Assessment Terms and Definitions
Commonly used child welfare terminology related to assessing the child and family.
The collection of information to inform decision-making about a child, youth, or family. It is always conducted as a means to an end-to identify issues the family is facing, design a plan, and provide services that will assist in resolving the issues identified.
Comprehensive family assessment
The ongoing practice of identifying and considering factors that impact children, youth, and families, including
- Risk of maltreatment
- Ability to achieve permanency
- Progress toward health and well-being
The focus of comprehensive family assessment is not only on the presenting issues, but also on the underlying reasons for behaviors and conditions affecting children. Assessing needs and strengths of the child and family from point of referral through case closure is essential to ensure positive outcomes.
An extensive and formal process of appraisal often used in other fields (education, psychology, or psychiatry) to assess client functioning using standardized instruments and methods.
Evaluation also refers to measuring and judging the effectiveness, outcomes, or quality of an activity or program. This definition of evaluation is not directly relevant to assessing the child or family and is not addressed within this section. See Management & supervision: Evidence-based practice for more information on program evaluation.
The examination of and search for facts after an alleged incident of abuse or neglect is reported.
The collection and analysis of information to determine the degree to which key factors are present in a family situation that increase the likelihood of future maltreatment.
The systematic collection of information on threatening family conditions and current, significant, and clearly observable threats to the safety of the child or youth, to determine the degree to which the child or youth is likely to suffer maltreatment in the immediate future.
A preliminary appraisal of the child or family's needs and strengths. Usually a screening instrument or tool is used to determine if the child or family needs further assessment, treatment, or intervention services.
Assessment of Children, Youth, and Families in the Child Welfare System
Cohen, Hornsby, & Priester (2005)
In Child Welfare for the 21st Century: A Handbook of Practices, Policies, and Programs
Explains the process for conducting a comprehensive, family-centered assessment in child welfare.
A Coordinated Response to Child Abuse and Neglect: The Foundation for Practice
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (HHS), User Manual Series (2003)
Provides the definition, scope, causes, and consequences of child maltreatment. Presents an overview of prevention efforts and the child protection process. (PDF - 4219 KB)
Ours to Keep: A Guide for Building a Community Assessment Strategy for Child Protection
Child Welfare League of America (1998)
Defines a new assessment approach, outlines essential criteria for each component, and discusses advantages and disadvantages of commonly used assessment instruments.