Sunday, June 22, 2014
PARENTAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENTS (2nd part 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.
Let me tell you about a recent case in Victoria family court. A parental capacity assessment was done under contract to the director. This document completely dominated all the judge’s decisions. The PCA was full of serious flaws and I list them below.
1. The psychologist took five months to do the report, claiming it was necessary to read thousands of pages of legal documents. He did no such thing. He read reams of ministry records that he had no business doing because it made him clearly partial and he is supposed to be impartial.
2. He stated he followed standard guidelines, but he failed to state whose guidelines.
3. He stated he was an expert witness before the court. He was not. An expert witness has to be qualified at a court hearing and his expertise can be challenged. His testimony has to stand up to examination and cross-examination under due process.
4. Under section 64 (2) b of the CF&CSA the judge may consider any written submission or documents he considers relevant. So legally a PCA has no more standing than say a school report or a letter of support for a parent.
5. In soliciting input from other professionals such as psychologists and registered counsellors he misrepresented himself. He said he was doing a court ordered assessment. He was under contract to the director.
6.Because of this misrepresentation others felt obliged to share information, which they would otherwise not have done. One of them stated that had he known, he would have not considered him to be impartial and would have been reluctant to help him. ( In one Vancouver case, the judge did not trust the PCA ordered by the ministry, nor the one contracted by the parent and so he ordered his own to be done. Speaks for itself. )
7. The parent sent relevant sections of the PCA to all the professionals who were quoted. They all provided letters confirming that he had misrepresented himself and made a number of changes to their information so that it was skewed in favour of the director. Some of them specifically asked him if he was audio recording the telephone interviews He said he was not, so they took careful notes of what they said. He presented their input as verbatim in his report and so misled the court.
Conclusion. I could go on, but that is enough for a blog. I write this for those readers who may be suffering from a surfeit of parental capacity assessments. I hope this information is of help to you in instructing your lawyers how to deal with these reports, because most lawyers swallow the psychobabble and do not know how to challenge it. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need help with this sort of problem, firstname.lastname@example.org