The Parenting Risk Assessment is fundamentally a report to determine the specific and level of risks posed towards the child/ren and parent’s ability to adequately and safely care for them long term.

The Department for Education document ‘Assessing Parental Capacity to Change when Children are on the Edge of Care: an overview of current research evidence – Research report’ is a good starting point in preparation for the completion of a sound and robust assessment.

Often undertaking a Parenting Risk Assessment can be a challenging prospect. Particularly given that usually there is no ‘one formula’ or template to use. As such, here I have put together a useful guide (with headings) that will help you detail and focus on the salient points of the assessment process.

Other tools that are useful include:

  • NSPCC Assessing parenting capacity factsheet.
  • DfE Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity 2nd Edition (Child abuse: Parental mental illness, learning disability, substance misuse and domestic violence.
  • Cafcass website – Forms, templates and tools for external practitioners.

Holistic assessment

The assessment will be underpinned by information from the child/ren, parent’s, carers and professionals working with the child/ren and their family. It is important to set out the report with the specific concerns and how these risks can be reduced and managed. Whether this includes parenting support in a specific areas or the child/ren being removed from such an environment.

By setting out each specific risk will allow the report to flow, be clear on what the concerns are, will enable you to analyse each risk individually, how this can be addressed and if indeed there is a risk with evidence to support your analysis and recommendations.

Here are a few tips to consider when in the process of completing a parenting risk assessment.

Chronological history

Where to start? Ensure that you have a good knowledge of parental history, patterns of behaviours and ability to make positive and sustained change. A chronology of significant events (both concerns and strengths) is crucial and can support you to filter through sometimes very extensive past documents and give a good indication of patterns of behaviours. This will give you a sound knowledge base regarding the family and will help to measure any progress made.

Observations

It is important to observe contact between the child/ren and their respective parent’s in order to understand the dynamics and functioning of the family. Dependent upon the risks identified, observations would be much more natural and enable a deeper understanding of family functioning should this process be observed over several hours each time. For example, in the community with tasks that the family have to plan and achieve as well as within the family home (if this is possible). It can also be useful for educational settings to be vigilant to parent and child contact at the beginning and end of the school day.

It is possible for these observations to form your analysis regarding the attachment the child/ren have with their respective parent’s and the bond that they have with each child. Determining the type of attachment will provide you with more depth with regard to the analysis of the risks and how these may or may not be managed due to the relationships in the family.

Information gathering

You are likely to have a host of information relating to the child/ren and their family. It is important to ensure that you filter through this information as to what can be evidenced and what cannot. Ensure that information gathering from other professionals is also evidenced and not based upon ‘hear say’. Checking the sources of information is fundamental to completing a true and fair account of risks involved. It is the narrative of any good assessment.

Of course a multi-agency approach to assessment is fundamental. Therefore contacting all agencies working with the family is crucial in determining the most appropriate recommendation.

Focus

Keep your focus upon the specific risks involved and how these impact upon the child/ren. Offer actions to be taken to reduce each risk and whether or not the risks are potentially too high to manage and whether engagement is likely.

By being focused will enable the assessment to flow.

Child’s voice

Ensure that the assessment is focused upon the impact of the child/ren throughout the assessment. Do not lose sight of this! Ensure the child’s wishes and feelings are sought and are included in your assessment. You will also need to analyse why these wishes and feelings are either in the child’s best interest or not.

SMART planning

If you are recommending a plan of work, ensure this is SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic & timely). Ensure the plan is detailed enough with timescales, including the reason for the task and what is expected to change.

Make clear recommendations

Finally, ensure your recommendations are concise with a clear outcome of what needs to happen next. Use your supervision to discuss your findings to ensure you are secure in the recommendations you are making.

Author Bio

The Author of this blog is an experienced Social Worker, Practice Educator and Independent Social Work Consultant who enjoys sharing experiences and learning new skills and knowledge. Background includes working in Child Protection, Family Court, Fostering, EDT, Adults with Learning Difficulties and the Youth Justice System.