In this essay I will critically consider how social workers can use their understanding of Child Development and Attachment Theory in the assessment of children and families. To do this I will first discuss the aims of assessment in order to talk about how Development and Attachment theory can be used by social workers to meet these aims as well as the limitations of these theories. In order to critically discuss the use of Developmental and Attachment Theory in assessment it is first important to understand what assessment is, and what its aims are.
The assessment of children and families is nothing new but until the late 1970s it was something that was generally perceived to be a task of when children were taken into care. In 1981 it was recommended that a boarder approach should be used for children who required support but it was not until 1988 that the government produced practice guidance on assessment (Horwath, 2010). The Children Act 1989 gave local authorities the duty of working with and supporting carers and families of ‘children in need’ defined under Part III section 17 of the Act.
The focus was not just on protecting children from harm, but also promoting their welfare. In 1997 the Labour Government came into power and in 1998 announced the development of a national assessment framework as part of the Governments aim to modernise services and improve outcomes for children (Horwath, 2010). In 2000 The Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and their Families was published and emphasised the importance of a systematic and comprehensive assessment of children and their families (Bingley-Miller and Bentovim, 2003).
Its is important to note that the framework is not meant to be a checklist but rather a framework that can be used to suit individual circumstances (Gray 2002), the framework is not just for social workers but has been constructed to assist practitioners in all disciplines think about what is happening to a child and the family. The Framework emphasises the importance of children’s development and promoting and safeguarding their welfare by preventing developmental impairment (Rose, 2010).
The purpose of the framework is to see both the inner and outer worlds of children and to help the practitioner explore these worlds with the child, families and others involved and come to an agreement about what is happening and what support is needed. The framework has been modelled as a triangle and represents three domains to show the key aspects of the child’s inner and outer world, as shown below the triangle shows the importance of the child’s development needs, parenting capacity and family and environmental factors.