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Your family may benefit from having an outside party learn more about its relationships and challenges, particularly when there are several underlying issues between family members or outside influences. A counselor, therapist, or social worker might recommend that your family complete a family assessment to determine goals and actions to help its members work together in support of their goals.

7 Steps for Doing a Family Assessment

  • Review Initial Information
  • Examine Family Structure 
  • Determine Family Development Cycles
  • Reflect on Family Relationships
  • Conduct Specialized Assessments, If Necessary
  • Develop a Focused Plan of Action
  • Reevaluate and Replan

A family assessment, sometimes referred to as a family health assessment, is more than just one assessment tool. It’s a comprehensive evaluation that takes into consideration the family unit as a whole, how it works together, and how it works with its community. An assessment might include other evaluations based on your family’s needs, like a marriage assessment or mental health and psychological assessments for each family member, to help your therapist address individual and familial concerns.

What is a Family Assessment and How Does It Work?

A family assessment is a process with a focus on the family and its challenges and strengths. The evaluation looks at your family’s dynamics, family life, risk factors, needs, wants, and other components that influence each member’s everyday lives and interactions to offer better parenting techniques, help your family support one another, and access outside support systems. The formal process discussed below is more than helping families build a stronger family culture, it’s a process designed to help families through major challenges with the help of professional therapists and counselors.  A family culture assessment is great for families without major hardships requiring professional help yet looking to improve familial relationships through better communication and education. 

An experienced professional, like a marriage and family therapist, social worker, or counselor, conducts the family assessment. The assessments often take place in cases involving child abuse, substance abuse, domestic violence, or other types of cases that affect child welfare, but you may also request a referral for one from your family physician if you have concerns that you feel need to be addressed. 

The family assessment program assists the professional in creating a plan for your family based on its results. As an example of family assessment, your caseworker might address questions like:

  • Are you and your partner meeting the needs of your child or children?
  • How does your family function together?
  • How has your family reacted to significant changes or crises, and what do you do to help each other?
  • What does each member believe to be the family’s strengths, weaknesses, problems, etc.?
  • Does your family have a support system, like friends, neighbors, community programs, or church?
  • Is your family open to learning and getting advice, instruction, and training?

 

After completing the assessment, the caseworker will work with your family and other relevant organizations, like law enforcement, family court, community programs, and mental health services. Together, the team will determine the best course of action to help your family function cohesively and in the best interest of each family member while setting you up with appropriate family services and support systems. 

What Is the Calgary Family Assessment Model?

There are several family assessment tools professionals use for their evaluations, but two commonly used tools are the Calgary Family Assessment Model and the Friedman Family Assessment Model. Both tools were developed to assist nurses in evaluating families.

The Calgary Family Assessment Model (CFAM) was developed by nurses Maureen Leahey and Lorraine M. Wright. This model focuses primarily on family culture, family structure, and family function to identify overall familial health, strength, and social functioning. The key areas of study of this assessment include Structural, Developmental, and Functional. 

The CFAM is especially helpful in identifying the internal problems a family has, such as how the members interact with and support each other. However, the model isn’t as comprehensive in its ability to pinpoint problems with external influences, such as a lack of community resources or mental health services. 

What Is the Friedman Family Assessment Model?

Marilyn M. Friedman, RN, Ph.D. developed the Friedman Family Assessment Model (FFAM) to assist nurses in understanding a family as a whole and as part of its society. This model takes into account a family’s developmental stage and structure and its internal and external influences that have shaped the family and its strengths and weaknesses.

While both the CFAM and FFAM study a family’s internal components to address its needs, the FFAM additionally places a significant emphasis on environmental influences affecting the family. Therefore, the FFAM develops a broader portrait of a family than the CFAM, but it could be too cumbersome to focus strictly on families with primarily internal problems. 

7 Steps for Doing a Family Assessment

There is no one family assessment tool or process that works for every family. Each evaluation varies depending on the family structure, family problems, and desired outcomes of the family members, professionals, and service providers on the team. However, there are several steps that must be taken to determine the concerns surrounding your family and the steps needed to improve its situation.

Step 1: Review Initial Information

The caseworker will first look over any information provided about your family by you or another caregiver, a family therapist or physician, or a social work agency. They might also use information from the Child Welfare Information Gateway if yours is an abuse neglect case involving youth in the family. 

During this step, the caseworker might organize the information they have on a preliminary family assessment form. As they move through each part of the process, they’ll combine this information with other data gathered from you, your family members, and other assessment tools.

