COMPLETED RESEARCH

Child protection

Prevalence and Outcomes for Parents with Disabilities and their Children in an Australian Court Sample (2003)

Stereotypes, Parents with Intellectual Disability and Child Protection (2002)

Disability and Decision-Making in Australian Care Proceedings (2002)

Parents with Intellectual Disability and Justice in the Child Protection Process (2001)

Disability And Discrimination In Statutory Child Protection Proceedings (2000)

Parental Disability and the Threat of Child Removal (1998)

Parents with a Disability and the NSW Children's Court (2000)


Prevalence and Outcomes for Parents with Disabilities and their Children in an Australian Court Sample (2003)

Llewellyn, G., McConnell, D., & Ferronato, L. (2003) Prevalence and Outcomes for Parents with Disabilities and their Children in an Australian Court Sample Child Abuse & Neglect, 27 (2003), 235 - 251. This study was funded by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW.

Background

Knowledge about parents with disabilities and their children has increased substantially over the last decade. Nevertheless, old myths about parenting and disability remain. A particularly persistent myth is that parents with psychiatric or intellectual disabilities are perpetrators of child abuse. This is contrary to good evidence that abuse is rare among parents with intellectual disability (mental retardation). Nor has "psychopathology" or "mental disturbance" consistently been found in child maltreatment perpetrators.

Despite this evidence, high rates of child removal from parents with psychiatric disability and parents with intellectual disability are reported in both Australian and international research literature. In sum, these studies suggest a removal rate of between one third and just less than half of all children of parents with intellectual disability. For children of parents with psychiatric disability, these rates have varied from almost 50% to 78%.

Aim

The aim of the present study was to provide a current determination of the prevalence of parents with disabilities by disability diagnosis in an Australian court sample. A second aim was to determine whether court outcomes varied for parents in the diagnostic groups and whether the outcomes experienced by these groups differed significantly from those for families headed by non-disabled parents.

Method

The court files of all 285 care and protection matters (involving 469 children) initiated by the statutory child protection authority and finalized in a nine month period at two Children's Courts in NSW, Australia were reviewed.

Statistical comparisons were made between the following groups of cases:

  1. Group 1: Parents without a disability and no mention of drug and/or alcohol use
  2. Group 2: Parents without a disability with suspected drug and/or alcohol use
  3. Group 3: Parents with psychiatric disability and no mention of drug and/or alcohol use
  4. Group 4: Parents with psychiatric disability with suspected drug and/or alcohol use
  5. Group 5: Parents with intellectual disability

Findings

Parents with disabilities featured in almost one-third of the cases (29.5%). Parental psychiatric disability was most prevalent at 21.8% (84 cases) followed by parental intellectual disability at 8.8% (25 cases). These figures represent a substantial over-representation based on general population estimates of parents with psychiatric and intellectual disability, these respectively being 2.6 - 5.4% and less than 1%.

Significant associations were also found between parental disability and court outcome. Children of parents with a psychiatric disability were more likely to be subject to short-term supervision in their family home. In contrast, more than half of the children with intellectual disability were made state wards, and most often placed out-of-home with non-family.

Further in-depth research is required to adequately explain these patterns of association. However, it seems feasible to suggest that the relationship found between parental disability and court outcomes is related to the court's perception of whether the child's situation can be changed for the better. For parents with intellectual disability, this lends to possible court pessimism about their capacity to overcome their parenting difficulties. Such pessimism may stem from pervading stereotypical beliefs about intellectual disability, such as parents being unable to learn, apply and retain new skills, and/or from a perceived lack of appropriate support services.


Stereotypes, Parents with Intellectual Disability and Child Protection (2002)

McConnell, D. & Llewellyn, G. (2002) Stereotypes, Parents with Intellectual Disability and Child Protection Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, 24 (3), 297 - 317.

In reviewing how parents with intellectual disability fare in child protection and court processes this paper provides an empirical and legal critique of frequently encountered presumptions about their parenting capacity.

The incidence in which children of parents with intellectual disability are removed is unusually high. However, a survey of available international research reveals that such rates are unnecessary and unwarranted. Rather than the protection of the child, grounds for removal may in fact stem from misguided or prejudicial ideas about parents with intellectual disability. Of note are two presumptions. First is the idea that parents with intellectual disability will inevitably maltreat their child/ren or put them at risk of others. Second is the view that any perceived parenting deficiencies are irremediable and that there is therefore little point in offering such parents support.

