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Family Assessment Response

After being reviewed by county or tribal child protection staff, a majority of reports of child abuse and neglect are assigned to Family Assessment Response (FAR), rather than a Family Investigation. FAR ensures children's safety and family stability by building on families' strengths and responding to individual needs. Children and parents get the help they need without being labeled.

Family Assessment Response:

  • Allows flexibility to meet children's and families' needs when child abuse and neglect are reported 
  • Enables successful parenting with minimal negative labeling 
  • Applies limited county and tribal resources more effectively to help families in crisis 
  • Meets individual families' needs to ensure child safety and well-being 
  • Elicits broader community participation in supporting families and keeping children safe

The Family Assessment Response brochure (PDF) explains more.

Ensuring children's safety while supporting families

Counties and tribes use Family Investigations for serious reports of child abuse and neglect. This includes cases where children are in imminent risk of harm. For many struggling families who want what is best for their children. Family Investigations are not needed.

Instead, Family Assessment Response gives child protection workers flexibility to decide how to best meet children's and families' needs. Extensive research has found that children are safer and families are healthier when family support services are quickly made available and targeted to specific needs.

With this approach, child protection workers examine child safety and maltreatment risks, but also family strengths and needs. This allows social workers to better support families and refer them to the community resources they need.

Responding to families' needs

When families lack some of life's basic necessities, such as adequate housing, food, transportation, health care, and access to safe and affordable child care, they may not be able to safely care for their children. Some families need services such as counseling to address relationship concerns or child behavior issues, treatment for drug or alcohol problems, or parenting education about topics such as child development and positive discipline. Social workers connect families with community resources to address unmet needs to reduce stress and lower the risk of child abuse or neglect.

Assessing families' strengths

Social workers help families identify strengths to build on to keep children safe and improve families' lives. Identifying what parents do well, such as showing affection or providing a good home for their children, offers more possibilities for family well-being than documenting failures. Building on these strengths and calling in family resources, such as relatives or friends who can help solve problems or provide assistance, helps parents raise their children in safe, healthy, nurturing environments.

Minimizing negative labeling

Family Assessment Response helps reduce negative labeling of parents involved in the child protection system. Through the program, social workers help develop a partnership among families, agency staff and the community to keep children safe. No determination of abuse or neglect is made, thus parents are not labeled as abusive or neglectful. Families and social workers often consider this a more effective and empowering way to address child protection concerns.


Counties and tribes decide on the most appropriate approach Family Assessment Response or Family Investigation to abuse and neglect reports. When children are at serious and immediate risk of harm, agencies would always investigate and not offer the Family Assessment Response.

Involving communities

Family Assessment Response social workers help link struggling and isolated families with resources in their communities, including schools, neighborhood centers, faith-based organizations, food shelves, child care centers and family day care, neighbors, extended family and social service agencies. This helps decrease family isolation, which leads to greater safety for children. Communities also become stronger by ensuring they are connected with all families, including those who are struggling, without government intervention.

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