Rutherford, S. J. and Keeley, Philip (2009) Assessing parenting capacity: are mental health nurses prepared for this role? Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 16 (4). pp. 363-367. ISSN 1351-0126

Mental health nurses in the UK are involved in the assessment of the parenting capacity of mothers with a serious mental illness in psychiatric facilities. There is evidence that child and family social workers, as the frontline professionals in safeguarding children, rely heavily on the mental health parenting assessment. Parenting assessments have potentially major implications for mother and baby and can lead to the separation of mother and baby. However, there is little or no provision for mental health nurses to undertake this role. In the UK, as in many other countries, there is currently no data as to which psychiatric facilities are conducting parenting assessments nor about the quality of the assessment. There are significant tensions for mental health nurses undertaking parenting assessments and there is no specific training for the role. This paper challenges existing practice, highlights the need for an audit of the current services and recommends the development of a recognized training programme.

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