Social Work Now, Issue 35, pages 8-12.
Risk assessment and its management are pivotal components of child protection social work today (Appleton & Craig, 2006). In a practical sense, this is best illustrated by the development of the risk assessment tools that social workers can use to reach conclusions about the level of risk to which children can be exposed. While there has been a significant amount of research into the efficacy of risk assessment tools (English & Pecora, 1994; Gambrill & Shlonsky, 2000), less research attention has been paid to social workers who are charged with doing risk assessment work. According to Hall and White (2005), there is much to be learned from the actual working experiences of social workers.
In my doctoral research, I discussed risk assessment work with 70 New Zealand child protection social workers as part of a larger study that considered decision-making and risk. I wrote about the findings of that project in my thesis and presented a paper at the 10th Australasian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect in Wellington in February 2006. This larger study was a qualitative research project, where Child, Youth and Family social workers recalled complex and straightforward cases of child protection assessment work and their associated practice decisions.
As part of the larger project, a group of social workers described how Child, Youth and Family’s Risk Estimation System (RES) assisted them in their assessment work.