The Evaluation of Grandparents as Supervisors of Parental Access
Written By: Dr. Raymond M. Morris
The evaluation of grandparents as supervisors of a non-custodial parent’s visitation, and for that matter any relative or non-professionally trained third party who wishes or agrees to provide supervision, must be assessed in relation to three main components. Implementation of those components and subsequent report as noted by Justice K.L. Hawke of the Ontario Court of Justice added “positive value” to the judicial decision-making (Rekes vs Ali, 2015 OCJ 622-14).
The first component involves the evaluation of the supervisor’s qualifications, commitment, and knowledge regarding the responsibilities involved in the provision of supervision as well as an awareness of the reason for supervised visitation. The second component involves the knowledge necessary in relation to full time observation of parent/child interaction. The third component involves the grandparents’ capacity and willingness to act on their observations, if and when necessary. The protocol for evaluation had to be created in view of very limited literature on the subject.
The assessment begins with ascertaining the grandparents’ qualifications for providing supervised access by way of a background check. Next, one must evaluate the grandparents’ commitment to the responsibilities of supervision in terms of how reliable and dependable they can be in relation to their availability to provide such a service on a full time basis without exception. Another necessary factor is their ability to be neutral and objective in their observations, and unencumbered in any way by their relationship with the non-custodial parent they are supervising. The grandparents must be aware of the court’s rationale for ordering supervised access and accept it as a basic parameter in relation to their observations.
The assessment of the supervisor’s knowledge of parenting is the next component. The supervisors must be aware of the child’s age and stage of development and hold to an acceptable standard of parenting and methods of child management. They must be aware of, and focus on, the child’s physical and emotional needs and be prepared to ensure that they are met. The grandparents, as supervisors, must also have some basic knowledge in relation to domestic violence, sexual abuse, and the impact of drug or alcohol use. The supervisors must also demonstrate respect for the custodial parent, particularly in relation to transfer of the child.
Finally, the grandparents must be evaluated in relation to their ability and willingness to intervene in a positive way: (i) by providing necessary parenting instruction to the non-custodial parent when appropriate; (ii) when the non-custodial parent does not meet any of the child’s physical and emotional needs through neglect, negative influence, or any instance of undermining the child’s relationship with the custodial parent; and (iii) to report to the police or the Children’s Aid Society any observation of abuse in any form, or report observations when required by the court, legal counsel, or the Children’s Aid Society.
Using these three components allows for the assessment of the supervisor’s understanding of the seriousness of his or her role and responsibilities. It is understood and suggested that these procedures will be conducted in a caring fashion with focus on the child in question and provide an educative component to the process.
To review the full paper please visit Dr. Morris’ website at www.drraymondmorris.com
Judicial Counsel of California – Centre for Families, Children & the Courts. A Guide for the Non-Professional Provider of Supervised Visitation.
Ms. Judy Newman, Manager Supervised Access Program Ministry of the Attorney General. Telephone interview April 27th, 2015.
Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario. Have You Been Asked to Supervise Visits or Exchanges Between Children and Parents? (A guide for Family and Friends)
Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario Website. Family Law, Supervised Access, Information for Court Orders or Agreements.
Help for Single Mother Website (2011). Parents’ Guide to Supervised Visitation Guidelines.
Rekes vs Ali 2015 OCJ 622-14