What are our residential family assessment centres?
When local authorities are worried about the safety of a child living with their family, they may ask the family to take part in a family assessment. In some cases, they will ask the courts to decide whether the child can be taken away [removed] from their parents.
Before a Judge can make that decision, they will sometimes ask for an independent residential assessment to take place. Theses take place in special houses with staff trained to give an intensive level of support 24 hours a day, for up to 12 weeks. This is to protect children at the greatest potential risk of neglect or abuse
We are an independent charity with four residential family assessment centres in South London. Families who need an assessment can be sent to our centres where they will supported by our very experienced staff. Our teams work hard to help parents improve the way they look after their child. They observe the families and write detailed reports for the judge, making recommendations about what is best for the child and the family.
"The placement offered security, safety and professional assessment to enable my family to be able to work to demonstrate the ability to meet their child’s needs and safeguard her appropriately. The child returned home in the care of her parents due to the intensive work completed with them to get them to face their limitations and appropriately address them."
What kind of families can we work with?
We can work with all types of families, although we do not take emergency referrals. All our houses are equipped to deal with mothers and babies through to larger families including fathers and teenage children. The teams at our houses are all highly qualified and experienced. They also have also specialist experience in different areas affecting families such as
How do St Michael’s assess the family?
Our assessments take place at four large houses with gardens. Families live their daily lives within the centre, caring for their child(ren), cooking, cleaning, shopping, attending appointments. Each family has its own programme.
We use lots of assessment tools (link to these) to support parents and give them greater understanding of what their children need. For the first two weeks we observe the family and how they live together and talk to each other, only getting involved if we think a child is at risk in some way.
How long do assessments last?
Most of our assessments last between six and twelve weeks. We work hard to build a relationship of respect and trust with the families living in our houses. Throughout the assessment we are honest and clear about what must change. We believe in being really open with the parents we work with. This, together with the skill and dedication of our staff, is why some parents get a better understanding of their lives and how they behave. This can help them change their deep-rooted neglectful or abusive behaviour. It is an intensive and independent assessment. When it ends we offer an expert opinion and recommend what more support parents may needed to care for their child.
“I was really scared when I first came as I had been somewhere like this before and I had my baby took off me. This place is so much nicer and you were honest with me. You lot told me what to do and I did it. Now I can leave with my kid and start a new life together.” Mother
What happens if it is clear parents cannot properly care for their children?
If it is clear that a parent is unable to look after their child and keep them safe, we will stop the assessment.
What happens at the end of the placement?
We also recognise that other services may be required to support a family in the community. Staff may also visit the family in the community and to make sure they get the support and help they need.
Who do you accept referrals from?
We accept referrals from local authorities. Please note we do not accept emergency referrals. This is because we need to make sure a placement with us is in the best interests of the family and child. To enquire about residential assessment download the form below.
Can you provide other types of reports like psychological assessments?
We do not provide this type of assessment as we want to make sure our assessments are independent and there is no conflict of interests. We suggest that the families get independent health professionals to carry out these assessments.
Visit our Residential Houses
All our houses have been made to feel like a home. We feel this is an important part of helping families feel welcome.
We have separate kitchens for all families and lots of toys and equipment for children ofall ages. All our houses have large and beautiful gardens with play equipment for children. Each house has a manager and a team of family assessment practicioners working in them. They are slightly different, some have different features like sensory rooms or sensory gardens. They also have certain specialist areas of expertise with teams working closely to share this knowledge and to make sure all families staying with us are offered the best support. Two of our houses are rated Outstanding, the other two are rated Good with Outstanding practices by Ofsted.
Here is a tour around one of our houses made by members of the team. It gives families who might be coming to stay with us an idea about what to expect.