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Child Impact Chronology & Genograms

Both the child impact chronology and genogram play a fundamental role in our practice as analytic tools for decision making from the first point of contact, as direct work tool to partner with children, parents and families, and, for effective information sharing. 


As part of the assessment process the chronology should be considered the backbone of any assessment. The genogram is the tool that illustrates the family relationships. Both together providing insight into the family functioning about patterns of behaviour, who is doing what for whom and what needs to change. 


Here you will find:

Child Impact Chronology

What is a child impact chronology? 

The child impact chronology is:


  • A list, in date order, of all the significant events and changes in a child or young person's life drawing upon the knowledge and information held by agencies involved with the child and family, the family and child, recorded as factually and briefly as possible;
  • Accompanied with the physical, emotional, psychological, and social impact of these individual significant events upon the child. 


Alongside factual changes that impact the child the chronology should be balanced. The child impact chronology should not only reflect events leading to harm and the impact of this, but also, should be informative of events or information that reflect the strengths within or around the family and times when the child has been kept safe from harm, and the impact on them of this positive behaviour. Overall, the chronology should provide an immediate, visual overview of the child’s lived experience. A chronology is not: a set of detailed case notes, a diary, a simple list of dates, or an end in itself (static). It is a fluid assessment tool that is used in direct work and assessments. 


Who uses a Chronology?

All areas of the service will be expected to develop/update a child’s impact chronology using the Liquid Logic template, and address any chronology or genogram gaps in their caseload. You and your team manager should discuss this in supervision and together you will plan the priorities for completing/updating these within your caseload. 


Expectations in the use of chronologies and genograms.

To ensure the best outcomes for children and young people through effective assessment, analysis and planning it is expected all agencies working with children and families to maintain case chronologies on each child who is in receipt of services beyond the universal offer. It is expected that child impact chronology is used to inform recommendations and decision making: 


  • At the point of referral; 
  • Within the assessment process; 
  • Within Step up/Step down processes; 
  • At Strategy Meetings; 
  • During Initial and Review Child Protection Conferences; 
  • During Initial and Review Care planning meetings; 
  • During Supervision (individual and group); 
  • At Legal Gateway Panels and other multi-agency panels; 
  • Within Court proceedings. 


A chronology that is not reviewed and analysed at regular intervals serves little purpose and will not effectively aid in the above. 


What is the purpose of a chronology?

The impact chronology is the basis of any effective assessment, and is a resource to be used for, or to inform, direct work and developing plans with families and professionals. A well developed chronology will provide an understanding of the immediate and cumulative impact of events, and, should be considered part of a continuous assessment process. 


  • To share the information being placed in chronologies with children, young people and families as appropriate. This can be to: 
    • check for accuracy of information; b) check children and families’ views and perceptions of the information, and/or events, within the chronology. 
    • To consider the domains of the Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families (2000), to help judge whether there is significant information or events relating to these dimensions.
  • To aid analysis and planning, considering the relationship and relevance to individual entries in a holistic context identifying behaviour patterns and how this positively or negative impacts the child. 
  • In direct work with the family and partner agencies to assist in case planning and evaluating progress. For example, in preparation for reviews and other meetings, reviewing the chronology with family and professionals to assist in decision making. 

 

The development of the Child Impact Chronology and therefore, child impact focussed recording will inform not only practice internally but also demonstrate to partners what you need from them to further inform your analysis. For example. To understand the impact on a child of going to school dirty and smelly ask the teacher to develop that factual report by telling you what the impact is. Ask them, how does make this child differ from the rest of the class or year group and what does that mean for the child on a daily basis. 


Done effectively the child impact chronology helps to place children at the centre of everything we do, helping:


  • To make links between the past and the present, helping to understand the importance of historic information upon what is happening in a child’s life now.
  • Enable new workers to become familiar with the case.
  • Children, young people and families make sense of their past.
  • Draw attention to seemingly unrelated events or information.
  • To promote better engagement from children and families. 
  • The continual process of assessment and care planning.
  • Improve the sharing and understanding of the impact of information about a child’s life so each professional may understand how to contribute to promote the safety and well being of the child.


