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In the child welfare context, courts, attorneys, and child protection agencies often turn to psychologists to evaluate parenting capacity. As evaluators in child protection cases, psychologists may be asked to evaluate different parties for different purposes, acting as agents of the court, the child protection agency, or directly retained by the parents or the lawyer guardian ad litem. In this article we focus specifically on psychological evaluations addressing issues pertaining to parenting capacity (in contrast to, for example, assessments that focus solely on child psychological well-being or developmental status). These types of assessments may help to inform dispositional decisions, including placement, visitation, reunification services to be provided, or termination of parental rights. We aim to (1) clarify the uses, and limitations, of such assessments in child protective proceedings, (2) provide an overview of professional guidelines regarding psychological evaluations in child protection matters, along with criteria for evaluating whether the assessment meets these guidelines, and (3) briefly identify broader systems issues surrounding psychological evaluations.


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