Professionals working within the Department of Communities – Child Safety are faced daily with difficult questions and decision-making regarding whether a parent has the capacity to safely parent their child. In such circumstances a Psychological, Social or Neuropsychological assessment by an appropriately trained and experienced Psychologist can be invaluable in assisting and guiding decision-making and parenting interventions.  Specific questions that might be answered by such assessments may include:

  • Does the parent have a psychological/psychiatric diagnosis or difficulty? If so, what is the impact of this difficulty on their parenting capacity? Is there any treatment available that would address these difficulties and what is the likely prognosis?
  • What is the parent’s level of intellectual/cognitive ability and do they have the cognitive capacity to safely parent their child, or benefit from parenting interventions?
  • Does the parent understand the child’s needs and development and can they meet the child’s physical, emotional, and developmental needs now and in the future?
  • What is the parent’s pattern of intimate relationship functioning and are there any risks associated with the same?
  • What is the child’s attachment relationship like with the parent?
  • Is the parent able to safely parent their child and protect them from harm?
  • What are the parent’s parenting skills, knowledge and abilities?
  • Is the parent able to put their child’s needs above their own?
  • Does the parent have insight into their difficulties and what is the motivation/capacity to work on their difficulties?
  • Is the parent willing/able to act on advice?
  • Is the parent able to work openly with support professionals?
  • What are the most appropriate Order and contact arrangements for the child?

In order to answer such questions a tailored assessment process is undertaken. This may include some or all of the following components:

  1. A clinical interview with the parent,
  2. Formalised psychological/neuropsychological testing of the parent,
  3. Testing of parenting attitudes and behaviours,
  4. An observation of the parent interacting with their child,
  5. An interview/assessment of the child if appropriate,
  6. Collateral interviews as requested (e.g. CSO, CSSO, family members, foster carers, etc.); and
  7. A review of the relevant documents regarding the case (e.g. Affidavits, Child Protection Records, previous reports, medical records).