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Social Work TIG Week: Courtney Barnard on Thoughtful Intervention Using the Social Work Assessment Process

My name is Courtney Barnard and I am a social worker, coalition coordinator, and program evaluator for a children’s health care system in Fort Worth, Texas.

A key component of social work practice is the assessment process – at the individual, family, community, or systems levels. At the heart of assessment is a respectful curiosity, always asking questions and challenging assumptions. It blends the client’s experience with the evaluator’s professional knowledge, all to inform a well-thought out plan of intervention.

Hot Tip: Assessment is a continuous process. You can modify and apply these assessment steps (outlined by  ) at any point in an evaluation (planning, addressing challenges, and writing recommendations – anytime you need more information to determine the next steps).

  1. Exploration: Listen to your client’s unique story to gain and organize information. Listen for contradictions, expectations, and things left unsaid. Ask open-ended questions to get more information and to identify areas of further exploration.
  2. Inferential thinking: Apply your knowledge of evaluation to the information gathered during exploration to guide the development of your intervention. The conclusions you make in this phase may be inaccurate or incomplete; these can be tested and corrected in later phases.
  3. Evaluation: Look at strengths and needs of the client and environment of the given situation. It is important to understand the client’s motivation for change, resources available, and a realistic assessment of the client’s ability or environment to adapt to change.
  4. Problem definition: You and the client mutually agree on how to define the problem, how to frame it within its surrounding context, and determine what is achievable in the given timeframe. By this point, evaluators must strive to understand the whole situation while acting on one part of it (think global, act local).

Lesson Learned:

“A disciplined professional determines intervention through a carefully constructed assessment framework. This is the science of the process. The art is the [evaluator’s] own professionally developed style, area of specialization, […] and personality.” – Sonia G. Austrian

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating SW TIG Week with our colleagues in the Social Work Topical Interest Group. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our IC TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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