Topic: Working with Parents with Cognitive Disabilities: Programs

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Working with Parents with Cognitive Disabilities: Programs:

The Working with Parents with Cognitive Disabilities: Programs topic area focuses on services intended to improve experiences and outcomes with the child welfare system for parents with cognitive disabilities. Parents with cognitive disabilities, as defined by the CEBC, may include individuals who have official developmental disabilities labels, intelligence quotients (IQs) equal to 70 or lower, diagnosis of Intellectual Disability (based on the DSM-5 criteria, which replaced the Mental Retardation diagnosis in the previous DSM versions), learning disabilities, selective neuropsychological difficulties, and/or traumatic brain injuries.

Programs included in this topic area may provide direct services for parents with cognitive disabilities, and include changes in the methods used to assess them for child welfare service planning and changes in the implementation of services to intervene with them. In addition, programs may include systems-based child welfare practices that are meant to increase the effectiveness of working with these parents and the availability of needed supports for those who work with this population. These programs focus on improving the child welfare staff's ability to communicate with these parents and reducing the barriers between the multiple service systems to which these families may be connected.

The percentage of parents who have cognitive disabilities and are involved with child welfare may be as high as 22%. Studies have shown that, once reported to child welfare, these parents are more likely to have the reported child maltreatment substantiated, to remain active in the child welfare system longer, and to have a greater risk of having their parental rights terminated.

  • Target population: Parents with cognitive disabilities who are involved with the child welfare system, as well as child welfare staff and service providers who work with this population.
  • Service(s)/types that fit: Direct intervention with parents in individual or group formats or system-level interventions, training programs, and resource materials for child welfare staff and service providers
  • Delivered by: Trained paraprofessionals, educators, and health and mental health professionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target parents with cognitive disabilities or providers who work with parents with cognitive disabilities
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) must examine outcomes for parents with cognitive disabilities (e.g., engagement, understanding, knowledge), child welfare outcomes for families involving a parent with cognitive disabilities (e.g., length of time in care, reunification rates, re-entry), or outcomes for providers working with this population (e.g., changes in attitudes or performance, knowledge of techniques or curricula)

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Two Programs with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

  • Healthy & Safe
    Parents with learning difficulties who are the main caregivers of a child less than five years old
  • Step-by-Step Parenting Program®
    Parents with learning differences whose children are at risk of being neglected due to parenting skill deficiencies including parents who ...

Five Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

Why was this topic chosen by the Advisory Committee?

The Working with Parents with Cognitive Disabilities: Programs topic area is relevant to child welfare because up to 22% of the parents with cognitive disabilities are involved in the child welfare system and child welfare agencies are not always well-equipped to serve these parents. Child welfare workers and other service providers are often uninformed about how to best serve these parents and are in need of specific information and training that will assist in engaging and supporting them. Workers may also be operating with the false assumption that parents with cognitive disabilities are unable to parent safely under any circumstances.

There are programs and practices that have shown promise in working with parents with cognitive disabilities; however, they are not well-known across the country. The field could benefit from knowing what services are effective with these parents. Ultimately, through improved services to parents with cognitive disabilities, more of them will be able to parent successfully, keeping their children safely at home, or — if that is not possible — maintaining a positive connection to their children over time.

Pamela Day,
Former CEBC Advisory Committee Member

Topic Expert

The Working with Parents with Cognitive Disabilities: Programs topic area was added in 2014. Sandra Azar, PhD was the topic expert and was involved in identifying and rating any of the programs with an original load date in 2014 (as found on the bottom of the program's page on the CEBC) or others loaded earlier and added to this topic area when it launched. The topic area has grown over the years and any programs added since 2014 were identified by CEBC staff, the Scientific Panel, and/or the Advisory Committee. For these programs, Dr. Azar was not involved in identifying or rating them.