Child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment or threat assessment

Child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment or threat assessment

Child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment or threat assessment

Last updated on October 4th, 2023 at 06:18 am

The basis of this child abuse, neglect, or maltreatment or threat assessment task is the understanding that assessment is an on-going process that is fluid and dynamic. The assessment process involves giving, receiving, analyzing, and synthesizing information as it emerges during the relationship between a social work professional and client system. An assessment is only as complete as the information that it is drawing on.

Assessment looks like:

  • Being up-front about the purpose for your visit or contacting the family
  • Being informed about the family’s rights
  • Continuing to do more listening than talking
  • Asking open ended questions
  • Asking closed ended questions
  • Identifying the common ground between the family’s truths and your professional responsibilities.
  • Being calm, nonjudgmental, and approachable
  • Family decision making meetings

Skills that are important this process

  • Ability to Collaborate
  • Ability to Develop Common Ground
  • Ability to be Trustworthy
  • Ability to Privilege the Wants of the Child, Family, or Community as Much as Possible
  • Credibility
  • Ability to Lean into Discomfort
  • Knowledge of how Historical Context is Showing Up in the Assessment
  • In Depth Knowledge of Organization/Agency Policies
  • Meaningful Interpersonal Exchange
  • Holding Space for Family Self-Determination

The Assessment Process

An Initial Assessment or Investigation takes place when a specific allegation of abuse, neglect, or maltreatment, or an imminent threat or danger to a child is made. The initial assessment/investigation seeks to determine if the allegation is substantiated (founded) or unsubstantiated (unfounded). During an initial assessment/investigation, the professional is gathering information to see if the child has, is experiencing or in:

  • Imminent Threat of Danger
  • Unmet Physical and or Medical Needs
  • Lack of Supervision

A Family Assessment is a comprehensive process for identifying, considering, and weighing factors that affect the child’s safety, permanency, and well-being. This process is designed to gain a greater understanding about the strengths, needs, and resources of the family.

Steps of the Family Assessment Process:

  • Conduct an Initial Assessment
  • Review the Initial Assessment or Investigation Information
  • Develop a Family Assessment Plan
  • Conduct the Family Assessment
  • Consult Other Professionals
  • Analyze Information and Make Choices
  • Structured Assessment Measures

Safety and Risk Assessment

Safety Threats

Present Safety Threat – refers to an immediate, significant, and a clearly observable family condition occurring to a child in the present. If a present safety threat is observed, the child is not safe.

Impending Safety Threat – refers to threatening conditions that are not immediately obvious or currently active but are out of control and likely to cause serious harm to a child in the near future.

Risk – refers to conditions that are becoming out of control and are getting dangerously close to being likely to cause serious harm to a child.



Brown, V.A. (2002). Child welfare case studies. Boston, MA: Allyn Ann Brown

Clements, L., Williams, C., Blevins, J. (2016). Distinguishing Safety and Risk in the Real World: A key skill for every stage in child welfare work. NC Division of Social Services. Retrieved from:

DePanfilis, D. (2006). Child neglect: A Guide for Prevention, Assessment, and Intervention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.



  1. What are examples in this source of what is happening on a micro (individual level), on a mezzo (community level), and on a macro (societal level)?
  2. How might you be able to use a strengths perspective to interpret what you read?
  3. What are two ways that your biases such as the self-serving bias (which is when you take credit for positive outcomes and blames the negative outcomes into other factors) and the pessimism bias (which is when someone is overly thinking for the worst to come as opposed to vice versa) are showing up in your perception of what you are seeing?
  4. How might the course material that have been incorporated into the final sentences of the initial post have been linked to the course material?


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