Course Description

The Parenting Capacity Assessments (PCA) is an integral part of good case management as it is a vital method for determining the ability of a parent to meet the emotional, physical and developmental needs of their children. These assessments are complex examinations of the parenting environment and the fit between parent and child. They are different in scope and practice from assessments done for divorce and custody matters. They consider the safety of the child as paramount. Return to parental care is not always an option.  The issues include, but are not limited to, matters of physical and emotional safety, the ability to provide for a nurturing attachment; the capacity of the parent to change; the ability of the parent to meet the standard of good enough parenting as well as the ability of the parent to overcome many serious obstacles such as addictions, mental health, their own histories of trauma, poverty and serious deficits in parenting skills. This online course will focus upon practical processes for these assessments along with appropriate theory.

The course will also address how and to what extent psycho-metric evaluation can be useful; how collateral data sources fit into the assessment and how to present the report and conclusions in ways that are useful to the diverse audiences of child protection workers, parents, lawyers and the courts. Best practice for report writing is considered as is representing the assessment and findings in court.

Course Details

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this course successful participants will be able to:

  • Understand the appropriate scope of the child protection assessment including the differences between these and child custody assessments in divorce/separation matters;
  • Have a working knowledge of how to apply the “Good enough parenting” standard;
  • Understand how to ensure the referral is framed appropriately;
  • Have a working knowledge of an interview protocol;
  • Understand the severe limitations of the use of psycho-metric tools in these assessments;
  • Review how collateral data sources fit into an assessment;
  • Have an understanding of a layout for presenting findings in preparation for court testimony; and
  • Present conclusions and recommendations to court.

Following this program, practitioners will have a framework with which to begin working in this area or expand their assessment practice.


Peter W. Choate, MSW, RSW, PhD is a clinical social worker in private practice in Calgary. He has been qualified as an expert witness in the Provincial Court of Alberta, Family and Youth Divisions and the Court of Queen’s Bench. His areas of expertise are Addictions, Family Violence and Parenting Capacity. He has been approved as a clinical supervisor by the Alberta College of Social Workers and is a member of the College’s Clinical Registry. He also teaches social work at the post-secondary level.

Certificate of Participation

The participants will be issued a Certificate of Participation at the end of the course. The course carries 20 hours of credits that may be used towards ACSW Continuing Competency Activity Category A. credits.

In order to receive the Certificate, the participants need to:

  • Devote about 5 hours each week to the course;
  • Read the posted materials—all readings provided online
  • Participate in blackboard discussions—starting your own topics as well responding to other participants

Please note that your participation will be assessed in order to receive the full credits.  No partial credits are available.


Required Textbook:

Budd, K.S., Clark, J. R. & Connell, M.A. (2011). Evaluation of Parenting Capacity in Child Protection. New York: Oxford

The participants need to buy the book separately and the cost in not included in the registration fee.  You can purchase this online from Amazon.  Please click on the title of the book above to access the amazon website.


Thank you for your interest in this course. Unfortunately, the course you have selected is currently not open for enrolment. Please complete a course inquiry so that we may promptly notify you when enrolment opens.

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