Towards a better understanding of young people: The introduction of a new risk, needs and strengths assessment tool

Towards a better understanding of young people: Th...
01 Apr 2011
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Social Work Now, Issue 47, pages 10-17.

Alex was first caught offending at age 11 years. Social services had concerns for the safety and wellbeing of Alex and his siblings dating back to when he was just 3 years old. Now 15, Alex is alienated from education and despite attempts to ensure he is in stable accommodation, he is transient and often spends time living on the street. Alex has begun using solvents regularly and says that they are a cheaper form of “getting high” than alcohol. Well known to the police, Alex has been through the youth justice process several times already.

Turning around the lives of young people like Alex is challenging, and no one-size-fits-all form of intervention exists. There is, however, a growing body of research that supports our understanding of best practice in our work with young people and “what works” within the field of youth justice. One of the findings within this research is the importance of structured and reliable assessment within the fields of care and protection and youth justice.

As Greene (2008, p. 18) describes:

  • “the purpose of assessment is to bring together the various facets … of a client’s situation, and the interaction among them, in an orderly economical manner and to then select salient and effective interventions.”

In recognising that assessment is fundamental to effective intervention, Child, Youth and Family has developed and implemented a new assessment tool that is specific to working with young people. TRAX, a tool to support young people to stay on track, was developed and implemented in 2010 to be used across the organisation by both care and protection and youth justice services. This article explores the introduction of this new tool, outlining the theoretical basis of its development and discussing the practice imperatives surrounding its application.

Page last modified: 15 Mar 2018