At the heart of the child protection system are the child-friendly, “one-stop” Assessment Centres, where a child who is in need of care and protection can be seen by a multidisciplinary team of child care professionals, in one location.
The Assessment Centre is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of child care professionals, which would include:
- A Team Leader
- Children’s Services Associate (CSA)
- Children’s Services Assistant
- Medical Doctor
- Security personnel
The purpose is to assess a child to determine if he or she has been harmed, the impact of this harm and the best method of providing care to the child. The idea of the “one-stop” location seeks to limit the number of interviews and places that a child has to visit to be medically examined, questioned and psychologically assessed, as multiple evaluations can further traumatise the child.
All Assessment Centres will be in centralised locations throughout the country, with easy access to public amenities such as health centres, the police and public transportation.
The child’s journey through the assessment process:
The child is brought to the Assessment Centre and initial enquiries are made at the reception area by the Children’s Services Assistant. The child is then taken to a child-friendly space while the accompanying adult is briefed about the Children's Authority, what the assessment of their child entails, the benefits of the assessment, the rights in the assessment process that a parent/guardian has, the parameters of confidentiality, what the treatment plan involves, and the possible outcomes with respect to the formulation and implementation of an appropriate treatment plan.
Once the discussion is complete, the parent/guardian will be required to sign a consent form which signifies that:
- They have read the Informed Consent Form and/or the Informed Consent form has been read to me.
- They have been given the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification pertaining to the information provided therein and that all of their questions have been answered to their satisfaction.
- That they understand the nature of the assessment process, its potential benefits to the child and the possible outcomes with respect to the formulation and implementation of an appropriate treatment plan which is deemed suitable for the welfare of the child.
- That they understand they may withdraw from the assessment process at any time.
- That having understood same, they wish to proceed with the assessment of the child.
Joint intake interview
The Children’s Services Associate and Psychologist will conduct a joint clinical interview to gather comprehensive information on the case history of the child. To ensure a comprehensive assessment, liaison with the Investigation Unit may occur if there is the need to arrange for additional enquiries at the home, school, police station, health facility or social agencies. This assessment will inform diagnosis and recommendations.
If the case involves a summary or indictable offence, it will be referred to the police. An officer from the Child Protection Unit and staff of the Assessment Centre will collaborate in the conduct of a forensic interview, which is meant to gain critical information to be used in court proceedings.
General And/Or Forensic Medical Evaluation
A medical evaluation will also be conducted on the child by a trained medical professional. This examination will check the child’s physical condition, detect and treat any injuries, collect and package any evidence retrieved for use in legal proceedings. The medical practitioner will record all information gathered in a medical report and the necessary treatment will be determined.
The child will also be seen by the psychologist, who will assess the child’s psychological well-being and the impact of the traumatic experience. This may involve the use of psychometric tests, interviews using child-friendly methods such as play or art.
The initial assessment of the child may determine that psychiatric intervention is required. As such, a psychiatrist will be available to evaluate the needs of the child.
Multidisciplinary Case Conference
Once all assessments are completed, the multidisciplinary team that performed individual assessments of the child will hold a case conference meeting to discuss their findings and make recommendations for the child’s treatment and care.
A Treatment Plan will be developed based on the recommendations of the multidisciplinary team. This plan will comprise recommended interventions for the child’s care.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
- 1. What does assessment mean?
An assessment is an evaluation of the child’s health care needs, mental state, and emotional and social functioning. This is done in an attempt to determine the child’s needs and the best way to support his/her well-being.
- 2. What does the assessment process entail?
The assessment process comprises a social work intake, a medical examination, a psychological assessment and/or a psychiatric evaluation. These processes will be conducted by a team of professionals which may include but may not be limited to a Social Worker, Nurse, Psychologist, Medical Doctor and Psychiatrist. The professionals will engage in a Multidisciplinary Case Conference, which will result in the development of a Treatment Plan. Each plan will be tailored to address the child’s needs and will detail the interventions required for the child’s rehabilitation. A recommendation for placement will also be included in this Plan.
- 3. How long does the assessment process take?
The process may take approximately four hours, but can take less or more time depending on the needs of the child and family.
- 4. What if I refuse to have my child assessed?
The importance of consent, the assessment process and its benefits to the child and family will be explained to the parent or guardian. It is only when such consent is refused, and it is determined that the assessment is necessary to determine if a child is suffering harm or is likely to suffer harm, that the Authority will make an application to the Court for an Assessment Order which authorises the organisation to conduct an assessment of the child.