a specialist assessment framework for parents
with learning disabilities and additional needs
The Assessment Framework
ParentAssess is a framework developed in 2016 for assessing parents who have learning disabilities and other additional needs within childcare proceedings. It addresses both the emotional and practical aspects of parenting and seeks to identify both the strengths and concerns. The traffic light system means the assessment outcomes are measurable and easy to read.
The framework can be used where children remain in their parents' care or where the children have been placed in foster care and supervised contact is in place.
ParentAssess has also been adopted by a number of Mother and Baby Residential Units.
ParentAssess uses a range of visual tools. We do not use drawings or cartoons which parents with learning disabilities can find patronising and hard to assimilate to their own life. Instead we use photos of situations and things the parent is likely to see in everyday life. Assessors are encouraged to consider the parent's needs and use the tools accordingly. The framework is designed so it can be updated to ensure it is kept current.
ParentAssess has been used successfully in the Family Courts since 2017
Sarah Lowe has over 40 years of experience in the social work field and specifically with people who have learning disabilities. Initially, Sarah worked in residential care supporting the rehabilitation of adults with learning disabilities as they left the large institutions and this gave her valuable insight into how to develop daily living skills and help people gain a better understanding of risk.
Since 2002 Sarah has worked as an Independent Social Worker specialising in undertaking assessments of parents who have learning disabilities. During that time she has gained an understanding of the difficulties facing parents with additional needs and the importance of them being able to understand the assessment process.
Sarah has also worked as a Head of a Local Authority Disability Service giving her an excellent understanding of how children's and adult services can support people with a learning disability.
Sarah has studied at the Tavistock and Portman Clinic and is CARE-Index and ADBB Trained
In 2022 Sarah won the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Social Worker of the Year Awards for her long-lasting and significant contribution to social work. Her development of ParentAssess was recognised to be 'changing the lives and outcomes for parents'.
The Assessor training is suitable for any professional working in social care but if they want to complete parenting assessments for Court they should be registered with SWE (or equivalent).
We believe it is important that assessors (and those supporting parents) understand the issues facing parents who have learning disabilities and additional needs. Although prior experience is valuable, these skills are covered on the ParentAssess Training and additional courses are available.
An important element of the assessment process is to consider attachment issues and attunement and some knowledge of attachment is useful but again this is covered on the training.
Because the child's experience is central to the assessment process, the training pays particular attention to developing skills in observing the parent/child interaction and how to use video feedback.