As a specialist independent children’s and adult Social Worker, I am well placed to complete parenting assessments for parents living with cognitive impairments and developmental delays such as learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder or dementia. Prior to becoming an Independent Social Worker in 2012, I worked within statutory teams for adults living with learning disabilities, autistic spectrum disorder and dementia. This is a very important element to my skills and knowledge because, combined with my training in different parenting assessment models, I can address aspects of parenting assessments that are sometimes lacking. I can be instructed by local authorities or solicitors representing parents to complete parenting assessments.
When undertaking parenting assessments, one element of the assessment process is assessing the parent’s capacity to change. People learn in different ways and sometimes a list of written instructions or verbal instructions aren’t helpful and stifle a person’s ability to learn where other methods might prove more beneficial. Also, the manner in which an assessment is undertaken can sometimes be the difference between a parent feeling as though they are a part of the assessment process or not. In addition, I have wide-ranging knowledge in the areas of care assessments for adults, mental capacity and best interests. I can identify where support or assessments are required for parents which many in turn improve their ability to provide good enough care to their children.
I am qualified to use two different assessment frameworks for my parenting assessments, ParentAssess and PAMs (Parent Assessment Manual Software). Both are excellent models widely used by local authorities and accepted by the courts. However, because of my specialism in assessing parents living with learning disabilities, unless a PAMs assessment is specifically required, my parenting assessments use the ParentAssess model. The ParentAssess model incorporates a systematic approach using a proven conceptual model which examines three key areas of a child’s life; the child’s developmental needs, the capacity of parents or carers, the impact and influence of wider family and any other adults living in the household as well as community and environmental circumstances.
The reason I favour the ParentAssess model for parents living with learning disabilities is because Government good practice guidance and case law emphasise the need to ensure that parents are fully involved in the process (even before any court proceedings) to comply with the Care Act, Equality Act and Human Rights Act. I am Achieving Best Evidence (ABE) trained (since 2010) which provides me with the skills and knowledge to achieve best evidence when interviewing children and vulnerable adults.
The ParentAssess framework is easy to read and understand by those being assessed and instead of scores, a traffic light system is adopted to identify any areas of concern or opportunities for learning. It is designed to be understood by parents who live with a learning disability, but it is also suitable for people living with additional needs such as those related to:
- Mental Health
- Domestic Abuse
- Alcohol or Drug Misuse
ParentAssess takes into consideration good practice principles that have been identified in Government guidance and case law. As well as a full report for the court and lawyers, a simplified, summary assessment is written for the parent being assessed. The assessment will explore areas where parents can learn the necessary skills to provide good enough care and the child’s experience of being parented is also considered. Unlike the PAMs model, ParentAssess is designed to be undertaken by a single assessor to avoid any unnecessary confusion or distress to parents during the assessment process. Importantly, like the PAMs model, ParentAssess is designed to identify good enough care ensuring that the threshold for good enough care isn’t set too high.
The assessment process is divided into 5 sections (child’s experience, parent’s daily living skills, how the parent functions, specific issues and support) that explore parents’ ability to care for their child in the medium and long term.
PAMs (Parent Assessment Manual Software)
I am also trained to undertake PAMs parenting assessments where this type of assessment is required or has been ordered by the court. Probably the most well known assessment model, the PAMs model is a structured, wide-ranging, functional diagnostic and ecologically focused model for parenting assessments. It is aimed to be used with vulnerable families although I tend to use the ParentAssess model if the one or both parents lives with learning disabilities. The PAMs model identifies child and parent need and risk levels and is an accurate tool for measuring baseline and teaching evaluations.
How Long Does a Parenting Assessment Take?
Whichever model is adopted, a parenting assessment usually takes between 40-50 hours to complete, usually over a 12 week period. This includes sessions with the parent, observations, reading relevant documents and writing the report itself. If you would like to discuss any aspect of parenting assessments, please don’t hesitate to contact me.