NCFAS & NCFAS-R Ranked Top Assessment Tools for Child Welfare System

For child welfare services to be relevant and effective, workers must systematically gather information and continuously evaluate the needs of children and their caregivers as well as the ability of family members to use their strengths to address their problems. Several kinds of assessments are conducted with children and families that come to the attention of child welfare services, such as risk and safety assessments that are used to guide and structure initial decision-making and predict future harm. However, the states' performance on the federal Child and Family Services Reviews, in both outcomes and systemic factors, suggests that it is not often clear how caseworkers gain a full understanding of family strengths, needs, and resources or how this information is incorporated into ongoing service planning and decision-making (HHS, 2006). Family assessment instruments hold promise for enhancing clinical judgment by structuring the decision making process and demonstrating the linkages between assessment, service provision, and child and family outcomes.

The primary focus of this review is to evaluate the family assessment literature and provide recommendations for promising instruments that may be useful in structuring the family assessment process. The report is divided into six sections. We first describe the concept of family assessment in the child welfare context, followed by an overview of the theoretical and disciplinary influences in the family assessment field and key measurement criteria. Next, we present practical considerations in the selection of a family assessment instrument for use in child welfare. The framework and methods of the review are then presented, followed by major findings and implications for practice. (From the report's introduction.)

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