• Parents’ Pasts and Families’ Futures: Using Family Assessments to Inform Perspectives on Reasonable Efforts and Reunification
    In this Chapin Hall study, comprehensive family assessments conducted by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services are used to identify and better understand the experiences of a subset of parents involved with the child welfare system who report extensive exposure to trauma in their own personal histories. The authors, Cheryl Smithgall, Jan DeCoursey, Duck-Hye Yang, and Lisa Haseltine, explore the relationship between parents’ childhood experiences and their current functioning. The report examines what caseworkers and clinicians see as the initial prognosis for these families and the reunification and reentry outcomes for their children. The findings that a subset of parents involved with the child welfare system have extensive childhood trauma experiences and present with multiple problems or service needs have implications for caseworker engagement as well as interventions. The study raises fundamental questions about our obligation and approaches to serving parents, protecting children, and promoting well-being. The report aims to encourage dialogue about what policies and practices might need to be developed and implemented in order to improve long-term child and family well-being outcomes for this particular group of families. (2012)

  • Empowering Children and Families Through Strength-Based Assessment
    This article provides a rationale for using a strength-based assessment approach in planning services for children. First, a definition of strength-based assessment, its advantages, and principles are provided. Then, a standardized measure, the Behavioral and Emotional Rating Scale (BERS), that assesses the emotional and behavioral strengths of children is described. Finally, a case study is presented to demonstrate the use of the BERS in assessing emotional and behavioral strengths and involving families, professionals, and natural supports in service planning.

  • Family Assessment in Child Welfare Services: Instrument Comparisons
    Family assessment instruments can enhance the clinical judgment of child welfare practitioners by structuring decision-making processes and demonstrating the linkages between assessment, service provision, and child and family outcomes. This article from the Bay Area Social Services Consortium describes the concept of family assessment in the child welfare context and provides an overview of the theoretical and disciplinary influences in the family assessment field. Based on a structured review of 85 instruments, the article discusses 21 that appear to the be the most valid and reliable for evaluating four federally-defined domains of family assessment: (1) patterns of social interaction, (2) parenting practices, (3) background and history of the parents or caregivers, and (4) problems in access to basic necessities such as income, employment, and adequate housing. Key measurement criteria as well as practical considerations in the selection and implementation of family assessment instrumentation in child welfare are discussed.

  • A Strengths Based Approach to Working with Youth and Families: A Review of Research
    This research review was prepared by the Northern California Training Academy at the Center for Human Services, University of California, Davis, Extension. The document discusses the strength-based approach as a conceptual framework which can be combined with other approaches and reviews research on strength-based assessment. (2009)

  • Family Assessment in Child Welfare: The Illinois DCFS Integrated Assessment Program in Policy and Practice
    The Illinois Integrated Assessment (IA) program partners child welfare caseworkers with licensed clinicians to streamline the collection of important family information within the first 45 days of a child entering DCFS care. The information-gathering activities and the collaborative process between the caseworker and IA screener are intended to produce better-quality child and family assessments, which in turn facilitate the development of better service plans. Findings in this Chapin Hall report suggest some improvements in program performance have been made since the program's launch. The IA program yields comprehensive family assessment information and provides opportunities for caseworker professional development. (2009)

  • Identifying, Interviewing, and Intervening: Fathers and the Illinois Child Welfare System
    In this Chapin Hall study, researchers examine the extent to which fathers--stepfathers, putative fathers, legal fathers, adoptive fathers, or biological fathers--were interviewed as a part of the Illinois Integrated Assessment (IA) process and the factors associated with fathers being interviewed. The information in the IA reports provides rich descriptions of the complex circumstances and family roles of fathers. Findings from the study suggest the importance of engaging fathers early in the assessment process; however, sustaining that engagement through services and interventions warrants further attention. (2009)

  • Inside the Research: Fathers and Family Reunification
    Chapin Hall's implementation study of the Integrated Assessment (IA) program in Illinois showed that when both parents participated in the IA interviews, more children are eventually able to return home to their parents. More specifically, when both parents were interviewed, the likelihood of family reunification was 3.2 times greater than when neither parent was interviewed.  Furthermore, when only one parent was interviewed, the likelihood of reunification was 2.4 times greater than when neither parent was interviewed.