Step 2: Examine Family Structure

This step in the process is usually when your caseworker speaks with you and your family. They’ll want to understand your family structure—everyone you consider part of your family, like grandparents or a cousin who lives with you—to determine who should be involved with the evaluation process and what plan of action to take. For example, single-parent households, grandparent-led households, and other non-traditional families tend to have a unique set of challenges and needs.

You might also have family members who are no longer living but have played a pivotal role in shaping your family today, like your mother who passed away a few years ago and was considered the rock of your family. Your caseworker may choose to use genograms in family assessment, which is similar to creating a visual family tree, to help them organize your family’s relationships and provide a helpful reference for future meetings. 

Step 3: Determine Family Development Cycles

A family moves through development stages just like an individual does. This process is known as the family life cycle, which typically looks like:

  • Two individuals become dating partners
  • The individuals marry
  • The couple becomes parents and raises children to adulthood
  • The couple assists adult children with moving out and becoming independent
  • The couple ages into their senior years 

You’ll help your caseworker determine where you are in your family life cycle to better understand how your family has moved through each phase thus far. For example, the transition from getting married to becoming parents could have triggered several of the problems your family is currently facing, making it easier for your team to strategize solutions.

Step 4: Reflect on Family Relationships

At this stage of the assessment process, your caseworker might ask to speak to each family member individually before meeting again as a group. Doing so allows everyone to express their feelings about their familial relationships and family values without feeling judged by each other.

Specifically, the caseworker will want to know how siblings engage with one another, what each parent-child relationship is like, what the parental relationship looks like, and how family members support one another. Interactions between family members often play an important role in a family’s challenges and how it functions on its own and in society.

Step 5: Conduct Specialized Assessments, If Necessary

Based on the information you’ve given thus far, your caseworker might determine specialized assessments to be necessary. Specialized assessments are usually individualized to pinpoint potential problems affecting a family member. Some evaluation examples include:

  • Youth behavioral problems
  • Substance abuse issues
  • Abuse or neglect concerns
  • Mental health evaluations
  • Cognitive concerns
  • Domestic violence concerns

Your caseworker can use the results of these assessments to develop your family’s action plan, which may involve connecting your family to necessary outside resources, like a therapist, social worker, or school intervention programs. 

Step 6: Develop a Focused Plan of Action

Based on the information gathered from your family’s meetings and the family assessment tools used during the evaluation process, your caseworker will work with your family and other relevant members of your assessment team to develop a plan that supports your family’s needs and desired outcomes. 

The plan should outline crucial points for your family and team to address, like ensuring child safety, supporting mental health, and developing a support system, and the specific actions you’ll need to take. For example, divorced parents may need family law services put in place to delegate child support and visitation orders. Sexual abuse, substance abuse, and other abuse-neglect cases will likely require further cooperation with protective services that may include treatment programs and social work visitations.

Your plan will be designed to implement immediately, and your team will work with your family to connect you to the necessary services, therapies, and support systems.

Step 7: Reevaluate and Replan

A plan will only be effective if it continues to grow with your family and its needs. Your caseworker might suggest reevaluating your case after a few months to determine what services are still necessary depending on how your family adapts to the changes you’re making. Other representatives on your team, like physicians, therapists, or social workers, will also stay in communication with your caseworker to update them on your progress and note any recommended changes.

Being open to changes in your family health assessment ensures that your family is willing to do whatever is necessary to support one another and thrive.

How to Use Family Assessments

A family assessment report can have two purposes, depending on the needs of a family:

  1. To identify challenges the family faces that can be solved individually by family members or between family members through counseling, training, and modified behaviors, and
  2. To identify areas in which outside services might need to step in, such as family law, mental services, protective services agency, or community organizations.

The information contained in a family assessment is meant to assist the family and others on their team to achieve desired outcomes. Family health assessment questions dig into the root of the family’s problems to lead to a better understanding of how to assist the family. The caseworker knows how to do a family assessment and how to write a family assessment report that is comprehensive and helpful to everyone involved.

The report may be used as part of the referral process to connect your family to resources or services in your community. Your team might also forward family assessment papers to your child’s school or physician or a social work agency to monitor behavioral problems or the child’s safety. You’ll also have access to each assessment form and the plan you and your team developed so that you can continue to implement each step.

Family Assessment to Build Strong Families

The family assessment process can give your family a better understanding of the importance of family and supporting one another in their mental health, education, security, and other crucial areas of life. Although this evaluation can seem intrusive, its sole purpose is to enhance your family’s well-being by developing a plan of action and connecting you to support systems based on family needs.

To benefit from this assessment tool, it’s crucial to talk about the process with your family, encourage them to be open to the process, and communicate with your caseworker and team. Doing so can have significant benefits on your family’s quality of life and family traditions now and in the future.

 

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