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Cradock's 2004 study of a correlation between population categories and child abuse lead to the development of an assessment tool that allowed social workers to determine when children were at risk for child abuse and when to intervene and what actions would be seen as an over-intervention. By using this assessment, social workers will not only know how to identify the serious danger of child abuse and what children are at-risk for being abused, but also the assessment makes it possible for social workers to determine when intervening in the situation may be dangerous or unnecessary for the children involved. Of similar importance are the tools developed to assess and evaluate those convicted of both child physical and sexual abuse. In Milner and Murphy's 1995 study, the methods of assessment and evaluation are discussed and critiqued. These methods, including interview, observation, personality tests, and offender-specific assessments, are all studied in terms of their strengths and weaknesses. While the study concluded that further research is necessary before assessments can be used to legally determine whether or not the individual has indeed abused a child, Milner and Murphy suggested that the assessments were beneficial in that they allowed social workers and other professionals to determine classify the offenders in terms of rehabilitation and treatment (486). Because of this assessment tool, therefore, child protection workers can not only learn more about child abusers and their characteristics, but they can also determine whether or not a child abuser living near a child is likely to re-offend, a skill that is beneficial to the children entrusted to child protection workers' care. Additionally, a 1999 study suggested that most abuse victims and their families gained a "therapeutic benefit" from the "assessment process" (Dale and Fellows 4).
Although the use of assessments and frameworks have proven beneficial to both social work and child protection, their use does not protect the field completely from bias, nor are they always infallible. For example, Arad-Davidzon and Rami Benbenishty's 2008 study of child protection workers' views on removing children from their parents and their assessments and actions regarding this topic revealed that those who could be classified as "pro-removal" and "anti-removal" were likely to form assessments and consequent actions in line with their positions, suggesting that the assessment and framework system did not manage to eradicate social works' biases in decision making. In Sally Holland's 2001 study, additionally, the author found that children were highly underrepresented in social workers' assessment reports. Thus, the affects of some frameworks and assessments on children may not have been noted in the past.
Similarly, Jane Waldfogel's 1998 study of the United States Child Protection system found the system to be wanting. According to Waldfogel, the number of abused and neglected children "have prompted new efforts to reform child protective services," suggesting that the assessments and frameworks intended to protect at-risk children, like the assessments geared toward children likely to suffer from child abuse and the sex offender assessment discussed earlier, have not preformed as admirably as imagined (104). Waldfogel's answer to the problem is allowing the field of child protection to deal with only the most dangerous or difficult cases, while proposing a network of neighbors and community members to patrol the rest. In his review of Dale, Green, and Fellows' 2005 book Child Protection Assessment Following Serious Injuries to Infants, Tim David echoes these sentiments, suggesting the difficulty of assigning infant injury cases to correct "abuse and non-abuse categories" (152).
By allowing child protection workers to view unique cases through a standardized lens, therefore, the system of assessments and frameworks have made a positive contribution to the field of child protection. These assessments and frameworks have a positive effect on the children who receive services because of their therapeutic value in addition to the guidance they give social works in determining actions. Regardless of their benefits, however, scholarship has established that assessments and framework still exhibit flaws. By conducting further research and exploring the area of assessments and frameworks further, social workers will be able to better understand and improve upon the important topic of assessments and frameworks in social work and child protection services.
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Cradock, Gerald. "Risk, Morality, and Child Protection: Risk Calculation as Guides to Practice. Science, Technology, and Human Values. 29.3 (2004): 314-331.
Dale, Peter and Fellows, Ron. "Independent child protection assessments: incorporating a therapeutic focus from an integrated service context." Child Abuse Review. 8.1 (1999): 4-14.
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