Residential Family Assessment Centres: The essential information
What is it?
Our Residential Family Assessment service is used when a local authority may be concerned about the safety of a child living with their family. We assess parenting capabilities and offer support to reflect on and change behaviours. Families are supported by experienced staff. At the end of the assessment, we prepare a highly detailed, evidence based report for the court, making recommendations about what's best for the child.
"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." Social Worker
Who is it for?
'Families' may include two parents and a child or children, single parents and a child or children, civil partners and single sex partners. Parents may have learning disabilities, mental health issues and/or be very young.
What does it do?
We have three residential centres for families in south London, where trained and empathetic staff offer an intensive level of support throughout the assessment which is typically 12 weeks. The family lives their day to day lives in the house, caring for their child, preparing meals and attending appointments. We offer parents support, assistance and training to ensure safe, secure and positive futures for their children.
We work with parents in a respectful and enabling way to prevent family breakdown wherever possible. Whilst protecting children, we recognise and work with difference and difficulty. We offer parents real opportunities to reflect and to change their behaviour.
Keyworkers and specialist staff use many different assessment tools, together with learning and therapeutic sessions. These might include tools adapted for parents with learning difficulties, work around impulse control, teaching the parent the practicalities of how to care for their baby and guidance on the baby’s developmental and emotional needs. We may support parents to attend a local children’s centre. Children can socialise and parents learn how to access community services.
Throughout the assessments, we are honest and clear about what needs to change. We work hard to build a strong relationship of respect, trust and openness with families. This, together with the skill and dedication of our staff, is why some parents get a better understanding of their lives and behaviours. This can be a catalyst for change.
Why does this service exist?
This service assesses parenting capabilities and the potential for healthy changes. It provides an expert opinion where local authorities may have serious concerns about child safety.
How long is this programme for?
Most of our assessments last between 6-12 weeks.
“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
When and where does it take place?
Assessments are commissioned by different local authorities in London and further afield. Our three centres each specialise in an area: learning difficulties, very young mothers, mental health issues and substance misuse.
What is the type of families that we work with?
We can work with all types of families; this includes new parents with their newborn, single parents, couples, large families and teenagers. The teams at our houses are all highly qualified and experienced. Such specialist experience includes:
- Learning difficulties
- Substance abuse
- Mental health issues including personality disorder
- Teenage mothers
How does St Michael’s assess the family?
Each family is assigned a keyworker. Assessment may be in three phases:
- Weeks 1-2: Observation with minimal intervention to establish parenting strengths and weaknesses.
- Weeks 3 – 10: Support and teaching to bring about change. This may include ‘in the moment’ modelling, indicated sessions with the keyworker, teaching tools we have developed, licensed programmes, partner agencies, group activities, activities in the community and adaptive technologies.
- Weeks 11 – 12: Observational. Is the parent able to use the teaching and support to be a Good Enough parent?
We continually develop practice in line with experience and the evolving evidence base.
An insight into our family residential centres:
"All our centres have been made to feel like a home. We feel this is an important part of helping families feel welcome"
All homes include:
- Plenty of toys and equipment for children of all ages
- All centres have large beautiful gardens
- Each centre has its team: a manager, deputy and family assessment practitioners
- Staff 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.
Some centres may be slightly different in offering additional features: for example, some centres include sensory rooms or sensory gardens.
A tour of one of our centres:
This gives families an idea of what to expect at our homes.
- Our partnership with Middlesex Universities Centre for Abuse and Trauma gives staff the opportunity to receive enhanced training which includes two specific evidence based tools; the Parenting Role Interview (PRI) and the Attachment style Interview (ASI).
- We use many different tools and techniques including a range of apps and IT aids and our own ‘Parenting Keyring’, as a simple visual and tactile prompt to help parents complete basic tasks.
- “5-a-day for child development” is an adapted programme supporting parents to think about and meet their child’s needs from the earliest stages.
- A PAMS Assessment may be commissioned.
- Domestic abuse is regularly uncovered during the assessment. We work with parents individually and as a couple. Mothers may be referred to the Freedom Programme, run by a local partner.
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 ask for the assessment to stop. It is unfair to the parent to continue.
What happens at the end of the placement?
We also recognise that other services may be required to support a family in the community. We offer a follow on service Securing Change.
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. However, by working with the local authority, we can arrange placements within a few days. To enquire about residential assessment, download the form below.
Can you provide other types of reports such as 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 interest. We suggest that the local authority gets an independent health professional to carry out these types of assessments.