Our highly qualified and experienced Psychologist’s are available to complete detailed parental capacity or family assessments. These reports are often requested by the Department of Child Safety (DOCS) or Family and Community Services (FACS) to help make decisions about a parent or guardians ability to safely protect their children. They can also be requested privately by individuals and family court lawyers.
The referral process
Before we conduct a parental capacity or social assessment, we will need the ‘terms of reference’. This typically includes a summary of the case and specific questions or issues that need to be addressed in the report. This helps the Psychologist plan the assessment and work towards a shared goal. It also protects parents and families from feeling as though professionals are fishing for issues or faults. Finally, it helps us to quote for the assessment and report.
The assessment process
Parental capacity or family assessments can differ slightly depending on the case. This being said, most assessments will include the following:
- A comprehensive clinical interview with the parent or family. This typically explores early life experiences, relationship patterns, mental health history and issues related to drugs and alcohol. The psychologist will also explore the parent or caregivers understanding of the roles of a parent, the developmental needs of the subject child/ren and their insight into concerns raised by the Department or other agencies involved. Assessing the strengths of the family unit and other protective factors will also be thoroughly explored.
- Observations of the parent or family. This could be in the family home or in the community. In some instances observations need to be done in the office or while being supervised by an approved person.
- Review of existing affidavits and other relevant documents submitted to the courts.
- Interview with relevant others like a Child Safety Officer, family members and treating Practitioners (i.e. Psychologists, Drug and Alcohol Counsellors, Psychiatrists etc.)
- Psychometric testing that may included structured interviews and actuarial assessments that can be used to substantiate what was gathered as part of the clinical assessment. This may include risk measures, parenting inventories, cognitive assessments, and mental health questionnaires – including personality inventories.
Once the assessment has been completed, a comprehensive report will be prepared. This can take up to two weeks to finalise. It is therefore important to note that the complete process can take upwards of 4-6 weeks to complete. Thereafter, the Psychologist might be required to attend court for cross examination. This will be charged separately and will be discussed with the referrer beforehand.