Informing your analysis as part of your assessments. 

The analysis should focus on the child’s lived experience and tell the reader about how their care has impacted on their safety, well-being, health and development. It is for the social worker or practitioner to bring the child into the centre of the assessment, provide a picture of family life from the child’s perspective, and add context to the evidence of impact on the child set out in the chronology. This is essentially an analysis from the child’s perspective. 


To assist you in exploring your casework here are some key questions that should be considered when preparing your chronology and case analysis, you can use these also, to explore the specialist knowledge of other professionals involved with the child or family:


  • What is life like for the child? Describe a day/school day/experience in the life of the child.
  • What impact has the child’s care experience had on the child’s safety, health, development, or wellbeing?
  • Who does the child see as a safe adult? Who does the child go to for comfort and to have their needs met?
  • Are their needs met when they seek this person out? If not, how does that impact on the child?
  • How does this differ from other children in your class/clinic/professional opinion? 


A child’s experience of their parenting or a significant event will vary from child to child and will depend on many factors such as their resilience, other parenting factors, frequency of events, other significant people in the child’s life, and other mitigating factors or vulnerabilities. For this reason, each child should be considered individually.

Genograms

The genogram is an essential tool within practice. The genogram is one tool to aid in the collecting of information about the family's structure and the family's caregiving patterns over time. In line with our practice framework, Signs of Safety, taking a stance of ‘humility’, or not knowing, acknowledges that children and parents construct their understanding of their world through social connections and the genogram is a tool that can offer insight into this. Acknowledging families and family relationships are not static, but are influenced by continually shifting cultural norms. Acknowledging that families are the ‘experts’ of their own story. The use of the genogram invites family members to self identify in terms of gender, ethnicity, and culture, which aligns with understanding the various aspects of identity. Using genograms with families may also help overcome resistance “as they begin to see the connections between their concerns and historical family patterns”1


It should be considered a working tool to be used with parents, children, and other professionals as part of ongoing work (assessments, planning and direct work) used during home visits, meetings, and in supervision.


During home visits, as part of direct work with both children and families, the process of co-constructing a genogram with children, parents and family members helps:


  • identify members of the child's kinship system who are currently involved in supporting a child; 
  • understand those who may have cared for the child in the past;
  • understand those who may be able to support the child in the future;
  • ensure accuracy, when reviewed regularly, about any changes in the family network.
  • promote effective engagement and involvement of both children, parents and members of the family network. 
  • promote children’s understanding and capture their views (see eco maps).


Genograms help inform professional analysis in assessments and other key decision points to support effective planning by:


  • providing an illustration of family membership; 
  • illustrating the family’s wider network (this can include professionals);
  • illustrating the nature of the relationships within the network;
  • illustrating current and/or historic patterns of behaviour.


The genogram is also an essential tool as part of accurate recording on behalf of Our Children to inform:


  • life story work;
  • helping maintain significant relationships
  • information sharing for others involve supporting Our Children. 


During supervision, the genogram allows the practitioner and supervisor (manager) to maintain a holistic view of the child’s network facilitating exploration of:


  • relationships amongst the network and any changes in them;
  • help ensure that all in the network have been considered;
  • inform how direct work may be undertaken;
  • inform decision making and planning.





Genogram Symbols

Family (Network) Structure Symbols

Children:

Marriage

Separation

Divorce

Other:

Professional

Institution

Substance Misuse

Mental or Physical Difficulty

Deceased

* Please ensure you are sensitive to this and ask the person how they would prefer to represent a deceased family member.

Family Relational Symbols:

Positive

Close

Carer

Distant

Cut off

Close Hostile

Hostile Directed

Emotional Abuse

Physical Abuse

Sexual Abuse

How it Looks in Practice

1. McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., & Petry, S. (2008). Genograms: Assessment and intervention (3rd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.  


Developed by: Stephen Brock, M.S.W., Social Work Consultant. stephen.brock@manchester.gov.uk 

© 2020