How well founded are these presumptions? Not very. Empirically, the dominant view in the literature is that intellectual disability per se is not an adequate indicator of parenting capacity or an insurmountable obstacle to learning. Moreover, children with developmental delay and of parents with intellectual disability have been shown to experience behavioural and other difficulties for reasons beyond the disability of their parents. Consequently, the developmental delay of these children should not automatically be treated as a child protection concern, and to do so constitutes discriminatory practice.

Legal care and protection proceedings are also the site of prejudicial decisions and discriminatory practices. These include:

  • The denial of parents' legal rights;
  • The denial of appropriate supports and services to parents before their children are permanently removed;
  • In the absence of clear guidelines as to what constitutes adequate care, child protection workers and courts imposing their own biases on proceedings;
  • The enormous weight given to the assessment of 'experts', particularly when this rests so greatly on IQ tests. This is despite substantial findings which show IQ to be a poor predictor of parenting capacity;
  • Evidence contrary to parental incompetence being disregarded; and
  • Inadequate legal representation eg., court proceedings not clearly explained, legal representatives not having an understanding of the issues faced by people with intellectual disability

A series of strategies aimed at addressing this discrimination and disadvantage are outlined:

  1. A training module for child protection workers, lawyers and judicial officers, based on up-to-date empirical research, be developed and implemented;
  2. Video and accompanying plain English resources for parents with intellectual disability that explain the child protection process step-by-step and the rights of participants be developed;
  3. A network of volunteers/advocates under the auspices of an independent third party to provide support to parents with intellectual disability during the child protection process be established;
  4. Additional funding to support adequate legal representation of parents with intellectual disability be made available, given that these parents require significantly more time both to be informed about the process and to provide their legal representatives with sound instruction;
  5. 'Expert' assessment practices be reviewed and the development of guidelines which clearly specify the limitations of diagnostic-prognostic assessment and the need for functional assessment developed; and
  6. Regional internet web sites that provide listings of potential support services for parents with intellectual disability and their children be developed.

Disability and Decision-Making in Australian Care Proceedings (2002)

This study was funded by the Law and Justice Foundation of NSW and can be found in McConnell, D., Llewellyn, G., & Ferronato, L. (2002) Disability and Decision-Making in Australian Care Proceedings International Journal of Law, Policy and the Family, 16, 270 - 299.

Background

Parents with intellectual disability are subject to higher rates of state intervention in the care of their children than parents of any other group. Moreover, their children are more likely to be removed and placed in out of home care. International research has demonstrated that this is due to factors far more complex than an individual's limited parenting skills. At work are political, social and institutional factors that discriminate against parents with disability and deem their children to be at risk.

Aim

This study aimed to explore the over-representation of parents with intellectual disability in child protection proceedings and the high incidence of their children being placed in out-of-home care within an Australian context. How court outcomes are determined and why these parents and their children are subject to more intrusive court outcomes was investigated.

Method

An observational study of court and decision-making processes, together with a review of court files and one-to-one and group interviews with children's magistrates, legal representatives and child protection workers, was conducted in two New South Wales Children's Courts in Sydney over a 9 month period. Data was analysed with a view to illuminating those assumptions and influences underpinning the court setting and impinging upon the decision-making process.

Findings and implications

A number of factors were highlighted as significant contributors to both the high incidence of parents with intellectual disability in care and protection proceedings, and the high removal rate of their children. These were:

  • entrenched preconceived views about parental (in)capacity
  • the diagnostic-prognostic rationality of decision makers
  • the need for parent compliance in an adversarial system
  • the lack of suitable support services
  • poorly resourced legal representatives

Given the multitude and macro nature of these influences, together with the limited political clout parents with intellectual disability have, how to redress the disadvantage these parents face over the course of care proceedings is far from simple. Nevertheless, the authors make several recommendations:

  1. That initiatives which provide an alternative to court intervention eg., family group conferencing and alternative dispute resolution, be prioritized and their appropriateness/effectiveness for people with intellectual disability be evaluated;
  2. That web-based resources, including those with a support services directory, continue to be developed and maintained;
  3. That public legal aid funding be increased to levels that allow parents with intellectual disability to have access to the best possible representation;
  4. That the use of expert assessment practices that rely heavily on IQ tests be reviewed;
  5. That those professionals involved in child protection proceedings - magistrates, child protection workers, psychologists/psychiatrists, and legal representatives - become familiar with current empirical research that clearly demonstrates that intellectual disability per se is not an adequate predictor of parenting competence or an insurmountable barrier to learning;
  6. That the participation of parents with intellectual disability be actively promoted eg., having an independent third party acting as a support person; developing interactive media, video and plain English resources that explain the court process and empower these parents; and
  7. On a more fundamental level, that the negative and widespread presumptions about parents with intellectual disability be challenged and the social disadvantage that lends to children's suffering be repoliticised.

