Psychosocial needs assessment framework
Assessment is a process, not a single event. Done well, this process begins with a base-line assessment to decide an initial approach and develops into a virtuous cycle of intervention, review and updating so that progress is built on and obstacles are addressed.
It is essential to acknowledge that any assessment is to some degree a product of, and dependent on, the environment in which the assessment occurs, and control for this potential bias by using a range of qualitative, quantitative and psychometric data and “triangulating” between these. However, when assessments are carried out in real-life settings (such as a children’s home or a foster placement) and the caregivers’ and the child’s “lived-experiences” are used as rich data, not only can we have confidence that the knowing has ecological validity, we begin to know something useful about the individual that contributes to meaningful interventions that are able to change as the individual develops and grows.
Since outcomes are not only measured in changes in symptoms or problem behaviours, but also in an improved feeling of engagement, a greater capacity to seek, accept and provide support, and increased social activity, a psychosocial assessment takes account of the child’s strengths and soft skills as well as their difficulties and reveals protective factors, deficits, needs and risks. The assessment can also point to empirically supported intervention strategies.
This psychosocial assessment framework is not a comprehensive psychological or psychiatric assessment, but a brief, systematic process to acquire an accurate, thorough picture of a young person’s strengths and weaknesses, in order to support their development and to meet existing and future challenges. It combines the lived experience of residential staff or foster carers working alongside the young person with psychologically and psychotherapeutically guided observation, professional judgement, clinical interviews, questionnaires and psychometric tools. Data from the lived experience of the young person and their caregivers in a residential or foster care setting provide a high level of ecological validity when compared to a battery of tests carried out in a professional’s office.