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Standard 4 Conducting a Risk Assessment

Overview

This standard outlines expectations for CASs in conducting an assessment of factors that are known to contribute to the risk of future occurrences of child maltreatment. In particular, it includes requirements with respect to the following:

Intent

It is intended that during a child protection investigation, universal screening for the risk of future child maltreatment is undertaken. The results of the risk assessment are intended to inform case decision making and service provision. The standard emphasizes the engagement and involvement of the family in the risk assessment process to facilitate an effective assessment of risk factors.

Standard #4 Conducting a Risk Assessment

Standard

An assessment of future risk of child maltreatment is completed for all family-based investigations including out-of-home care by relatives, community members, a foster home or a formal customary care home.

A risk assessment is conducted with the family, in accordance with the risk assessment tool in the Ontario Child Protection Tools Manual, in order to consider which risk factors contained in the document are present in the family. Through the process of conducting a risk assessment, the worker draws upon a variety of information sources including the client, collaterals and previous child welfare history, and organizes the information into the tool.

A specific risk assessment tool is not currently available for assessing risk of future maltreatment in an institutional setting. Despite this, every institutional investigation requires the assessment of longer-term risk of harm; however different factors are considered9 and the outcome is recorded as a narrative in the case record.

9 A list of factors which are considered is included in Appendix A.

During an investigation, only one risk assessment is required which considers information obtained in relation to any and all referrals received during the course of that investigation.

The formal documentation of the assessment of future risk of maltreatment is completed within the established timeframe for concluding the investigation.

A supervisor must approve any overrides on the risk assessment.

The results of the risk assessment are shared with the family and the child (if appropriate given the child’s developmental level and based on clinical judgment), and the community caregiver/institution (where applicable).

The results of a family risk assessment inform the child protection worker’s decision making regarding the need for further service to the family based on the likelihood that maltreatment will reoccur. The risk assessment is meant to aid, not substitute for the exercise of clinical judgment as to risk of future harm to a child. It is a clinical tool to inform decision making regarding the need for further services, and the intensity of the services needed to minimize risk to the child.

Practice Notes
Conducting the Risk Assessment with the Family

The Ontario Risk Assessment tool for use in family-based investigations assists the worker in assessing the presence of clear behavioural and historical factors that have been found to be statistically associated with abuse and neglect.

The Ontario Family Risk Assessment is completed with families, with the intent of engaging them in a purposeful conversation regarding their unique circumstances. The risk assessment should be used as a vehicle for engaging families by:

The worker explains clearly to families what is meant by risk assessment, the reason for doing one and how the family’s participation will assist in making important decisions that a risk assessment informs.

The worker is clear about the protection concerns and what is not working. The worker permits the family to go at their own pace, allowing them to “tell their story” in their own words, while continually encouraging, challenging and probing until all of the risk factors have been explored.

When completed collaboratively with families, the risk assessment will result in clear identification of risk factors present within the family which can form a foundation for future discussions (if required) with the family about interventions to reduce the risk of future maltreatment.

Other service providers and collaterals may also have information that could enhance the risk assessment and this information should be considered.

Results of the Risk Assessment

The results of the risk assessment aid in identifying:

  1. Children and families who are at the greatest risk of future maltreatment where child protection services are needed to reduce the risk.
  2. Children and families who are at lower risk of future maltreatment who may need to be assisted in accessing community services/resources to prevent child maltreatment or treat conditions that may raise the risk of maltreatment if left unattended.
  3. Children and families who are at lower risk of future maltreatment and whose cases can be closed following a protection investigation.

It is important to be transparent with the family about the results of the risk assessment so they understand why it has been completed and how the results inform case decision making. Clinical judgment is used to determine the most appropriate method for sharing the results with the family (e.g. individually, with the whole family). Additional safety planning with victims of violence may be needed when sharing the results with the perpetrator of the violence if there is concern that doing so could place victims at risk. It may be appropriate to share the results of the risk assessment at the same time that the family is notified of the outcome of the investigation.

When an Investigation Involves More Than One CAS

Sometimes an investigation may involve more than one CAS. In these situations, the CASs involved must jointly determine which agency will be responsible for completing the risk assessment in accordance with Standard #4.

Typically it is best practice for the CAS in the jurisdiction where the alleged perpetrator is currently located to conduct the risk assessment in consultation with the other CAS.