A thorough and accurate assessment is critical for each child requiring out-of-home placement. The assessment assists in the selection and preparation of the most appropriate placement provider, developing treatment plans and ensuring that the child’s unique, cultural, social, physical and emotional needs are met while in an out-of-home placement. The assessment should be completed as soon as possible after the determination is made that out-of-home placement is imminent. However, the assessment is not a static process and should be revised and adapted as the Children’s Service Worker gains more knowledge and the child changes. The worker should complete a reassessment every 90 days or more frequently as needed, i.e., change in permanency goal, replacement, etc. Information for the assessment may be collected from one or all of the following sources:
- Direct interview with the family (parent and child). The family is the best source of information regarding themselves;
- Observations of the child at home, in the community and at school;
- Making collateral contacts with kinships, friends of family, child care provider, school, other individuals, agencies or organizations involved with the child; and
- Referring the child for professional evaluations, i.e., physical, emotional, educational, etc.
The child’s assessment should include the following information:
- Name: Including the name the child prefers to be referred to by;
- Date of birth and age;
- Race, religion, and culture: The Children’s Service Worker should not assume this information based on the child’s physical characteristics or the heritage of one or more parents. Ask the child how he perceives his race/cultural/religious identity;
- Physical description: Height, weight, hair, eyes, etc;
- Family environment: Rural, suburban, urban, apartment, house, shelter, etc;
- Family relationships: Whom did child live with? What was his relationship with parents, siblings, and other household members? What was the child’s status in family, i.e., first, middle, youngest? What was child’s role in the family?
- Relationships with others: Relatives, family friends, peers, teachers, group leaders, i.e., coach, Scout leader, Sunday school teacher, etc;
- Habits/routines: Sleeping, eating, bathing, etc;
- Favorite toys/possessions;
- Physical health: Injuries, illness, disabilities, medications (type, dosage, frequency, side effects) and treatment;
- Emotional health: Avoid using jargon and labeling, i.e., rather than using the phrase “conduct disorder”, describe behavior as difficulty concentrating, moves about frequently, etc. Describe any medication (type, dosage, frequency, side effects, etc.) and treatment child is receiving;
- Education: Grade level, I.E.P. special classes, extracurricular activities, and special achievements/honors;
- Behavior: Positive and negative. Normalize child’s behavior without inappropriate labeling, i.e., three-year-old playing with matches and setting a fire should not be labeled as “fire starter”. Fifteen-year-old who experiments with drugs/alcohol should not be labeled as a “substance abuser”. Use behaviorally specific terms rather than catch phrases such as “acting out”, “aggressive”, “compliant”, etc. What precipitates negative behavior?
- Strengths: Review the above and, with the parent and child, itemize each of the child’s strengths; and
- Needs: Review the above and, with the parent and child, itemize each of the child’s needs.
The child’s assessment should be used in conjunction with the family assessment in developing the treatment plan. Copies of the assessment should be provided to each member of the Family Support Team (FST) and one copy should be retained in the case record.