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3.1.8 Assessment Tools

SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER

This chapter should be read in conjunction with Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, including Recognition of Child Abuse Procedure and NICE Quick Reference Guide:  When to Suspect Child Maltreatment, and a number of chapters concerning children in specific circumstances, and Child and Family Assessments Procedure.

It consists of a number of tools to support the assessment process.

AMENDMENT

In August 2016, Section 3.5, Guidance in Assessment: Parents with Learning Difficulties was updated.


Contents

1. The Child’s Wishes and Feelings
2. Generic Tools
3. Guidance in Assessment
  3.1 Guidance in Assessment: Drugs and Alcohol
  3.2 Guidance in Assessment re: Neglect
  3.3 Guidance in Assessment: Physical Abuse
  3.4 Guidance in Assessment: Sexual Harm
  3.5 Guidance in Assessment: Parents with Learning Difficulties
4. Guidance to Follow When Planning or Undertaking Assessments
5. Guidance to Follow When Analysing Risk


1. The Child’s Wishes and Feelings

The Wishing and Feelings Workbooks - Participation Tools sets out principles, definitions and best practice guidance for participation, consultation and involvement with young people. It includes

  • Full Practitioner’s Guide to Using the Wishes and Feelings Tool;
  • House of Worries, Good Things and Dreams;
  • Introduction to the Wishes and Feelings Tool;
  • Wishes and Feelings Shield.


2. Generic Tools

The Framework of Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families: The Family Pack of Questionnaires and Scales Department of Health 2000

Analysis and Critical Thinking in Assessment by Liz Brown, Sarah Moore and Danielle Turney is available on Research in Practice website

Social Work Assessment of Need by D Turney, D Platt, J Selwyn, E Farmer  published by Department for Education  March 2011

Managing Risks and Minimising Mistakes in Services to Children and Families by  Dr Lisa Bostock, Sue Bairstow, Sheila Fish and Fiona Macleod Published September 2005 Social Care Institute for Excellence

Guidance in Assessment: Chronologies

See Chronologies and Historical Information Procedure which references Preparing Significant Events Chronologies CS0237

Five Recent Serious Case Reviews November 2013 Published by tri.x.


3. Guidance in Assessment

3.1 Guidance in Assessment: Drugs and Alcohol

This should be read in conjunction with Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Children of Parents Who Misuse Drugs or Alcohol.

  • Contact GP & request if he/ she has referred parent to CDAT or Turning Point for his/her alcohol misuse. If not the CDAT need to be contacted to see if they are able to undertake an assessment of parents alcohol misuse & what support/ service they are able to offer;
  • Check with parent how is money obtained to sustain the misuse & dos parents ensure bills are paid;
  • What are the patterns, frequency, type & quantity of alcohol/ drug used?
  • Is the misuse stable, or chaotic, binging, with swings between states of severe intoxication & periods of withdrawal?
  • What is the pattern of childcare when the parent is under the influence of alcohol/ drugs?
  • Is the alcohol/ drug misuse accompanied by any psychiatric disorder & what effect does it have on the parent's cognitive state & judgements?
  • Are the children involved in alcohol/ drug misuse?
  • Do other substance misusers live in the household?

3.2 Guidance in Assessment re: Neglect

This should be read in conjunction with Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Neglect Protocol and Definitions and Recognition of Abuse and Neglect Procedure

Assess home conditions - to include child's bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. Are home conditions adequate, is there food available for the child. Highlight whether there is any evidence of neglect. Check garden & pets & the care given to them also. Consider referral to RSPCA.

3.3 Guidance in Assessment: Physical Abuse

This should be read in conjunction with Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Practice Tool Bruising Flowchart, Recognition of Child Abuse 4th Edition Procedure, Burns and Scalds in Small Children. When to Worry, Appendix 11 of HSCB Manual has a number of NSPCC leaflets with information regarding particular types of physical abuse and should be referenced if required.

Assess

  • Parental relationships, extended family relationship and contact issues;
  • Issue of physical chastisement and identify parents’ model of behaviour management;
  • Parental motivation to change and to engage with services to support them with these issues.

3.4 Guidance in Assessment: Sexual Harm

This should be read in conjunction with Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Children Abused through Commercial Sexual Exploitation including ProstitutionSafeguarding Sexually Active Young People and Guidance for Professionals Working with Sexually Active Young People under the age of 18.

Assess

  • Parents'/Carers Understanding and Views (about our concerns and what are they concerned about (includes accepting responsibility/motivation for change/engagement with Dept/view about proposed plan/view of the child);
  • Speak to child alone, child's Understanding and views (about your concerns, their concerns; about their wishes; about things that are gong well OR your observations of attachments, emotions, choices and developmental stages). Explore fully by asking open, not leading questions at the appropriate time. Explore if child is exposed to any sexualised behaviours from adults, is any pornographic material available in the home. Check with child if someone wanted to touch them on any part of their body that makes them feel uncomfortable- what would they do, who would they tell. Consider any GROOMING techniques that could be used by a perpetrator i.e. CHILD FOCUSED;
    • Tucking a child into bed without being asked;
    • Inappropriate touch, e.g. kissing on lips, tickling;
    • Assuming role of sex educator;
    • Isolating a child;
    • Over interest in a child’s social behaviour or sexual development;
    • Inappropriate response to a child’s behaviour, e.g. child seeking affection;
    • Buying non age- appropriate clothing for a child;
    • Favouritism;
    • Rigid authoritarian or unassertive patters of discipline;
    • Undue interest in a child’s hygiene;
    • Initiating prolonged physical contact.

