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Appendix 2310: Structure of the Risk Assessment Tool

CPS September 2002

The risk assessment tool is an automated intranet application that reflects the basic concepts and considerations involved in the assessment of risk of future abuse or neglect within a family. In addition to guiding the worker's thinking about risk assessment, it serves as a point of documentation regarding the likelihood of future abuse or neglect. The tool, when used during the investigation stage, is often referred to as the Intranet Risk Assessment, or IRA. It is also on the Smiley Face forms for workers to use in other stages when policy requires (see CPS menu, Risk Assessment menu item, Risk Assessment Form 2603).   

Risk Assessment Tool

The tool is composed of the following:

  ·  Fifty-four risk factors 

  ·  Sixteen categories of concern, each of which contains two to six risk factors

  ·  Seven areas of concern, each of which contains two to three categories 

  ·  One risk finding, which builds on the progression of risk factors (54) to the categories of concern (16) to the areas of concern (7)

Risk Factors

The 54 risk factors are questions regarding individual characteristics, family dynamics, conditions in the home or family, behavioral issues, or developmental issues. Some of the factors are concrete and factual, but others require the worker to evaluate or analyze information or behavior to conclude whether they exist. Workers indicate whether the factors were present in the family or home at any time during the investigation by answering each of the risk factor questions "Yes," "No," or "Unknown."

Categories of Concern

The 16 categories of concern are an intermediate level of organization between the 54 fairly detailed risk factors and the seven broad areas of concern. 

The categories assist staff in considering how the needs and strengths in the family interact and affect one another. For each category of concern, workers are asked to weigh the effect of the factors representing problems in the home with factors related to strengths in the home. The worker is then asked to determine the concern he or she has about the factors within the category. If family needs outweigh family strengths, the worker should be more concerned than if family strengths outweigh or mitigate family needs.

The worker must use professional judgment in determining the level of concern he or she has regarding individual characteristics, family dynamics, conditions, etc., represented by the factors within the category. The highest concern about factors within a category at any point in the investigation should be the noted scale of concern.

The worker documents his or her concern about the interaction of the factors within the category on a scale. There are five levels in the scale — "none," "very little," "somewhat," "considerable," and "extreme." 

Areas of Concern

The seven areas of concern are broad concepts relating to individual functioning and family life that are crucial when considering the likelihood of future abuse or neglect. In an investigation, workers must consider how the factors and categories within each area interact to increase or decrease the overall effect on the safety of the child throughout the investigation and over the longer term.

The worker, using professional judgment, must respond to each area by determining the overall concern he or she has regarding the combination of categories and their interactions within the area. The worker then must document his or her concern using the same type of scale identified above under categories of concern ("none," "little," "somewhat," "considerable," and "extreme"). Again, the worker must document the level that represents the highest concern he or she had at any point in the investigation.

Risk Finding

At the end of the investigation, the worker must make an overall conclusion about whether the child is at risk of abuse or neglect for up to the next three to 12 months after the investigation. The worker must weigh the risk factors that are present in the family's current situation or history against the family's willingness and ability to manage and control the factors to keep the children safe from abuse or neglect after the investigation.

There are four risk findings:

  ·   "Risk indicated" means that there are risk factors in the family's current situation or history and the family does not have the ability or willingness to use family strengths or resources to keep the child safe without continued CPS intervention. This is the only circumstance under which the family is eligible to receive CPS services after the investigation. 

  ·   "Factors controlled" means that the family has the ability and willingness to use family strengths or resources to control or mitigate risk factors that are present in the current situation or history. 

  ·   "No significant factors" means that the worker did not identify any risk factors in the family's current situation or history.

  ·   "Risk assessment not applicable" means that CPS did not perform a risk assessment in an investigation. There are four kinds of investigations in which CPS does not complete a risk assessment. They are those involving:

  ·  school personnel;

  ·  an only child who died;

  ·  a case in which the family moved and could not be located to complete the investigation; or

  ·  a case that was administratively closed.

Example of the Organization of Areas, Categories, and Factors

One of the seven areas of concern is "Child Vulnerability." Within this area, there are two categories, six risk factors, and three scales of concern:

  ·  Area of Concern — Child Vulnerability

  ·  Category of Concern — Child Fragility/Protection

  ·  Risk Factors — for Child Fragility/Protection

      Is any child five years old or younger or otherwise unable to protect him/herself?

      Is any child physically impaired, mentally impaired, or in need of special care?

      Is any caregiver unwilling/unable to protect the children?

      Does any alleged perpetrator, child or adult, have access to any children in the family?

  ·  Scale of Concern — for Child Fragility/Protection


      Very Little




  ·  Category of Concern — Child Behavior

  ·  Risk Factors — for Child Behavior

      Is the behavior of any child hostile or aggressive or unusually disturbed, fussy, or irritable?

      Is any child's behavior seen as provoking?

  ·  Scale of Concern — for Child Behavior


      Very little




  ·  Scale of Concern — for Child Vulnerability


      Very little




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