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Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System


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Child Welfare Assessment Services

Under the Child & Family Services Act

Our approach involves best practice guidelines, review of all information, and an unbiased focus on the best interests of children.

In Ontario, the 52 Children's Aid Societies are legally mandated to investigate and, if necessary, intervene when a child may be at risk of abuse or neglect. When requested, the Child Welfare Assessment Team at the Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System can conduct a Parenting Capacity Assessment under the Child and Family Servcices Act to help answer questions and inform decisions about case planning in the best interests of the children. Clinical psychologists conduct the assessment, which typically includes home visits as a key part of information collection. The result is a report summarizing information and putting forward recommendations for case planning.

On this page, you will find information for anyone contemplating a referral and information for parents or other caregivers involved in the assessment process.


The Centre is an independent and neutral agency and does not replace the work of the Children's Aid Society. Our Centre provides an independent assessment when there is an unresolved conflict between the Children's Aid Society and parents over supervision, placement, treatment planning, access arrangements, and/or child custody.


Cases evaluated by the Child Welfare Assessment team can involve these themes: attachment relationships; cases where child protection and custody issues are intertwined; cases involving co-occurring domestic violence and child maltreatment; parents struggling with mental health issues or addictions; intellectual or cognitively challenged parents; special needs children; youth in long-term care when access is contemplated; treatment needs of children; and assessing relative parenting capacity of parties who put forward a plan for the children.

Information for Parents: What to Expect

This information can help you understand better the process of parenting capacity assessment and answer some common questions. Bring other questions to your first meeting with a member of the team. While we use the word "parent," we recognize that other people or caretakers such as grandparents may be involved.

What is a parenting assessment?

A parenting assessment gathers information from a number of different sources about:

  • the needs of the child or children

  • the parent's ability to meet those needs

  • the skills and strengths of the parent

  • the relative skills and strengths of parties proposed as caretakers

  • the quality of the parent child relationship

  • supports available to the family

This information is analysed to form recommendations promoting the best interests of the child. Recommendations may include:

  • placement options for the child

  • long-term planning suggestions

  • treatment suggestions

  • services that may help the parent address problem areas

Why get a parenting assessment?

Children's Aid, therapists, the court, or lawyers may need to understand how someone approaches parenting, including strengths and weaknesses.

Often certain problems in a parent's behaviour, or problems between a parent and child, need to be addressed before making any decisions on behalf of the child.

Areas to consider when assesing a person's ability to parent can include:

  • depression or grief

  • anger control/management

  • alcohol or drug abuse

  • issues of child abuse or neglect

  • criminal activity

  • mental/emotional health issues

When are parenting assessments appropriate?

Assessments can help lawyers, Children's Aid Societies, or community agencies decide what is in the best interests of both the parent and the child, so they can make case plans that are most helpful.

These services are only appropriate when a Children's Aid Society is already involved, because we are a separate agency and do not replace the work of the Children's Aid Society.

Our independent assessments are most appropriate when there is an unresolved conflict between the Children's Aid Society and parents over supervision, placement, or custody of a child.

What happens in a parenting assessment?

This process usually requires 4 or more sessions, each 2-3 hours in length.

The limits of confidentiality are explained before the assessment begins, and parents are informed of how the information will be treated and released.

There are several interviews to discuss the family situation and background history.

Some sessions will involve psychological tests to learn more about the client in such areas as:

  • parenting view

  • personality style

  • reasoning skills

  • stress and anxiety levels

  • relationship with the child

  • strengths and problem areas

When possible, some sessions involve parent-child visits to see how parents interact with their children.

If the child is not living at home, the examiner gathers information from the home where the child is placed to describe how the child is currently doing.

Parents are asked to sign consent forms related to agencies having contact with the parent or child, now or in the past. Signing these forms gives those agencies permission to send us information.

Parents get feedback on the assessment and can discuss the results and potential recommendations.

By the end of the process, a great deal of informayion is available to the team including the results of psychological testing, information learned in interviews, information given by other agencies about their contact with the child or family, observations of the parent with the child, and any other relevant details.

All this information is organized into a written report given to the court, the lawyers involved in the case, and the CAS making the referral.

How long will this take?

The complete process may take three to four months from the time it begins until the final report is issued.

Information for CASs

A referral package is available to start the process.

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