Saturday, June 21, 2014


Parental Capacity assessments (1st of 2 parts)

Written by Ray Ferris. Ray Ferris is a retired child-protection worker and the author of The Art of Child Protection and occasional contributor to this GPS blog.

Parental capacity assessments, or PCAs are the sacred cows of the family courts. Neither the courts, nor the lawyers nor the social workers understand the parameters and limitations of these assessments. So for the benefit of any readers who may be at the mercy of the MCF I will give you the basics.

PCAs are one of a related group of family studies, which require the same skills to accomplish. These are adoption home studies, foster home studies, custody and access reports, general social assessments and risk assessments. All these studies should be carefully compiled and factual family histories done with the emphasis on normal social functioning. Families who have normal educational achievements, good work records and stable housing do not suddenly change their natures and haul off and injure kids or become negligent. One needs to know the risk factors such as parents, who have poor education, poor work records, poor financial histories, serial marital relationships, histories of alcohol and drug abuse, family violence and so on.

I am grateful to Zabeth Bayne for digging up good guidelines for me. These are not issued by the professions of psychology or social work. Neither the college of psychologists nor their association has guidelines for parental capacity assessments and the same goes for social work. The guidelines come from the Law Society in its online education program. They clearly state that psychologists are not qualified to do PCAs without further mentored training. Yet psychologists are hired all the time to do them and they follow no firm guidelines. Guidelines also only recommend psychometric testing in special cases. Also that any psychometric testing should not be done be the same person who does the parental capacity assessment.

Now we have the courts leaving it all to psychologists to determine the outcome of cases. Judges abandon their judicial responsibilities and leave it all on the shoulders of untrained psychologists. Usually the ministry pays for these assessments, and it is well known that so-called expert opinion favours the hand that pays. Repeat business may be in mind. (contact me if you have a question,

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