Assessment forms the foundation of effective practice with children and families. Family-centered, strengths-based assessment focuses on the whole family, values family participation and experience, and respects the family's culture and ethnicity. Caseworkers should use assessment continually to help families identify strengths, needs, and resources and develop a service plan that assists them in achieving and maintaining safety, permanency, and well-being.
The following resources address the many phases and types of family-centered, strengths-based assessment, including screening and initial assessment, safety and risk assessment, and comprehensive family assessment. Resources include State and local examples.
Comprehensive Family Assessment Guidelines for Child Welfare
National Resource Center for Family-Centered Practice and Permanency Planning (2005)
Addresses the components of comprehensive family assessment, shows the linkages to service planning and service provision, and illustrates how child welfare agencies can support their use.
Applying a Strengths Perspective to Problem-Based Assessments
In Enhancing Resilience in Survivors of Family Violence
Discusses strategies for modifying a problem-centered assessment process to reflect a strengths perspective, starting the assessment process with client goals and strengths, and talking about problems from a strengths perspective.
Family Assessment in Child Welfare Services: Instrument Comparisons (PDF - 256 KB)
Johnson, Stone, Lou, Vu, Ling, Mizrahi et al. (2006)
Describes the concept of family assessment in the child welfare context and discusses 21 promising assessment instruments.
The Functional Assessment Process (PDF - 48 KB)
The Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group (2007)
Discusses necessary elements of effective functional assessments for making case decisions on the safety, permanency, and well-being of children in the child welfare system.
Protective Factors Survey
FRIENDS National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (2008)
Offers a self-administered survey for use with caregivers receiving child maltreatment prevention services. The survey measures protective factors in five areas: family functioning/resiliency, social support, concrete support, nurturing and attachment, and knowledge of parenting/child development. The website includes the tool and a user manual.
State and local examples
Caregiver Interviews: Results of the Strengths-Based Practice Inventory and Client Engagement in Child Protective Services Measure (PDF - 214 KB)
University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, Child Welfare Education and Research Programs (2011)
Discusses the findings of a Pennsylvania research study that investigated factors of a good working relationship between a caseworker and client in child welfare services. The brief addresses the results of two standardized scales developed to measure strengths-based practices and client engagement.
Children in Child Welfare: Comprehensive Functional Family Assessment (PDF - 147 KB)
Iowa Department of Human Services, Child and Family Services Division (2008)
Provides a checklist for practitioners when assessing a child's well-being, parental capabilities, family safety, family interaction, and the home environment.
Completion of the Family-Centered Services Assessment Process
Missouri Department of Social Services Children's Division (2011)
In Child Welfare Manual
Provides tools for completing a family assessment and procedures for identifying provider history, identifying children with American Indian heritage, identifying the reason for involvement with the family, conducting a safety assessment, describing the family system, studying the presenting problem, assessing risk and family functioning, and evaluating family strengths.
Comprehensive Family Assessment Intake Baseline Study (PDF - 919 KB)
Piescher, Snyder, LaLiberte, Nguyen, & Wells (2010)
Ramsey County Community Human Services Department & University of Minnesota School of Social Work
Discusses a study comparing current child welfare practice in Ramsey County, Minnesota, to the findings of the 2005 Child Family Service Review (CFSR) county report to provide a baseline for future improvement efforts.
Family Assessment Form
Children's Bureau of Southern California
Offers information on a tool for assessing families, planning services, and evaluating results. Includes a free software trial and documentation on reliability and validity.
Family Assessment in Child Welfare: The Illinois DCFS Integrated Assessment Program in Policy and Practice (PDF - 976 KB)
Smithgall, Jarpe-Ratner, Yang, DeCoursey, Brooks, & Goerge (2009)
Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago
Outlines components of the Illinois Integrated Assessment model and presents data on the extent to which the program adheres to the model. The report draws on the experiences of frontline caseworkers to explore how the model is used in practice.
North Carolina Family Assessment Scales (NCFAS)
National Family Preservation Network
Briefly describes and offers research reports and samples for tools to assess family functioning in the context of strengths and needs. The website includes materials for both the NCFAS-General Services and NCFAS-Reunification tools.