Assessments

Assessments

Section  211 (s. 211) Assessments or Needs of the Child Assessments (previously  Section 15 Reports):

On November 23, 2011 a new family law bill was passed in the B.C. legislature. The Family Law Act came fully into force on March 18, 2013, and replaced the Family Relations Act. What used to be known as “section 15 reports” are now called “section 211 (s.211) assessments” or “needs of the child assessments.” The new act places the safety and best interests of the child first when families are going through separation and divorce. The Family Law Act makes the best interests of the child the only consideration when decisions affecting the child are being made. The act expands the best interests of the child test to include: the history of care of the child; the impact of family violence on the child’s safety, security or well-being; the child’s views, unless it would be inappropriate to consider them; and any civil or criminal proceedings relevant to the child’s safety and well-being.

When conducting the assessment, it is important that any procedure used with one parent or parenting figure also be used with the other parent or parenting figure. Qualified individuals conducting these assessments must also ensure that a fair, complete, balanced and parallel procedure is used.  A “best practices” process has determined the assessment guidelines and as such, psychologists are required to follow an assessment procedure known as multi-trait – multi-method assessment. This involves using a variety of assessment techniques including interviewing individuals, observing the children and parents, psychological testing, gathering collateral information, and considering any other information deemed to be relevant to the assessment process. The following guidelines apply only to assessments conducted by Dr. Larry Waterman. Assessments conducted by other psychologists or counselors may vary.

  • Each parent is interviewed individually to obtain clinical histories and other information relevant to the assessment.
  • The child/children (if of an appropriate age) are interviewed on one or more occasions depending on how well they respond to the questions during the initial interview and how much information they provide. Indirect questioning and other appropriate methods of gathering information are used.
  • The children are observed with each parent to evaluate the relationship between the children and the parents. This can usually be accomplished in one session but sometimes more sessions may be required.
  • Collateral information is obtained from a variety of sources such as parenting references; family physician(s); other professionals who have been involved; teachers or daycare providers and from other relevant sources as necessary.
  • All relevant legal information concerning the custody and access dispute is reviewed.
  • Parents and their new partners (if applicable) are administered formal psychological tests to gather further information about their psychological functioning.
  • If sexual abuse or other abuse or neglect allegations are involved, additional information may be gathered from the RCMP, Ministry for Children and Family Development and other relevant sources. Sometimes, sexual abuse allegations may have to be assessed by a second professional.
  • This process involves approximately thirty – forty hours. As of September 1, 2017, the hourly rate for such assessments is $295.00 per hour.  If travel is required, it is billed at $190.00 per hour and additional expenses such as hotel, food, etc., will be billed as per the charged rate.  A retainer of $10,000.00 is required prior to beginning the assessment and any balance owing when the assessment is completed  must be paid in full before the report can be released.

S. 211 Assessment Procedures:

The table below outlines the procedure used by Dr. Waterman to conduct s. 211 assessments.  The reader is advised that this represents a basic assessment process.  Please note that preparation of Parenting Capacity Assessments and Views of the Child Assessments varies somewhat from the preparation of  s. 211 assessments.  Generally, Parenting Capacity Assessments and Views of the Child Assessments take less time, therefore are less costly.

Review Legal Documents:
  1 – 5 hours
Interview Parents: Mother
  2 hours
Interview Parents: Father
  2 hours
Home Assessment of Child/Children with Mother:
    2 hours
Home Assessment of Child/Children with Father:
    2 hours
Psychological Testing: Mother
  2 – 3 hours
Psychological Testing: Father
  2 – 3 hours
Review Parenting/Other Reference Forms for Mother:
  1.5 hours
Review Parenting/Other Reference Forms for Father:
   1.5 hours
Interview Collaterals: (Teachers, Counselors, Physicians, etc.)
  1 – 4 hours
Correspondence During Assessment: (e-mails, faxes, letters, photos, videos, etc.)
  1 – 2 hours
Report Preparation:
20 – 30 hours
Estimated Total Hours:
 30 – 50 hours

 

Variables that may increase the time (and costs) of preparing the s. 211 assessment:

  • Reviewing more legal documents than originally anticipated;
  • Reviewing other documents and information not included in the example above;
  • Interview and psychological testing of the parent’s new partner;
  • Interviews with other family members or individuals who have important information to provide;
  • Travel outside of Nanaimo to do the assessment (time, plus vehicle costs, meals, ferries, flights and accommodation);

Please note that in addition to the extra costs generated by these variables, there is also extra time required to dictate on the additional information obtained. It is not possible to give a firm estimate of the costs associated with the s. 211 assessment and resulting report based on an hourly rate. A retainer (usually shared by each parent) is needed before beginning an assessment, unless alternative arrangements are made. Payment in full is always required before the report is released.

Parenting Capacity Assessments:

The essential focus of Parenting Capacity Assessments is to determine whether or not the parent is able to safely parent the child/children and to evaluate the fit between parenting ability and the psychological and developmental needs of the child/children. If the parent is unable to safely parent the child/children, the assessment must determine what interventions might be used to assist the parent in obtaining the necessary skills or consider whether a limitation of parental rights is an appropriate direction to take. The assessment should also determine whether or not the parent is able to provide a safe, stable and predictable environment that will support the child/children in their physical, cognitive, social and psychological development.

As with s. 211 assessments, it is important that a complete assessment procedure be used when conducting the assessment. It must be ensured that the procedure is fair, balanced and thorough. The assessor must provide an assessment report that is complete with regard to relevant and substantial facts. Conclusions and recommendations should be based upon multi-method, multi-trait assessment procedures.

When conducting a Parenting Capacity Assessment, it may not be necessary to include a complete clinical history of the parent(s) being assessed. However, it is expected that the assessor will outline specific strengths and weaknesses for each parental individual assessed, based on reviewed information from files, legal and other documents and information from the potential parent, as well as other sources.

It is not necessary to summarize the file information and information from legal and other documents before the Court. However, it is expected that significant documents such as Risk Assessments will be listed.

When assessing one biological parent/parent figure, it is not necessary to interview the other biological parent/parent figure unless such a person has relevant information regarding the person being assessed.

It is expected that the referral agent (e.g. Ministry for Children and Family Development, legal counsel, etc.) will provide a list of specific questions to be addressed. The assessor is not required to provide any recommendations beyond responding to the questions raised by the referring agent. However, if the assessor identifies an area of concern that is considered significant, he is expected to clarify the importance of that area within the assessment process.

Views of the Child Assessments:

Views of the Child assessments are conducted when it is considered important to provide the child’s perspective to the court. Parents can request the court to order a Views of the Child assessment or the assessment can be done by mutual consent of the parents, thereby eliminating the need for a court order.

The purpose of conducting such an assessment is to obtain the child/children’s opinions on specific issues such as their parents’ residence, school, their views on access and other relevant information and to determine whether or not the child/children have reached these opinions on their own. The assessment does not provide recommendations, as it is only intended to clarify the child/children’s opinions and feelings about issues affecting them.

Views of the Child assessments typically involve interviewing each parent and then interviewing the child. Each parent is asked to bring the child to an interview to guard against either parent influencing the child’s views. When conducting these assessments, it is anticipated that the child will not require any formal psychological assessment. However, if certain areas are identified which may have an impact on the child’s opinion (e.g. concerns about cognitive development, head injury, etc.), psychological testing may be recommended to provide information relevant to that aspect.

The process takes approximately six hours and a report is prepared. Parents typically use the report to help reach a settlement without having to go to court.