An assessment is an essential first step in providing protection services and its importance should not be underestimated. The recommendations made will have far reaching consequences for the affected families, and will influence how an organisation’s resources will be used. It is a vital gatekeeping tool to ensure children receive appropriate services and do not enter into the care system unnecessarily.
The content and procedures for an assessment will vary according to the context, organisational approach, and child care policies of a country. In an emergency context, assessments will include a rapid and ongoing situational analysis in relation to groups of children at risk. This research allows for the planning of resource allocation for the protection of large numbers, and lays the framework for the process and type of care provision. It requires careful analytical skills of numerous variables and the cooperation of the local population, government, and multiple agencies relating to protection, security, sanitation, food, shelter, health and education.
Any child at risk or in need requires an assessment of their wellbeing and the family’s ability to care for them. This is a skilled process through which information is sought, analysed, and acted upon. Assessments should be child centred, evidence based, rooted in child development, and focused on the individual situation and context of the child. Assessments should be interagency in nature and with the full participation of the child and family members. It should be continued over a period of time in order to prepare for the child’s reunification with family, or alternative permanency planning. Assessments therefore should be reviewed regularly in order to address the changing needs of the child. Services which are needed to protect and support the child or family should not wait for an assessment to be completed.
Assessments should identify and build upon the child and family’s strengths, as well as areas for development. A comprehensive assessment should include the causes and areas of concern, the needs of the child and family, the necessary action to safeguard the child, and the desired resources and timescale. It should include an overview of the child’s developmental needs, e.g. health, education and relationships; the parent’s capacity to provide for the child, e.g. safety, warmth, stability; and important family and environmental factors such as relationships, housing, and available resources.
It is vital that all children who have been identified as at risk or in need are regularly monitored to ensure their health and wellbeing. This includes children who are in out-of-home placements such as in kinship, foster and institutional care, and also children who have returned to live with their families or who are newly adopted. Such monitoring and assessment of standards of care, helps to protect children from abuse and exploitation and reduces the incidence of family breakdown and separation.
The resources in this section include forms and guidance on situational analysis, children and family assessments, and placement monitoring information.