DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

   <<< Return to OPP Table of Contents
Handbook 3: Assessment Guides
3-5 Observation Techniques
Assessment Guides
3-5   Observation Techniques
Reference Points
Assessing Allegations Based Upon Observations

Reference Points
Effective Date: 03/01/06
Last Updated: 12/30/05
 Legal Basis:
PDF California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP) Division 31-125-31-125.5
 Non CWS/CMS Forms:
PDF DFCS Body Chart
 CWS/CMS Forms:
PDF Contact Notebook


Observation is an important component of the investigation process. 

  • A social worker will observe a variety of conditions and situations while conducting investigations.  Observations will help the the social worker to: 
    • identify indicators of child maltreatment
    • assess factors affecting the immediate and future safety of the child; and
    • gather evidence to prove or disprove the allegation
  • In order for a social worker to assess harm or risk to the child, the social worker must make accurate observations of facts, such as the nature, severity and frequency of abuse, neglect or exploitation; the location of injuries; the physical condition of the home; and the family support systems. Observations must also be made about:
    • health, physical and behavioral indicators of abuse, neglect and exploitation;
    • evidence of injury, harm or threatened harm due to abuse, neglect or exploitation;
    • risk status of the child and child’s family, including, but not limited to, the child’s age, developmental level and other vulnerabilities;
    • the parents’ willingness and ability to provide for the child’s safety;
    • the parent/child interaction;
    • family functioning; and
    • availability of support services.
  • Observation must be substantiated with specific data and credible evidence to avoid subjective interpretations. 
  • The variety of individual and cultural differences influencing family behavior patterns dictate that social worker's test their interpretations of observed behavior and gather evidence in support of his/her interpretation before drawing conclusions.
  • Observations made by the social worker must be documented in the Contact Notebook. When injuries are observed, a description of the marks shall be entered on the DFCS Body Chart (see the reverse of the form for instructions for completing the form). Additionally, the social worker must document in the Contact Notebook on which date the DFCS Body Chart was completed.
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page
Assessing Allegations Based Upon Observations  

When a social worker assesses for allegations based on observations: 

  • Conduct an initial assessment of the allegation of abuse, neglect and exploitation.
  • Determine if there is child abuse, neglect of exploitation.  If it has bee determined that a child is a victim of child abuse, neglect or exploitation, identify the perpetrator(s) or potential perpetrator(s).
  • Document your observations on the DFCS Body Chart, when the allegations are physical abuse.
  • Document all observations in the Contact Notebook. 
    < Return to OPP Table of Contents | ^ Back to Top of Page