Evidence Based Decisions Reviewing family situations to protect children

This service is no longer being delivered, but we have carried out an evaluation. On these pages you can find out how the service worked and what we've learnt.

When there are serious concerns about how a child is being cared for, people who work with children and families need to make effective decisions based on real evidence.

We’ve worked with local authority social workers (people who work with children and families in particular areas) to assess parents’ abilities to look after their children where there are serious concerns about the wellbeing of the child.

The assessment is made using a tool called the North Carolina Family Assessment Scale (NCFAS).

Two women sitting at a table and having a conversation

How it worked 

Families received at least 3 visits lasting between 1 and 2 hours, where they could talk about their situation and how they’re feeling. We then wrote a report (called a family functioning review) which includes:

  • strengths
  • key goals
  • any changes needed to make sure the children remain with their family safely.

We also helped to find any additional support a family might need to achieve their goals.

The family would be reviewed again after around 3 months, or sooner if needed, to see if progress had been made based on the changes identified.

The local authority social worker then used this information in their decisions about whether it was safe for the child to remain at home, and what additional support the family needed.

We believe this tool could help effective decisions, meaning better help for neglected children in the UK. We’ve tested it to find out.

The North Carolina Family Assessment Scale (NCFAS) was developed in the USA by Dr Ray Kirk at the University of North Carolina-Chapel-Hill. 

In other countries, it’s been shown to improve the way social workers interact with families, how they gather and analyse information and how they make decisions.

Children's stories

"I even felt lonely when mum and dad were in the house because mentally they were completely out of it."

Read Sophie's story

Evaluating the impact

Find out how we evaluated Evidence Based Decisions.

Learn more

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