Similar to custody evaluations, parental fitness evaluations may include interviews with parents and children, psychological testing, observations, review of records (health, academic, etc.), and interviewing collateral contacts such as teachers, daycare providers or family physicians. Child protection laws try to reconcile the rights of parents to care for their children with the inherent interest of keeping a child safe.
According to the American Psychological Association guidelines, the evaluation addresses the particular psychological and developmental needs of the child and/or parent that are relevant to child protection issues such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, and emotional harm.
Usually referrals for parent fitness evaluations are court-ordered, with the emphasis placed on finding what’s in the best interest of the child. The scope of an evaluation is based on the nature of the questions surrounding the referral and is left up to the evaluator. The main purpose of it is to obtain professionally sound opinions in matters where a child’s welfare may have been or may be harmed.
Parent fitness evaluations focus heavily on providing in-depth results about a parent’s psychological functioning and ability to function as a parent. During parent fitness evaluations, if there are findings of abuse or neglect, there may be an assumption of custody by the state or to another parent at least until there is an implementation of a rehabilitation plan. Then reevaluation may occur before deciding on parental rights.
What parent-child relationship factors are looked for in a parental fitness evaluation?
- quality of relationship
- presence of emotional closeness
- how parents view and know their children
- how children view their parents
- how a parent responds to child’s needs
- ability for parent to promote child’s development
To learn more or request assistance, please call Dr. Howard Drutman at 678.670.7020.