Ask who would she/he would speak to if they were worried about something & who would he/she tell if they had worries about their parents, who is the  trusted protective adult including family relationships and lifestyle.

Consider the child's identity & the impact of his/her culture within the family including the child's ethnicity, any disability or inequality issues & language barriers child may have.

Explore parental relationships and contact issues. Consider the parenting capacity in the household with Father / Stepfather/ Mother/ Stepmother & if it is COUPLE FOCUSED is there a shift in parental responsibility such as

  • Shift in perceived authority base;
  • Shift in day-to day patters of responsibility;
  • Unresolved marital conflicts; refusing to discuss problems;
  • Unassertive or aggressive manner;
  • Anxious, depressed, unable to completed tasks;
  • Increase in family isolation;
  • Poor privacy boundaries.

What is Mother's knowledge of sexual harm, is she able to protect her children, would she report anything to the authorities should she suspect any abuse of herself or children. Has she anything she is concerned about or has noticed any changes of behaviours with adults around her children, i.e. special time alone, favourite child, offering to baby-sit or care for the children. Does GENERAL BEHAVIOUR of alleged/ convicted perpetrator indicate;

  • Loss of control over other behaviour, e.g. drinking, smoking, drug taking, gambling;
  • Change in sexual behaviour;
  • Use of pornography;
  • Sexual preoccupation;
  • Difficulty accounting for time;
  • Over confident about not re-offending;
  • Avoiding appointments with professional involved;
  • Involvement in youth work;
  • Work related stress;
  • Rapid religious conversion;
  • Last to bed, up during the night, last to get up in the morning.

3.5 Guidance in Assessment: Parents with Learning Difficulties

See Hertfordshire Safeguarding Children Board Procedures, Children of Parents with Learning Disabilities.

Following the closure of the Hertfordshire Parenting Assessment Team:

Social workers across the Safeguarding Service will undertake multi-disciplinary comprehensive parenting interventions/assessments for families on child in need, child protection plans or children subject to PLO/care proceedings. All teams will have access to clinical psychology support and where the need arises, to cognitive assessments to help determine capacity where parental learning disabilities are suspected.

Before requesting a cognitive assessment, social workers must obtain a history of the parent’s education, including whether they attended a specialist school for learning disabilities, had a statement of educational special needs/education, health and care plan due to learning disabilities and whether they can read/write in their native language.

If it is determined that a specialist PAMS assessment is required following confirmation that the parent/s have a Learning Disability this may be commissioned from an independent provider with the agreement of the Head of Service.


4. Guidance to Follow When Planning or Undertaking Assessments

  • Assess all areas of identified risk -write them down and ensure each is considered separately;
  • Gather real and direct evidence whenever possible -do not rely on hearsay, hunches or circumstantial information;
  • Check whether all necessary information has been gathered;
  • Utilise specialist knowledge from others when required -if not possible, ensure assessment acknowledges the impact of their recommendations by the omission of specialist knowledge;
  • Assess family strengths and resources;
  • Define the behaviour to be predicted rather than the 'dangerous individual -write down each behaviour to be considered;
  • Grade the risks by likelihood/probability and significance/cost;
  • Recognise risk factors which may interact in a dangerous manner (e.g. physical injury and alcohol consumption);
  • Evaluate the risk factor by severity; controllability; resistance to change; longevity;
  • Consider probable sources of error including from the person/family being assessed, the assessor, the context and systemic causes;
  • Identify what intervention required by the family and agencies to reduce identified risk.

Speak to children alone & gain their wishes & feelings & any worries they have. Check who would they speak to if they were worried about something & who would they tell if they had worries about their parents, check who is their trusted protective adult including family relationships and lifestyle. (Tick on LCS child seen alone)

Consider the child’s identity & the impact of his/her culture within the family including the child’s ethnicity, any disability or inequality issues & language barriers child may have.

When a child is routinely cared for in more than one household the detailed arrangements should be clarified and the effect on the child and other children should be considered, including any direct work with the parents, wherever appropriate by a single allocated caseworker.


5. Guidance to Follow When Analysing Risk

  • What vulnerabilities within this child/family's situation will make the continuation or occurrence of abuse more likely?
  • What are the strengths in this child/family's situation? (extended family, community strengths, evidence of previous coping);
  • Utilise specialist knowledge from others when required -if not possible, ensure assessment acknowledges the impact of their recommendations by the omission of specialist knowledge;
  • What are the risk reducing factors? (e.g. admission of problem, willingness to co-operate, parent actively seeking treatment for identified issue, capacity to learn and change);
  • What are the prospects for growth and change? (e.g. evidence of previous growth/change);
  • What is the family's motivation and capacity to change, (including parental attitude to the abuse or concerns);
  • What is the likelihood of abuse occurring or reoccurring?
  • What support may be offered by whom to build on strengths and combat vulnerabilities?
  • What is the risk associated with intervention?

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