Parents with Intellectual Disability and Justice in the Child Protection Process (2001)

McConnell, D. (2001) Parents with Intellectual Disability and Justice in the Child Protection Process. A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. University of Sydney.

Many parents with intellectual disability have their children removed by statutory child protection authorities and courts. Scholars in North America, the United Kingdom and Australia suggest that, in at least some cases, this may not be justified or in the child's best interests. This study examined the child protection process, how decisions are made and outcomes determined in the jurisdiction of NSW, Australia.

The child protection process is conceptualized as one of reaching understanding about what is in the child's best interests. The theoretical framework underpinning the critique of this process is derived from the Critical theory of Jurgen Habermas. Habermas analyses the process of reaching understanding and derives criteria for a just discourse. The criteria comprise 'the ideal speech situation': the conditions necessary if a dispute is to be resolved on the basis or rationally motivated and undistorted understanding.

The author focused on the reasoning and actions of child protection workers, lawyers and magistrates and examined three conditions for justice in the child protection process. One condition is that child protection authorities and courts are open to the free and equal participation of parents with intellectual disability in the process of reaching understanding about what is in the child's best interests. Another condition is that child protection workers, lawyers and magistrates are motivated only by the pursuit of understanding and in this connection, desist from strategic action. The third condition is that all conceivably relevant features of the child's situation are taken into consideration.

The study had three discrete layers. The communicative layer was concerned with reaching a shared understanding with 'system-insiders' of how decisions are made. The dialectical layer involved analysis of explicit influences shaping the process and decision making of system insiders. These layers provided the foundation for the normative layer in which three conditions for justice in the child protection process are addressed. The data collection methods included a review of court files at two Sydney children's courts, interviews with child protection workers, lawyers and magistrates, and observation of courtroom proceedings.

The study findings demonstrate that the process of reaching understanding about a child's best interests is not just with regard to parents with intellectual disability. The child protection process is not open to the free and equal participation of parents. The scope of inquiry is narrow and does not take into account parents' individual capabilities and unique circumstances. Further, the child protection process is distorted by system imperatives such as the need to ration resources and ward off public criticism.

Four changes would need to take place to address the injustice documented in this thesis. Decision makers must recognize that determining what is in a child's best interests involves interpretation and therefore requires genuine discourse. Secondly, the impact of social and environmental constraints on families need to be given due consideration. Thirdly, the individual qualities and capabilities of these parents must be taken into account. Finally, communicative rather than system imperatives such as the need to critically reflect on one's own presuppositions, to listen with empathy and grasp the other's particularity must drive the process.


Disability And Discrimination In Statutory Child Protection Proceedings (2000)

McConnell, D. & Llewellyn, G. (2000) Disability and Discrimination in Statutory Child Protection Proceedings Disability & Society, 15 (6), pp. 883 - 895.

In the context of high removal rates of children from parents with intellectual disability, this paper surveyed primarily North American literature written by legal scholars on child protection proceedings for people with intellectual disability. Compelling evidence of widespread discrimination was found.

Discrimination was seen to take the form of children being removed:

  • despite a lack of evidence of abuse or neglect, or where evidence to the contrary existed, or when the evidence of neglect was refuted
  • even when the court acknowledged the person with intellectual disability to be an adequate parent
  • prior to parents having the opportunity to access appropriate support services.

A mix of political, social and institutional factors are shown to underlie the discrimination that parents with intellectual disability encounter in the course of child protection proceedings:

  1. Political and Social
    • The widely held assumptions that intellectual disability equates with parenting incompetence, that parenting deficiencies are irremediable, and that children of people with intellectual disability will inevitably be harmed
    • The shift from a culture of social to individual responsibility. For parents with intellectual disability this has meant a withdrawal of support services, coupled with a keener mandate of the state to protect those most vulnerable in society (by implication, children of people with intellectual disability fall into this category). Trying to parent in a context where families are expected to be autonomous and self sufficient, where using familial supports is scrutinised as dependence, where broader sociological impediments such as poverty, poor housing and social isolation are not taken into account, serves to give those with intellectual disability a clear message that they are incompetent and a burden - not only have they failed their children but they have failed society as well.
  2. Institutional
    • Child protection legislation in some US states categorically deem those with 'mental disability' to be unfit as parents
    • Contrary to the process applied in cases involving non-disabled parents, the establishing of child neglect/maltreatment is not required for those with intellectual disability - it is already presumed
    • Within the courts, parenting competence is assessed only as a function of innate ability
    • Disadvantages inherent in the adversarial process eg., difficulties experienced by people with intellectual disability in adhering to imposed rehabilitation plans; legal representatives usually being court appointed and having limited understanding of disability issues.

