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Ensuring consistency in parenting assessments

I am very pleased to have some excellent and experienced social workers undertaking part-time PhDs with me at the University of York. From time to time they will post up some information about their research on this blog. Hopefully this will provide an insight into what a social work PhD is all about, and illuminate the long and complex processes involved in generating high-quality evidence which can be used to develop social work policy and practice.

In the first such post Tracee Green, a social worker in London, writes about starting out:

As one of Martin’s three practitioners starting a part-time PhD with him at York, I am pleased to be developing my knowledge of research methods so that I will now be able to make a valuable contribution to the evidence base for social work practice.

Over the past ten years as a qualified social worker I have been undertaking parenting assessments that have been requested through the courts in order to help in the determination of the ending of parental rights. As this process sometimes goes against a person’s human right to a family life as well as better outcomes for children to remain with their family, it is important that these decisions are made with proven evidence-based methods.

Though I feel my own practice, and that of the team in which I work, has provided a quality service that works well within the limited amount of current best practice guidelines regarding parenting assessments for court, I have been astonished by the limited amount of standardised procedures or practices within this area. In starting to undertake further reviews of literature and networking with other practitioners with experience in this area, my astonishment has continued to grow in how under-researched and varied such a profound, important and necessary part of social work practice remains.

In trying to gain more information in this area, I was able to obtain training in using Parenting Assessment Manual Software (PAMS) and was impressed with the standardised and comprehensive way in which it proposed parenting assessments could be done. In learning more about PAMS and networking with other PAMS users it appeared to provide a possible solution to the many varied levels of practice undertaken in this area. I decided that PAMS would be a good starting point in which to develop my research skills and finally make my first contribution to the evidence base for social work practice.

As a result, I have devised a study that will develop the first training and implementation fidelity measures in this area as a means of improving the quality of these assessments. The fidelity measurements will: (1) outline what should be included in training to undertake a PAMS assessment and (2) define what a PAMS  is and how it should be used. These measures will then be used to monitor PAMS training and delivery to ensure that both aspects are being provided in a manner that accurately represents the guiding principles and structure.  Finally, this research will identify whether a PAMS assessment improves the quality of parenting assessments by providing better outcomes for parents and regularly meeting more of the good practice guidelines.

Though daunting for a first year part time PhD student, I am excited about this journey I am making into the empirical world of social work practice as well as proud to be making what I believe will be a significant contribution to best practice.

If you wish to contact Tracee to discuss her research or find out more, please do so via my contact page.

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