Child Care or Child Safeguarding? Dilemmas in Assessing Mental Stability and Capacity in D.I.D. Parents
R. Thomas (London GB)
This paper illustrates the dilemma posed to Social Services, the courts and other professional services in assessing mental health stability and parenting capacity in parents with D.I.D. Are there common lessons to learn from these cases or is careful, bespoke, assessment the only way?
The author presents single case studies of three mothers with D.I.D. involved in care proceedings regarding their children and the responses of the authorities and courts in each case.
This paper draws on the author's clinical experience over 20 years as an Expert Witness in cases of complex trauma and dissociation in the assessment of three mothers with D.I.D within legal proceedings. The paper outlines the complexities in each case posed for the authorities in making adequate assessments of parental capacity in cases of D.I.D and the key role of the Expert Witness in assisting and clarifying this process.
The author also examines the unconscious, dissociative processes enacted by professionals and services in such cases, often creating extreme responses. The role of the D.I.D. expert in providing not only clarity of assessment to inform the best interests of the child and family but also a skilled understanding of the powerful, underlying, dynamics at play is emphasised.
Complex trauma / dissociation specialists have a key role in providing expert assessments of D.I.D. parents for the courts and statutory bodies. This is psycho-educational but also psychodynamic and aims both to adequately protect children whilst avoiding unnecessary scapegoating of D.I.D. parents.