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Framework for the Assessment of Vulnerable Children and Their Families Helen Buckley ACWA Seminar 31 st January 2008.

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Presentation on theme: "Framework for the Assessment of Vulnerable Children and Their Families Helen Buckley ACWA Seminar 31 st January 2008."— Presentation transcript:

1 Framework for the Assessment of Vulnerable Children and Their Families Helen Buckley ACWA Seminar 31 st January 2008

2 Problems identified in child protection and welfare services prior to development of the Framework Disparities about thresholds for service Neglect of neglect with primary emphasis on problems with a more vivid manifestation Problems with multi-disciplinary work Lack of focus on children Weakness in integrating information Need for higher profiling of family support services

3 Research findings on assessment frameworks Assessment can have a therapeutic function and can encourage openness; the skill and approach of the worker are essential (Millar & Corby, 2005) Requires strong leadership and a clear plan for intervention and can promote best practice (Cleaver and Walker, 2004) Assessment tools have been criticised for having a narrow, normative and prescriptive view of the world (Garrett, 2005) Concerns about computer based data (Munro, 2004)

4 What international research says about assessment frameworks Establish the foundation stones for practice, linking philosophy, theory and principles to practice triggers (Connolly 2006) Can facilitate practitioners to draw on a range of evidence and improve conceptual skills but effective use requires training and supervision in order to avoid mechanistic use (Crisp et al, 2007) Assessment is both a head and a heart activity (Horwath, 2006) Service users are positive about involvement (Platt, 2006)

5 Some questions What principles should underpin an assessment framework? What factors will maximise the effectiveness of the process? What implicit or qualitative elements are the most significant?

6 Underpinnings of Irish AF Framework should be informed by practitioners, rather than top down No assumptions about service users willingness or motivation to engage Gender sensitive Needs to include risk and avoid over categorisation

7 Outcomes of the pilot study Framework largely successful in its aims Need to show concurrent as well as sequential activities Under use of evidence for decision making Deficiencies in documented information about children Need for more communication between statutory and voluntary agencies regarding use of the framework

8 Shaping of Assessment Framework One document incorporating tool, practice guidance and research reader Qualitative assessment Based on principles Time lines to be agreed on a per case basis Core assessment Role of coordinator/manager

9 Assessment process Process of assessment needed to be clearly spelt out – more than a concept, broader than a set of tools Emphasis on engagement, planning and reflection Required to differentiate between concurrent and sequential phases User friendly document with tabs and index

10 The Finished Product

11 The Finished Product – Format A Single Document in Two Parts Part One – Assessment Tool Part Two – Practice Guidance in Two Sections Symbols – Book, Keys, Spiral Colours and Tabs Index

12 The Finished Product Assessment Wheel – Visual Aid Three Concurrent Activities – Circularity of Assessment Five Steps – Sequence of Assessment Three Dimensions of a Childs Life and Knowing the Child – Child Centredness Multidisciplinary Contributions Five Key Questions – Evidence Based Practice Principles to Underpin Assessment – Seven Practice Principles

13 The Assessment Wheel

14 Symbols: the spiral

15 Key questions: What facts, observations and opinions do you have to support the information gathered? What does this mean in relation to the child s safety, welfare and development? How do practice experience, research findings and literature inform this part of your assessment? Should an intervention be made now? If so what? Where is the parent/carer within the change process?

16 Five Steps Responding Protecting Devising Gathering and Reflecting Sharing, Analysing and Planning

17 Engaging : overcoming distrust Consider who needs to be involved Work on engaging involuntary service users Take a gender sensitive approach, Involve children in a meaningful way Check the familys understanding on a regular basis: recap on aims Share information as it emerges Enable the family to identify their own needs, in writing if possible Be available

18 Concurrent Activities: Collaborating Anticipate inter-agency and inter- professional problems and find means of solving them Be clear about roles Establish contact times and personnel Clarify what is meant by confidentiality Establish feedback arrangements

19 Concurrent Activities: Safeguarding Ensure all relevant information is gathered Ensure child is seen regularly in a way that can satisfy any concerns Check that contracts or conditions are being kept Keep an eye out for any changes in the childs circumstances and assess what they might mean for the childs safety

20 Step 1: Responding Is this a new referral? What is the referrer saying? What evidence is being presented? What are the strengths in the situation? Who is involved? What do we need to know now? Do the family know?

21 Step 2: Protecting Are there signs of neglect or abuse? Can someone protect the child from the alleged perpetrator right now? Can the child protect him or herself? Is there a history of abuse by this alleged perpetrator? Are there complicating factors?

22 Step 3: Devising What is the purpose What is the time frame? What information is needed from whom? From what other sources should it be got? How do I involve other professionals? How will the child and family be involved? What needs to happen immediately?

23 Step 4: Gathering & Reflecting Two equally important interrelated activities Emphasis on reflection / analysis Application of the Five Key Questions Three Dimensions of a Childs Life: Childs developmental needs Parents capacity to meet those needs Extended family and communitys capacity to meet those needs

24 Step 4: Gathering & Reflecting

25 Additional Considerations in Relation to Dimension 1 (Childs Needs) Children with disabilities and complex health needs Children from ethnic minorities Additional Considerations in Relation to Dimension 2 (Parent/Carer Capacity to Meet Childs Needs) Includes for example the impact of mental health difficulties, the impact of alcohol and drug misuse and the impact of domestic violence on parent / carer capacity

26 Step 4 Gathering & Reflecting Knowing the Child Knowing the child means being able to describe: Childs personality Favourite things: likes/dislikes Hobbies/favourite celebrities/interests Best friends, pets What makes him or her happy or sad Dreams, fantasies, ambitions

27 Step 4 Gathering & Reflecting Describe a Day in the Childs Life As well as gathering information about the child, it is important for practitioners to have a real sense of the child You should aim to be able to describe an average day in the childs life – use a clock face to facilitate this (Raynes, 2003)

28 Step 5: Sharing, Analysing & Planning Prepare report Demonstrate knowledge Base conclusions on sound information Look at strengths and weaknesses Encourage participation Share the report Multi-disciplinary meeting

29 Step 5: Sharing, Analysing & Planning What are the long term goals? What type of interventions are most appropriate? What resources are needed? Who else should be involved? How long should it take? How will I know if change has happened? How can I evaluate progress?

30 Areas for reflection Engaging families Considering caregivers incentive to change Promoting participation Reflecting on information using the key questions Using the evidence Recording

31 Whats different? Centred in on the child as opposed to child centred Guides through the entire process rather than information gathering Encourages workers to reflect at all points Avoids obsession with labelling if needs and services are the focus

32 Training issues Child development Knowledge base on factors that affect parenting Multi-disciplinary working Assessment skills Influences on decision making

33 Supervisory issues Acknowledge and address coping mechanisms adopted by staff Accept that bias and distortion are inevitable from time to time, including groupthink, fixed ideas, over optimism and over-pessimism Encourage workers to self challenge

34 Organisational issues Promotion and support of multi- disciplinary work Development of structure and context – not just an add on Promotion of a positive image of the system

35 Loose ends Difference between initial and full assessment? One size fits all approach Expectation that the assessment framework will make decisions on its own Expectation that multi disciplinary work is easily achieved

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