room (if permitted by the hospital or clinic). If the volunteer does not have an accessible space, IRC facilities may be used as an alternative for psychological evaluations and non-invasive medical evaluations. Occasionally, volunteers may also conduct evaluations for detained asylum seekers in the La Palma Correctional Center or Eloy Detention Center.
Do Evaluators Need To Be Multi-Lingual?
No. In-person or phone interpretation will be provided if the volunteer evaluator and the evaluatee doe not speak the same language(s).
What Kind Of Supports Are Available?
Peer-Mentorship is available for new volunteers: mentors can provide suggestions, share their own experiences, provide draft-feedback, and answer questions that may come up.
The evaluation support team is also available to answer questions, provide feedback, and support along the way. All affidavits are reviewed by the evaluation support team and the attorney before they are finalized and submitted. Volunteer evaluators are able to write multiple drafts and, in most cases, have follow up conversations with the applicants as needed.