A Child Custody Fitness Assessment is a specialized psychological evaluation, typically ordered by a court, and used to assess the capacity of a parent to parent their children. Oftentimes, this evaluation is ordered by a court as part of a termination of parental rights case or in the course of determining a parent’s ability to assume custody of their children in a custody dispute. Parents involved in DCFS cases are often required to obtain a parental fitness evaluation. It is customary to interview parents, children, and family members separately to gather collateral information while keeping the child’s well-being as the ultimate priority.
The Principles of Child Custody Fitness Assessment
An evaluator’s duty is to objectively report findings to the referring agency. Two elements are crucial in this process: first, the clinician must have no therapeutic relationship with the parent who is being assessed; and second, there is limited scope to HIPPA confidentiality in a forensic evaluation. The forensic tools used for the evaluation depend on the evaluator’s personal training and the client’s individual needs. The process should take into consideration all parent-related, child-related, and family-related factors.
substance abuse, current and previous involvement in the child welfare facilities, and willingness to cooperate with the other parent in raising the child.
Child-related: Mental health, attachment to each parent, and preferences regarding custody or living arrangements.
Family-related: History of domestic violence, allegations of abuse, and allegations of parental alienation. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7289475/)
Here is a link to APA.org for further assistance in understanding the importance of DFCS Assessments https://www.apa.org/practice/guidelines/child-protection