Parent/Child “Bonding” Assessments – wait, what?
One of the most precious rights protected by the law is that of a parent’s right to raise his or her child. When that right is threatened by a termination of parental rights proceeding, it is important that the parent use every tool available in order to win the case.
Before a court can terminate the parental rights of a parent, the court is obligated to determine whether that termination of parental rights is in the best interests of the child. That “best interests” analysis invariably boils down to whether the parent and child are bonded with one another. To prove that a meaningful parent-child exists, a parent can request that the court direct that a bonding assessment be done.
A bonding assessment is an evaluation conducted by an expert, usually a psychologist, whose goal is to determine the nature and quality of the child’s attachment relationships to his or her birth and/or foster parents. A bonding assessment will involve a series of interviews during which the evaluator will observe the interaction between the parent(s) and child, as well as the interaction between any foster parent(s) and the child. The evaluator will look for reciprocal attachment between the parental figures and the child, as well as how the child behaves in response to a stranger (the evaluator) during the interview. The evaluator will review the history of the family and the case. After the interviews are concluded, the evaluator will issue a written report of the expert’s findings for review by the parties and eventual submission to the court.
A good bonding assessment will explore the child’s capacity for attachment, and determine the persons with whom the child needs to feel safe. The bonding assessment should also explore who is most central in the child’s emotional life and determine the quality of that relationship. The bonding assessment should offer an opinion as to whether there exist any risks or benefits to the well-being of the child if parental rights to the child are terminated.
Although mostly utilized in Children and Youth Agency cases, bonding evaluations are also used in custody cases, if there is issue about the bond and relationship between a young child and a parent.
Since legal cases of this nature are fact intensive, a bonding assessment is not appropriate for every parent nor for every case, and the decision of whether to request a bonding assessment from the court should first be discussed with legal counsel familiar with the process.
What this means for you: If you have questions about your Children and Youth case, we can help you. Make Pyfer Reese Straub Gray & Farhat PC your choice – visit www.pyferreese.com or call (717) 299-7342 to schedule a consultation with Albert J. Meier. ~Albert J. Meier, Esquire