If the expert reports relied upon by the court are influenced by unfair assessments of parenting skills or processes are not adjusted to take account of disability, then the right of parents to fair and equal treatment before the law has been undermined.
Now, in a first Australia, the University of Sydney’s Research Center for Children and Families has co-designed a good practice guide. It offers disability-informed practice guidance with relevance for every professional working in child protection and Children’s Courts.
The Intellectual Disability Rights Service works with mothers with intellectual disability when they are at risk of having a child removed from their care, often at birth. Executive Officer and research partner, Janene Cootes explains “We find that many care and protection staff are pessimistic about the potential of women with intellectual disability to parent their children and they are surprised at what is possible with the right help. They want to know more. This new resource will provide much needed insights and practical assistance to everyone working with parents with intellectual disability in the care and protection system ”.
Dr Collings said: “What makes the disability-informed practice guide for parenting capacity assessments stand out as a credible source is the unique collaboration to make it a reality. Working with the research team at the University of Sydney were the New South Wales Children’s Court Clinic, Intellectual Disability Rights Service, and the WASH House, with the guidance of an Aboriginal Elder and a Children’s Court magistrate. ”
The research aims to increase disability awareness among professionals working in care and protection and to improve their knowledge and skills to engage with parents with intellectual disability. In particular, the resource will assist clinical assessors and experts, judicial officers, Statutory Authorities, caseworkers from government and non-government organizations (NGOs), Independent Legal Representatives, Legal Aid and private solicitors.
“It should not be up to parents to educate workers on how to adjust their practice so that it is accessible for people with intellectual disability. Nor should the responsibility lie solely with the professional to ensure their work with parents is fair and free from bias. Training the workforce to become disability-informed will ensure that every parent who encounters the child protection system is guaranteed fair treatment, including those with intellectual disability. ”
To discuss the issues and present the practice guide to a broader audience, a webinar will be held, with the opening address given by the NSW Attorney General the Hon. Mark Speakman.
23 June 1-2pm
The webinar will be filmed and will be available on the Research Centre’s website.
For more information: Research Center for Children and Families
About the study:
The Toward Access and Equity study was funded by an Access to Justice Innovation Grant from the New South Wales Government. The research team was Dr Susan Collings, Dr Margaret Spencer and Ms Pei Kong. The study is a partnership with the New South Wales Children’s Court Clinic, the Intellectual Disability Rights Service and WASH House Inc.
Declaration: The Research Center for Children and Families receives core funding from the NSW Government through the Department of Communities and Justice.