Parenting capacity & families

This section considers the area of parenting capacity and provides examples of how information may be collected to aid assessment of parenting capacity.

Critically important to a child's health and development is the ability of parents or caregivers to ensure that the child's developmental needs are being appropriately and adequately responded to and to adapt to his or her changing needs over time.

SCIE (2005)

Of particular importance is the need to consider all caregivers within the family. As identified in many serious case reviews, including that in relation to Peter Connolly, the role of fathers, male caregivers and others such as lodgers within the family environment is often not considered, particularly if they are hidden through work or through active non-disclosure by others. It is therefore important to consider the role of individuals as seen from a child's perspective. As Brandon et al. (2009) suggest, while knowledge about the status of the relationship (e.g. father, step-father, etc.) is important, this is less urgent to establish then what role they play in caring for the child, and what risks they pose or protection they may provide.

Therefore, whilst this section refers to the domain of parenting capacity as set out by the Assessment Framework for Children in Need and their Families, it is important to recognise that it is not just parents in the traditional sense that should be considered (i.e. mother and father) but all adults who provide care for the child or are a signficant presence in the home (i.e. living there or there for a large proportion of time each week).


The Assessment Framework identifies dimensions of parenting capacity which assessments should consider:


The following table considers the sources of information that will contribute to assessment of parenting capacity and allow consideration of how each of the domains are being met:

How information is collected

What information is collected
Discussions with parentPhysical, mental and emotional health of parents; family background and history; wider/extended family; self-defined issues and concerns; own parenting background; employment and social deprivation; family and community resources available; previous support.
Consulting other professionalsPrevious contact with services; previous support received; number/type of referrals; previous assessments/observations/reports; ordering additional assessments to be made.
Observations of home and physical environmentBasic care; risk and safety factors; other family members present; levels of stimulation; family routines; hygiene and cleanliness; housing and family resources available; substance misuse; interactions between parents and other family members.
Observations of childHealth and social development; emotional and behavioural development; interaction with practitioner and other adults.
Observations of parent(s)Engagement with practitioner; attitude towards child; attitude towards identified problems; motivation to change; how parents talk about their child; interactions between parents and other family members.
Observations of parent and childRelationship between parent and child; verbal and non-verbal interaction; how parents talk to their child; emotional warmth and demonstrable affection; guidance and boundaries.

Kellett, J. & Apps, J., 2009.  Assessments of parenting and parenting support need: a study of four professional groups


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