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." Social Worker
Families we work with
We can work with all types of families; from parents (couples and single parents) and their newborn baby through to larger families which may include 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
Mental health issues including personality disorder
How does St Michael’s assess the family?
Each family is assigned a keyworker. Assessment is 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.
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).
Parents with learning difficulties
We use many different tools and technique including use 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.
Whilst all our houses accept parents with learning disabilities, one centre has developed a very special skill set.
Parents with mental health issues
We accept referrals for parents whose mental health issues include psychosis and personality disorder as long as they are not in crisis. We support parents to stay in the moment, focused on practical tasks – the Parenting Keyring was originally created for these parents.
One house specialises in supporting parents with mental health issues and has been rated Outstanding for the last two inspections.
Very young parents
One house is dedicated to supporting and assessing young mothers. It has been rated Outstanding by Ofsted since 2008 for three consecutive inspections.
Domestic Violence, Domestic Abuse
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.
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 unhelpful parenting behaviours. It is an intensive and independent assessment. When it ends we offer an expert opinion and recommend what more support parents may need 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. 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 interests. We suggest that the local authority gets an independent health professional to carry out these types of 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 of all ages. All our houses have large and beautiful gardens with play equipment for children. Each house has its own manager, deputy and team of family assessment practitioners. Houses are slightly different: some have different features such as 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 of what to expect.