Holistic Approach to Family Assessments
With the current expertise in the workforce, WillisPalmer is well placed to provide multidisciplinary holistic family assessments of parent’s intellectual functioning, attachment history, personality, their ability to recognise a child’s needs, acknowledge concerns and work in cooperation with professionals. Alongside this, we can work with the child/children to assess their intellectual and developmental level, attachment patterns, behaviour, mental health, and explore their views of family functioning. Through drawing on a diversity of skills we can provide a holistic family assessment to look at the relationship between parent and child, to inform placement choice, contact arrangements and advise professionals about mental health and therapeutic needs.
This model combines the skills of a broad range of professionals to offer a bespoke assessment that examines in detail the complex interpersonal relationships between family members. The principle behind the assessment is that a child cannot be assessed in a vacuum, nor can parents and adults be understood separately from their children, other family members and their history.
High-Intensity Dynamic, Interactive Process
The assessment is responsive to the needs of the family and is based on intensive observations over a period of six weeks. It can take place either in the family home or within any setting where the child or family are residing i.e. mother and baby foster placements or a combination of foster placement and parental home. The assessment is totally flexible because the team go to the family and the plan agreed is based on individual need as identified by professionals and the family. Intervention can include family therapy, play therapy or individual psychotherapy. The assessment will be social worker led but would incorporate a combination of clinical and/or educational psychologist; child and adolescent psychotherapist, mental health practitioner (adult or child) and social worker (PAMS trained if required).
We believe that assessment should be a two-way, dynamic, interactive process; observations are therefore combined with teaching and will consider the capacity to change in order to make recommendations about longer-term risk management.
One of the key strengths of this model is that it can be used as an alternative to a residential assessment. Where there are high risks or significant gaps in knowledge about parental functioning we can provide twenty-four-hour monitoring in the home, which can reduce as the risks become more manageable. This means that although intrusive at the outset, it is possible, depending on progress, for this intensive monitoring to be scaled down throughout the six-week assessment period.
I always approach WillisPalmer first when I need to source an expert. The referrals team are fast and effective at identifying appropriate experts and nothing is ever too much to ask. I have on occasion required niche experts to be sourced; they work quickly to identify the exact kind of expertise required and go above and beyond to ensure our needs are met.
Monitoring Progress and Quality Assurance
The process will begin with a referral meeting chaired by an independent social work consultant who will be able to help all the professionals to formulate a plan of intervention. The role of the independent consultant will be to chair all professional meetings to monitor progress and quality assure the final report. All professionals involved with the family will be required to attend the referral meeting.
This will be followed by a meeting with the family and all members of the team who will be working with the family will attend. The concerns and programme of intervention/assessment will be shared and discussed with the family and they will have an opportunity to add to the plan.
The assessment will take place over a six-week period and the core team will meet at the midway point and towards the end to discuss progress. The allocated social worker will also be expected to attend these meetings.
During the assessment period, the family will be given parenting advice/coaching to help them to develop alternative strategies. Their ability to implement these and sustain changes will inform the assessment process. The team will spend time at the family home, visiting the child in school if applicable. They will observe the families’ everyday routine and interactions. The level of required visiting will be specific in the plan and will be devised according to the needs of the family.
The final report will be prepared by the social worker with input from all other members of the multi-disciplinary team and will be completed within two weeks of the assessment sessions concluding.
Why this approach?
The intensive nature of this assessment means that it can be undertaken in a relatively short timescale thereby reducing delay and uncertainty for families. It can be undertaken within the family home where children and carers/parents can be observed in their natural surroundings and do not involve them moving from their communities and potentially having to give up their accommodation to move to a more-costly residential unit.
The model, because of its flexibility, can be used in multiple ways and is bespoke to the family. It is evidenced based and involves assessment and intervention drawing appropriately from multiple disciplines to develop a clear understanding of the issues and potential solutions.