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The Risk Assessment Model for Child Protection
in British Columbia
Child abuse is one of an unfortunate many forms of family
violence that too frequently goes unno-
ticed. In recent years, child protection authorities have
recognized the need for the development
and implementation of a valid and reliable method that can
be used by front line personnel to assess the presence of
child abuse, and prevent further abuse from occurring. Following
the Gove Inquiry during the 1990s in British Columbia, the
impetus for a revamping of the child welfare system in the
province prompted a search for a new investigative tool which
would provide the necessary structure to address the many
quality assurance and accountability concerns that existed
at that time. The following describes the model adopted by
the former Ministry for Children and Families, which remains
in use at the Ministry for Children and Family Development.
BC’s risk assessment model is a standardized, well-researched
and usable instrument. Based on a review of current risk assessment
instruments, the model is an adaptation of a model designed
for the New York State Child Protection Service in 1991. The
original model, developed over a period of three years, is
- The clinical and research literature related to factors
that influence the abuse of children
- A review of the results from risk assessment instruments
in nine states
The Design Team chose the "New York Model" because
it best met the selection criteria of being well-researched,
credible, valid and field-usable. The team established that
the instrument, a "consensus model", could be readily
adapted to BC’s child protection practice environment.
The Purpose and Objectives of the Risk Assessment Model
The purpose of a risk assessment model is to promote a structured,
thorough and objective assessment of the risk of future harm
to a child, then to reduce the likelihood of that harm occurring.
By providing a sound framework for decision making, a risk
assessment model can improve and support but not replace clinical
judgment. It can help to focus interventions, guide the development
of appropriate service plans and quickly apply resources to
highest risk cases.
The objectives of the risk assessment model are:
- To reduce the likelihood of further incidents of abuse
- To ensure each risk decision is given careful consideration
- To provide a structured approach to risk decision making
- To increase accuracy, consistency, and objectivity in
- To provide support to front-line staff making risk decisions
- Formalized, structured risk assessment helps to improve
but does not replace clinical judgment and knowledge of
child abuse and neglect.
- The purpose of a risk assessment model should be clearly
stated; it must make sense to front-line staff.
- The risk assessment model should form a component of the
Ministry for Children and Families’ (now Ministry for Children
and Family Development) case management system.
- To improve documentation of major risk decisions
- To focus resources and case plans on reducing changeable
The Guidelines for Developing the Risk Assessment Model
Child protection in British Columbia is based on two fundamental
beliefs, enshrined in legislation:
- The safety and well-being
of children are paramount considerations; and
- The children are entitled
to be protected from abuse, neglect, and harm or threat
This means that any doubts about
a child’s safety and well-being, a child’s need for protection,
or the ability and willingness of a child’s parent or care
provider to care for and protect the child must be resolved
in favour of protecting the child.
In addition, the following guiding
principles were adopted.
assessment should be child-centred and family focused.
assessment is an ongoing process; it occurs throughout the
life of a child protection
assessment and case plans must be strongly linked.
Excerpted with permission
from Ministry for Children and Families, Child Protection
Consultation Services. (1996). The Risk Assessment Model
for Child Protection in British Columbia. Province of
British Columbia, Ministry for Children and Families.