Assessing cognitively impaired parents using a strengths -based model

Julia Montminy, Salve Regina University


This dissertation explores the current method endorsed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for assessing parenting abilities in the cognitively impaired population. It seeks to develop a more ethical means of finding the strengths and needs of these mothers and fathers. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, a balanced, holistic view of abilities and deficits is sought. Ultimately, these individuals can be assisted only if service providers understand what their needs are and how to address them effectively. The data suggest that parents with cognitive disabilities have far greater strengths than usually thought but that they are ignored because of low IQ scores. Evaluation is one-dimensional, and as such, gives a distorted view of a parent's functioning. The practice of relying on quantitative measures leads to unethical treatment for the parents and children. The families ultimately suffer the injustice of this prejudice. In addition, a broad range of resources is not yet available to them because, in part, they are considered to be in the minority of the population of parents who need the services of child protection agencies. In this study, 92 percent of the cases considered consisted of a family whose head was cognitively impaired, either with low-average intelligence or a formal diagnosis of mental retardation. The conclusion of this study is that more parents with disabilities may be able to raise their own children if they are given the proper support. All the data presented here were gathered from one county in Massachusetts during the years 1995–2003. Of the one hundred families included, all the cases examined were under the jurisdiction of either child protection services or family court. The children were in the custody of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The identification of these families, all from past cases, is shielded throughout this study. This is a retrospective study. The facts were gleaned from files. No new parent interviews were completed.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Social work

Recommended Citation

Montminy, Julia, "Assessing cognitively impaired parents using a strengths -based model" (2005). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI3169131.