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Parent assessment manual

Jill Toocaram, Common Foundation Programme Leader, Pre Registration Nursing, Anglia Ruskin University, UK, reviews a software-based assessment tool for social workers, psychologists and other professionals working with parents with learning difficulties. Parent assessment manual software 2.0 (CD-ROM application) by Dr Sue McGaw is available from www.pillcreekpublishing.com. Price £240 plus P&P.

Parent assessment manual software 2.0 (PAMS 2.0) has been developed to present complex information in a format that aims to interface well with the Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families (DH 2000) and the Common assessment framework (DfES 2006).

The manual aims to help professionals establish what is required for 'good enough parenting' but it will be the assessor's responsibility to make a judgment on whether the parent's ability is good, adequate or poor.

I found this to be an excellent package overall and, because of the very complex information involved, the assessments are very detailed and thorough. The assessment covers areas (referred to as domains) including childcare and development, behaviour management, independent living skills, safety and hygiene, parents' health, relationships and support, and the impact of the environment and community on parenting. Each parenting skill that falls within a domain is assessed for parental knowledge, quality of parenting skills and the frequency of parenting practice.

I believe it is well suited as either a screening tool and/or as a comprehensive specialist assessment tool. It has a very detailed and comprehensive instruction section and guide on how each section works, from the initial assessment, worksheet assessment and the summary and profile which identifies the family's strengths, needs and risks associated with their parenting.

While I acknowledge that the author has confirmed the tools have been rigorously piloted and tested for ease of parent participation and reliability of delivery by assessors, I would strongly recommend that training should be completed before any professional attempts to use this tool because of the very qualitative judgments of some of the assessment/open ended questions. This would ensure that professionals get the most out of it and ensure its intended application.

This would be particularly important when assessing people with moderate to severe learning disabilities with associated communication deficits. Previous research has highlighted the tendency for people with learning disabilities to have their children put on the 'at risk' register before they are born because of poor professional judgement and limited experience. PAMS 2.0 provides evidence-based assessment which aims to reflect parenting knowledge, skills and practice rather than parents' level of functioning in terms of mental health, intellectual ability and academic skills.

This tool should equip professionals to confidently identify services to support vulnerable parents who have temporary, long-term or transitional support needs while safeguarding their children from abuse and neglect.

Initially, I found the software navigation quite difficult and challenging and not easy to dip in and out of. The materials tend to be very 'busy' and need time to get used to but are well worth the effort involved. I found that the hard copy back-up of the same material helped me to keep going.

Appropriate training and support would help to ensure that professionals get the most out of this excellent parenting assessment tool, which I have no hesitation in recommending to all professionals working with parents.

Jill Toocaram

References

Department of Health. 2000. Framework for the assessment of children in need and their families. London: Department of Health.

Department for Education and Skills. 2006. Common assessment framework. London: Department for Education and Skills.

First published in Disability, Pregnancy & Parenthood, issue 62, Summer 2008.

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