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Psychological assessment (of an adult)

When children’s services have a concern about a child and the way in which they are being cared for, they may ask a parent (or other adult family member) to agree to an assessment by a psychologist.

Often, mental health difficulties can make it harder for parents or carers to manage caring for a child. A better understanding of a parent’s psychological well-being may help children’s services or the court when making decisions about a child’s care. It may inform the level and nature of any support that will be given to a parent.

A psychological assessment might be recommended as part of a child protection plan. Or a court might order an assessment to be undertaken during care proceedings. This will be part of helping the court to reach a decision on what is in the best long-term interests of the child.

As part of the assessment, the psychologist might want to explore with the adult:

  • How they are feeling now and how they have felt in the past.
    What sort of things have happened in their life, including when they were a child.
  • Whether (with support or treatment) they will be able to make the sort of changes that might be necessary to help them look after their child better.
  • Whether they can also make those changes quickly enough to meet the developmental needs of their child.

The psychologist will draw up a report summarising the discussion that has been had with the parent. They will provide an expert opinion in relation to the parent’s mental health and psychological functioning. This report will be shared with children’s services, and if the matter is in court proceedings, with the parties to proceedings as well as the judge.

A parent should always be asked whether they agree to an assessment. However, it is important to understand that if a court orders an assessment, the judge will expect the person concerned to cooperate. If they do not, the judge will want to know why, and may be concerned that he or she does not have enough information about the parent in order to be able to make an informed decision about the child’s care. Parents should always be given a copy of the psychologist’s report. They will be able to go through this with their solicitor, and will be given a change to respond to the report and its recommendations.

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