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Parenting assessments in family courts

Family courts often make vital decisions regarding children and young people – including whether a child should be removed from their family or carer. As a result, they require high quality information to assist them in making the best decisions they can for those children and their families.

Tracee Green, social worker and PhD student at the University of York, is conducting research on parenting assessments and invites practitioners to participate. She writes here about her research and provides a link to her survey:

Parenting assessments

Assessments of parenting competency are often necessary in order to assist the courts in their decision making process. The courts identify and ask specific questions which the assessments are required to explore and answer.

Arguments can be made that parenting assessments which are methodical, multidimensional and incorporate evidence-based assessment tools are more useful to the courts in making such important decisions. In addition, although subjectivity is always an element in the assessment of parenting, tools to minimise and test subjectivity are valued.

PAMS

Parenting Assessment Manual Software (PAMS) is one tool that is available to assessors in providing parenting reports to the courts. There is some discussion in the field as to whether incorporating PAMS in the assessment of parenting capacity contributes to improving the overall quality of information provided to the courts about the parents’ ability to provide for their child’s needs.

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PAMS claims to be a methodical and functional method of looking at parenting which incorporates evidence-based and multidimensional assessment tools. In addition, it states that it can be used as a comprehensive assessment tool and it can be used with families that have additional vulnerabilities (e.g. parents with learning disabilities, physical disability, teenage parents, etc.).

PAMS accepts and incorporates the subjectivity of an assessor. However, to temper the subjectivity, it states that it systematically covers a number of areas relevant to parenting and it provides guidelines and example answers to aid the clinician in making judgements.

Research

Although PAMS is being incorporated in assessments of parental capacity that assist family courts, there remains very little research on PAMS and no research on PAMS specifically in a court setting. In order to rectify this gap in our professional knowledge, and to provide evidence to inform the use of PAMS, this research explores the use of PAMS in family courts.

The overall objective of the study is to explore how the quality of parenting assessments completed in family proceedings can be improved. The key research questions are:

  • How do different professionals make use of PAMS?
  • How effective is PAMS in meeting outcome standards presented in literature in contrast to non-PAMS forensic parenting assessments?
  • What are the perspectives of assessors who undertake both PAMS and non-PAMS assessments of parental capacity?
Please take part!

If you undertake parenting assessments in family court settings, and incorporate the use of PAMS within these reports, you are welcome to take part in this study. Please click here to read more about the study and to complete an online survey to help contribute to this gap in our knowledge.

 

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