Given the equally and unusually high rates of state intervention in Australia, these findings may shed much light on whether parents with intellectual disability are similarly being disadvantaged and discriminated against in Australian child protection proceedings.


Parental Disability and the Threat of Child Removal (1998)

McConnell, D. & Llewellyn, G. (1998) Parental Disability and the Threat of Child Removal Family Matters, 51 (Spring/Summer), 33 - 36.

In a review of literature on the experience of parents with intellectual disability in care and protection proceedings, the authors note with concern high rates of notification and child removal. What is also disturbing is the fact that this high incidence is not merely a reflection of an inability to parent. Rather, parents with intellectual disability are shown to be subject to discriminatory treatment that makes state intervention and subsequent out of home placements all too common. Factors that contribute to this discrimination are:

  • the presumption that children of parents with intellectual disability will inevitably be neglected or abused
  • the presumption that parenting deficiencies are irremediable
  • false attribution, that is, parents' difficulties being attributed to their disability, when in fact they derive more from poverty, poor housing, social isolation, harassment and the lack of appropriate support services
  • the vulnerability of parents with intellectual disability - a failure to understand the implications of how they present and difficulties understanding and engaging with the legal process
  • inadequate legal representation, both in terms of resources and ability to understand and work with people with intellectual disability
  • the reliance on familial or other significant supports being construed as weakness on the part of the parent
  • the misuse of intelligence tests as a predictor of parent incompetence

As a start to redressing this situation, the authors maintain that parents with intellectual disability need to have access to parenting skills training. Contrary to popular thinking, research clearly states that parents with intellectual disability are capable of learning new skills and unlearning negative patterns of behaviour.

Further, support for such parents needs to extend to addressing the environmental pressures that can make the task of parenting so difficult.

In the interim, professionals working with parents with intellectual disability are encouraged to take the following steps to ensure that they themselves are not contributing to parents with intellectual disability being disadvantaged in child protection proceedings:

  • Be aware of prevailing stereotypes that paint people with intellectual disability as being inherently incompetent as parents
  • Examine their own beliefs and assumptions
  • Empower parents with disability as much as possible eg., explain court proceedings in simple language, invite parental participation
  • Assess parenting competence in the broader context of social constraints
  • Advocate for more appropriate support services

Parents with a Disability and the NSW Children's Court (2000)

McConnell, D., Llewellyn, G. & Ferronato, L. (2000) Parents with a Disability and the NSW Children's Court Report to the Law Foundation of NSW. University of Sydney.

Background

This report cites international and Australian literature that shows parents with intellectual and psychiatric disability to be over-represented in care and protection proceedings. Rather than being indicative of inevitable parenting incompetence, research suggests that these parents are in fact subject to prejudicial treatment in care and protection proceedings. Examples of such discriminatory practice include:

  • child protection agencies and courts intervening and removing children without evidence of maltreatment
  • children being removed with little or no effort to remedy parental deficiencies
  • children being placed in out of home care primarily on the basis of their parent's IQ
  • failure by child protection authorities to take into account contributing factors such as poverty, poor housing, harassment, social isolation and lack of appropriate services. Often these are dismissed whilst parental difficulties are attributed entirely to the disability.

Aim

In this context this study aimed to identify the prevalence of parents with a disability appearing in care proceedings in two NSW Children's Courts, outcomes for these parents as compared with those of non-disabled parents, and processes involved. Of critical importance was the question of whether these parents were disadvantaged or discriminated against in care proceedings.

Method

For the purposes of this study, parents with a disability were defined as having an identified impairment documented in their court file, including intellectual, psychiatric, physical, or sensory disability. Data was extracted from a review of court files in the NSW Children's Court; interviews and/or focus groups with magistrates, legal representatives and officers from the Department of Community Services (DOCS); and courtroom observations of care proceedings.

