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6.10 Family Court Assessment Service

Guide to Services for Professionals.


Contents

  1. Introduction 
  2. Primary Focus of Work
  3. Priority Areas of Work
  4. Referral System
  5. Allocation
  6. Agreement Meeting
  7. Timescale of Assessment and Reviews
  8. Assessment Programme
  9. Core Elements of Assessment
  10. Style of Work
  11. Reports
  12. General
  13. Family Court Assessment Flowchart


1. Introduction

The Family Court Assessment Service (FCAS) is a Southwark Social Services resource, taking referrals from the two Child Care District teams. 

Establishment

Team Manager
Deputy Manager
6 Social Workers
1 Administrative Officer


2. Primary Focus of Work

Intensive assessment of families, where children are at risk of or have suffered Significant Harm in their families.


3. Priority Areas of Work

  • Court-directed Assessments under Interim Care Proceedings.
  • Assessments of the viability of rehabilitation.
  • Assessments of high-risk families where Care Proceedings are being considered as an option.


4. Referral System

Cases are referred to the FCAS by the child’s social worker. The referring social worker retains case responsibility throughout the assessment period.

In all cases where initiating Care Proceedings is being considered, an FCAS manager should be invited to the Care Proceedings Meeting arranged by the child’s social worker. Where a Care Proceedings Meeting is held after an Emergency Order has been obtained, FCAS must still be invited. See Legal Planning Meetings and Care Proceedings in Southwark: Practice Guidance Procedure.

After a referral is made, a meeting will be held between one of the FCAS Managers and the child’s social worker prior to work starting. The purpose of the meeting is to clarify what is being requested, agree the areas of responsibility for each worker, set time scales, agree dates for the agreement meeting with the family and reviews, and establish lines for future communication. 


5. Allocation

The most complex cases referred to the FCAS are allocated to 2 social workers. Less complex cases will be allocated to a single FCAS social worker. A FCAS Manager will supervise the assessment, and liaise with relevant District Managers as necessary.


6. Agreement Meeting

Following the referral meeting, an agreement meeting with the family will take place in line with the time-scale agreed.

Present should be the child’s social worker, the family, the FCAS social worker(s) and a FCAS Manager will chair the meeting. This meeting records views regarding the problem within the family and agrees the areas that need to be addressed within the assessment. The Children’s Guardian (if involved) should also be invited to the meeting. A record of the meeting will be made available to all relevant parties.

At the end of this meeting the FCAS social worker(s) will give the family a date for the first introductory session.


7. Timescale of Assessment and Reviews

The FCAS undertakes to complete the most complex assessments within 15 weeks. Less complex assessments may be conducted over a shorter time, the minimum being 6 weeks. Monthly meetings are held to review progress, the 3rd meeting being at the conclusion of the assessment. Present would be the child’s social worker, the FCAS social workers, parents, and a FCAS Manager as Chair. The Children’s Guardian, if involved, should also be invited.

FCAS social workers will produce a fresh plan for the next month’s work based on the discussion at the review.

Records of these meetings are given to all parties.


8. Assessment Programme

At the first session, the FCAS social workers will give the family a carefully programmed timetable of work. All core areas needing assessment will be covered in this programme, each session having a theme related to one or more core areas. A copy of this timetable will be sent to the child’s social worker.

As the work is intensive and may require the family being seen 2-3 times a week, the timetable will take account of the parents’ other commitments and as far as possible fit session times around these.

The plan for the assessment can be revised at any time in response to changes in the family’s situation or when other issues arise. If necessary, FCAS will call emergency planning meetings to consider serious issues arising during an assessment.

Where the FCAS has completed an assessment and the return of children home is recommended, a new referral can be made for FCAS to assess and plan the rehabilitation.


9. Core Elements of Assessment

Although each family will have an individually designed assessment programme, there are fundamental areas that will always be addressed.

Each assessment will have certain core areas. The following elements are generally the core information that forms the basis for a comprehensive assessment:

  1. Genogram, social history, analysis of support networks, Chronology of events, children’s time lines.
  2. Examination with family members of the impact of that history in their current functioning.
  3. Direct observation of family interactions.
  4. The collation of and reflection on all this information.
  5. Direct work with children where appropriate.

FCAS uses the Assessment Framework as a model for producing assessments.

By definition, each family that works with the FCAS is experiencing serious problems in terms of how the children are cared for.

The primary focus of the FCAS is the welfare of children and its overriding philosophy is that where possible children should remain with their natural parents. The assessments concentrate on risk, potential for change and identifying increasing support or professional input to maintain change and support children remaining at home or returning home.


10. Style of Work

The FCAS holds the strong belief that working in partnership is an essential element to successful work with parents, children, supportive relatives and relevant professionals. FCAS attempts to work within a framework of anti oppressive practice.

As such there is an honest and direct approach to the work, information shared and constant feedback given to provide opportunity for change.

The FCAS work is primarily an assessment; its brief does not include treatment work. 

It is not seen as the FCAS work to teach parents how to look after children. The assessment concentrates very much on the here and now functioning.

The assessment will cover the full range of practical parenting skills but will tend to concentrate on specific problem areas that are causing particular concern over the welfare of children.


11. Reports

FCAS social workers will produce final reports for court within fifteen weeks of the agreement meeting, or within a timescale set by the Court. These will be made available to referring District Managers and other relevant parties via Legal Services.

The FCAS will take an independent view based on the outcome of the assessment process.

Where requested interim reports will be produced to advise on the progress of an assessment and future work to be undertaken.


12. General

Whilst undergoing an assessment at the FCAS, parents are actively encouraged to express any concerns or complaints they may have. These will be given full attention both formally under Social Services procedures and less formally in terms of attempting to work together sensitively under often very difficult circumstances.

FCAS staff members are very aware of how differences regarding race, culture, language, disability and gender need to be appreciated and fully understood if an assessment is to be fair and accurate. All attempts are made within each phase of the assessment to pay particular attention to these issues. 


13. Family Court Assessment Flowchart

Click here to view Family Court Assessment Flowchart.

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