  • Evaluation of the Comprehensive Family Assessment Model in Child Welfare
    In the fall of 2007, Ramsey County Community Human Services (RCCHSD) was one of five sites chosen as recipients of a grant from the Children's Bureau to develop a model of comprehensive family assessment to be used in child welfare. RCCHSD examined its current child protection family assessment processes to incorporate, test, and adapt the Comprehensive Family Assessment (CFA) Guidelines. Workers learned to address the entire family network in a dynamic, ongoing, strengths-based process that considers family dynamics and environmental/social context including specific cultural, ethnic and linguistic concerns. The Center for Advanced Studies in Child Welfare at the School of Social Work at University of Minnesota was the third party independent evaluator for the project.
    The Program Study Report as well as Workload Study and Family Interview Addendums are available on their website.


  • Comprehensive Family Assessment Guidelines for Child Welfare
    These guidelines can help State and tribal agencies conduct comprehensive family assessments for families involved with the child welfare system. Comprehensive family assessments take into account not only presenting symptoms but also underlying causes for behaviors and conditions affecting children. These assessments may help agencies develop plans that match services to real needs and address families' key issues in the timeframes required by law. Comprehensive family assessments are distinct from traditional assessments that have a more narrow focus on a specific topic, such as safety or development. Instead, comprehensive family assessments incorporate information collected through other assessments to provide a broad picture of family issues. These guidelines were developed through a coordinated effort of the Children's Bureau Training and Technical Assistance Network.

  • Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Comprehensive Assessment
    This assessment tool was developed at Northwestern University. It is an open domain resource for use in service delivery systems that address the mental health of children, adolescents and their families. This tool, which is in use in several states, is free. It is distributed by the Buddin Praed Foundation.

  • Identifying and Verifying the Safe Foster Home: A Study and Assessment Method
    This assessment tool from ACTION for Child Protection is designed to evaluate foster homes for appropriate child placement. It includes 14 indicators that address: foster family history; adult general functioning; discipline approach; parenting practices; child functioning; family functioning; family support networks; demographics; viewpoint of birth parents; viewpoint of foster children; preparation of family for fostering; motivation and commitment; family response; and resources. For each indicator, ratings are offered and explained. The tool closes with a family support plan form.

  • Children's Bureau Express (CBX): Spotlight on Cultural Competence
    The October 2009 issue of CBX puts a spotlight on cultural competence. Articles include: Cultural and Linguistic Competency in the Child Welfare System: State Strategies; Evidence-Based Practice in American Indian Communities; The Journey of Cultural Awareness; T&TA Network Resources on Cultural Competence; Resources for Working With Immigrant Youth and Families; Direct Service and Organizational Cultural Competence Strategies; and, Training in Cultural Competency and Domestic Violence.(October 2009)

  • Assessing the Needs of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children and Families in Out-of-Home Care
    This practice guide for service providers by the New South Wales Department of Community Services is meant to increase awareness of issues surrounding immigrant and refugee children, youth and families. The practice guide includes sections on the impact of trauma on refugee families and addressing language barriers. While this guide was designed for workers in Australia, this resource is also useful for American service providers working with these vulnerable populations in the United States. 

Guides from the States

  • Illinois
    Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) Comprehensive Assessment Manual
    The Integrated Assessment Clinical Screener completes the initial CANS to identify the strengths and needs for the child and family. The CANS is incorporated into all treatment planning and is completed whenever a treatment plan is being written/re-evaluated so that the strengths and needs are always being assessed throughout the lifetime of the case. Designed by Dr. John Lyons from Northwestern University.

  • Iowa
    Comprehensive Functional Family Assessment
    Practice tips for caseworkers.

  • Mississippi
    Family Centered Strengths and Risk Assessment Guidebook
    This guide from the Mississippi Division of Children and Family Services was developed to help caseworkers guide their initial assessment conversations with families and children in ways that focus on family strengths and successes and seek to employ principles of family centered practice in planning for the services and supports from the entire system of care that can help parents improve their ability to care for their children.



PowerPoint Presentations

  • The Assessment Process in Child Welfare Practice
    This presentation by Rhenda H. Hodnett, Director, Prevention and Protective Services, Louisiana Department of Social Services, and Gary Mallon, Professor and Executive Director of NRCPFC, is from the Agencies and Courts Conference, August 3-6, 2009, in Washington, D.C.


Last updated 2-6-13