Statistical comparisons were made between the following groups of cases:

  1. Group 1: Parents without a disability and no mention of drug and/or alcohol use
  2. Group 2: Parents without a disability with suspected drug and/or alcohol use
  3. Group 3: Parents with psychiatric disability and no mention of drug and/or alcohol use
  4. Group 4: Parents with psychiatric disability with suspected drug and/or alcohol use
  5. Group 5: Parents with intellectual disability

The study found almost one-quarter of all care matters to involve parents with a disability. Moreover, when considering DoCS' care applications alone, this figure rose to nearly one-third. These figures reflect a substantial over-representation of both parents with a psychiatric disability (18.4% of cases compared to mean general population estimates of 4%) and parents with an intellectual disability (7.1% compared to mean general population estimates of 0.6%).

Court outcomes in terms of type of court order, length of order and placement type for families headed by parents with a disability were also found to differ significantly from those of families with non-disabled parents. Specifically, the children of parents with intellectual disability were more likely to be subject to wardship orders over the medium term with a disproportionate number of children being placed out-of-home with non-family. This is in keeping with the Court's generally pessimistic view of the capacity of these parents to overcome parenting deficiencies as perceived by DoCS workers. The children of parents with psychiatric disability on the other hand were more likely to be placed back home with a short term supervision order. This is consistent with the view that care concerns can usually be resolved with appropriate medication.

Further, when the ages of the children of parents with a disability were examined, these children were shown to be significantly younger than children of parents without a disability. Thus not only were parents with a disability appearing more frequently in the Children's Court, their children were found to be removed at a younger age.

These outcomes were seen to be the result of numerous influences at work throughout care and protection proceedings. These are:

  1. DoCS and Court Personnel 'Thinking' About Parents With A Disability
    These are based on outmoded and pejorative beliefs, such as people with intellectual disability being eternal children and as parents, incapable of taking responsibility for their children. Such prejudicial beliefs give rise to serious concerns as to how parents with a disability will be perceived and treated in the courts:
    1. Any parent with intellectual disability may be labelled incompetent on the basis of their disability alone and without any evidence of incompetence;
    2. With presumed incompetence, child maltreatment may be anticipated, again without any evidence and based on parental disability alone;
    3. With presumed immutability of their 'condition', they may be thought incapable of learning and therefore overcoming parenting deficiencies if these exist;
    4. Parenting deficiencies may be blamed on the parent's disability rather than on social constraints eg., poverty, social isolation, poor housing, inadequate support services.
  2. The Concept Of 'Risk'
    Risk assessment was generally promoted as a quasi-objective means of determining the potential of the parental situation to provide for the health, safety and well being of the child. This is of major concern given the lack of a sound theoretical and empirical basis to the concept of, and current measures in, risk assessment. For parents with a disability, judgements made in the courts about the degree of risk for their children will undoubtedly be influenced by the perceptions of their abilities (or otherwise) as parents.
  3. The Reliance on Expert Opinion
    A highly significant relationship was found to exist between expert opinion and Court outcome (home vs out-of-home placement) in cases featuring parents with a disability. However, the diagnostic-prognostic rationality as seen to be used by the court and the consequent reliance on the opinion of psychiatrists and psychologists in determining whether parents with psychiatric or intellectual disability can lift their game invites serious questioning. In the first instance a diagnosis can provide neither an adequate explanation of parenting deficiencies or a valid prediction of parenting potential. The use of these 'expert' reports to make such predictions is likely to result in empirically invalid and prejudical judgements. Secondly, parents with a disability may be denied individual review and adjudication. Thirdly, Australian and international research has shown that intellectual (dis)ability per se is a poor predictor of parenting competence and there is good evidence that when parenting deficiencies do exist these are to a large extent remediable. Fourthly, the diagnostic-prognostic rationality used by the Court inevitably results in the mistake of false attribution i.e. parenting deficiencies are attributed to the disability rather than from social constraints such as poverty, social isolation, poor housing and the inadequacy of support services. Finally, psychiatric and psychological assessment conducted during care proceedings are of doubtful validity. Stress and confusion aroused by care proceedings and the threat of permanent separation from their child or children may undermine the mental state of parents and consequently impair/diminish their performance.
  4. The Lack Of Suitable Support Services
    This pertains to the extremely limited availability of suitable support services, and the misperception that parents with disability will only be able to care for their children with support that was intensive and ongoing. Once again, there is clear evidence in Australia and internationally that parents with intellectual disability do not as a group require such support. Nevertheless, rather than being due to the failure of these parents per se, their current over-representation in care applications is more likely a result of health, disability and welfare services failing to assist parents according to their individual need for support in performing the tasks of parenthood.
  5. System Constraints
    These were observed to be as follows:
    1. Constraints on DoCS workers who do not have the time, training, or resources to adequately support parents with a disability
    2. Constraints on legal representatives who have not the time, training or resources to adequately represent parents with a disability
    3. Constraints on the court system which creates an environment in which the process of establishment can be 'washed over' as legal representatives work to negotiate a compromise solution to keep the system 'moving'.
  6. The Court Environment
    The court environment was shown to be alienating and disempowering for parents with a disability on several counts:
    • Little opportunity throughout the court process being given to parents' voices
    • DoCS holding the dominant position throughout
    • Negotiations being conducted in a manner incomprehensible to parents and particularly, to parents with intellectual disability
    • Lawyers feeling ill-equipped in both training and time to adequately represent parents with a disability

In sum, the court environment was seen to breach the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1997 (NSW).

The report concludes with 5 key recommendations:

  1. Address the marginalisation of parents with a disability in the court process

    The report recommended that the Attorney General's Department (NSW), in consultation with the Senior magistrate of the Children's Court and court personnel review court environment, procedures and processes to ensure appropriate accessibility by people with a disability as required under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) and the Anti-Discrimination Act 1997 (NSW).

    Further to this, it was recommended that urgent attention be given to the marginalizing and disempowering nature of court procedures and processes detailed in the report, and strategies put in place to remedy this situation as soon as practicable. These strategies include:

    • The development of a video and accompanying plain English resources which explain the court process step-by-step and the rights of participants to a fair hearing
    • The development of an Internet site listing potential support services to assist the Court in establishing what community supports and services are available and with hotlinks to other sites including those which contain up-to-date information about disability and parenting performance
    • The development of a network of volunteers/advocates under the auspices of an independent body to provide support persons to assist parents with a disability
    • Additional funding to support adequate legal representation of parents with a disability

     

  2. Address the outmoded inaccurate beliefs and pejorative attitudes held by departmental and court personnel involved in care proceeding.

    The report recommended that the Attorney General's Department (NSW) in collaboration with the Department of Community Services develop a joint training module for departmental and court personnel to inform and educate based on up to date empirical research and the broad range of community experiences of parents with a disability

  3. Address the over-representation of parents with a disability in care proceedings

    It was recommended that the Department of Community Services develop a professional development module on disability and parenting and implement a training program for district officers and assistance managers as a matter of urgency. This professional development module needs to pay particular attention to:

    • Up to date empirical research on parental disability and the broad range of community experiences of parents with a disability
    • The inappropriate use of risk assessment as a proxy measure of parenting performance
    • Appropriate measures of assessing parenting performance in relation to identified concerns
    • Appropriate measures of identifying parents' support needs
    • Suitable supports and services to overcome identified concerns in the context of ensuring the safety, welfare and well being of the child

     

  4. Address the inappropriate reliance on a clinical diagnostic-prognostic model in determining outcomes in cases involving parents with a disability

    The report recommended that the Attorney General's Department (NSW) develops and implements a professional development module to inform magistrates of the inappropriateness and limitations of using clinically determined diagnoses and prognoses to determine current and/or future parenting performance. This module needs to pay particular attention to:

    • The use and misuse of clinical diagnoses with regard to current and future parenting performance
    • The appropriate measures for assessing current and estimating future parenting performance.

      From this, it was further recommended that:

      • the Children's Court clinic develop policies and procedures in relation to the appropriate assessment of parenting performance with particular attention to cases involving parents with a disability
      • the Children's Court work collaboratively with the department of Community Services to assist in the implementation of appropriate methods of assessment of parenting performance as part of all child protection workers' professional practice

       

     

  5. Address the lack of suitable support and services for parents with a disability

    As a matter of urgency it was recommended that the Attorney General's Department take a lead role in addressing the shortfall in suitable services. This would require:

    • Advice from relevant government departments on services available to parents with a disability and the geographical location and support provided
    • Information based on national and international expertise as to the appropriate formulation of suitable supports and services for parents with a disability
    • The development and planning and/or modifying of current services as appropriate to ensure the establishment of a network of suitable support services for parents with a disability and widespread dissemination about the availability of these services to legal representatives and court personnel

This project was supported by a grant from the Law Foundation of NSW General Grants Scheme.

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