DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

  DFCS Online Policies & Procedures

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Handbook 3: Assessment Guides
3-6 Assessing The Development of Children 0-59 Months Old
Assessment Guides
3-6 Assessing The Development of Children 0-59 Months Old
Reference Points
Face to Face Contact with a Child who is 0-59 Months Old
Average Achievement of Developmental Milestones

Reference Points
Effective Date: 03/01/06
Last Updated: 2/25/2011
 Legal Basis:
PDF California Department of Social Services (CDSS) Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP)- Division 31-320.111
 CWS/CMS Forms:
bullet Contact Notebook


The California Department of Social Services Manual of Policy and Procedures, Division 31.320.11 specifies that the purpose of social worker contact with the child is to “verify the location of the child, monitor the safety of the child, assess the child’s well-being…” and to “gather information to assess the effectiveness of services provided to meet the child’s needs, to monitor the child’s progress…”

Every time a social worker has a contact with a child (especially a child 0-59 months old), the social worker shall interact with (e.g. play with, listen and talk to, hold as developmentally appropriate) the child in a manner in which the social worker is able to conduct a brief screening designed to identify children who may need a more intensive developmental assessment. These brief screenings shall be documented in the Contact Notebook and shall describe the child’s appearance and behaviors. The social worker may ask the caregiver if a child engages in specific behaviors appropriate for the child’s age, but the social worker shall also attempt to solicit these behaviors from the child (e.g., play “peek-a-boo” with a baby, ask a four-year-old to stand on one foot, etc).

Social worker's shall conduct basic observations of children 0-59 months and refer children for appropriate follow-up services if necessary. When a social worker finds that a child’s behavior may not appear to be appropriate for his or her age, the social worker shall consult with his or her supervisor and contact the Public Health Nurse (PHN) immediately to obtain a consultation. Social worker's are not responsible for diagnosing developmental disorders or creating treatment plans to address developmental problems. Social worker's are responsible for making appropriate referrals to Regional Center and other agencies and for following-up with caregivers to monitor the results of any developmental assessments conducted by any agencies.

When investigating a referral regarding a child with no open DFCS services, the investigating social worker shall screen the child’s developmental progress. If the social worker and supervisor determine that the referral should not be promoted to a case and that no further DFCS services are necessary, but that the child may not have met the appropriate developmental milestones, the social worker shall provide the family with referrals for developmental assessments before the referral is closed. The social worker shall review his or her screening results with the PHN prior to the referral closure. The social worker and the supervisor shall consider possible developmental delays in a child to be a significant risk factor to the child’s safety. In addition to assessing a child’s developmental status, social worker's shall also assess the child for abuse and neglect whenever it is suspected.

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Face to Face Contact with a Child who is 0-59 Months Old  

When a social worker has face to face contact with a child who is 0-59 months old:

  • During all face-to-face contacts with the child, interact with the child by playing with the child, holding the child, talking with and listening to the child. Using the Average Achievement of Developmental Milestones (see below) as a guideline, observe the milestones that the child has achieved. Document observations specifically (e.g., “Johnny walked several feet, but did not imitate or initiate any vocalizations. Mother says that Johnny does not say any words.”) in the Contact Notebook.
  • Follow procedures described in Procedural Guide, Disrobing Children, ask the caregiver to disrobe the child. Observe the child’s physical development to assess for indicators of abuse or neglect.

    If the child is asleep, ask the caregiver to wake the child. If the child is unable to achieve consciousness, call 911 and request emergency medical services.

    and interact with the child. The face-to-face contact requirement is not complete unless the social worker is able to interact with the child.
  • If the child is unable to awaken enough to demonstrate his or her developmental milestones, send the referral as a follow-up to the regional office.  The regional social worker will observe and document the child's development during the child's waking hours. 
  • Immediately consul with the CHDP Public Health Nurse (PHN) if the child has not achieved his or her developmental milestones in a timely manner. 


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Average Achievement of Delvelopmental Milestones  
1 Month
  • turns head when lying on stomach
  • looks at faces
  • responds to sound
  • sleeps at total of 16-20 hours per day
2 Months
  • smiles responsively
  • lifts head 45 degrees when a stomach
  • coos
4 Months
  • can roll from back to side
  • tries to reach for objects with hands
  • laughs out loud
  • controls head well
6 Months
  • sits with support
  • grasps and mouths objects
  • vocalizes sounds like "ba," "da," "ma"
9 Months
  • crawls
  • enjoys "peek-a-boo"
  • drinks from a cup with help
  • sits without support
  • feeds self with fingers
12 Months
  • weight should have tripled since birth
  • waves "bye-bye," can play "pat-a-cake"
  • pulls self up to a standing position & can walk with support
  • says "dada," "mama," "oh-oh"
18 Months
  • walks without assistance
  • follows simple commands:  "give me the ball." 
  • can say 10 or more words
  • can point to own body parts
2 Years
  • can stand and pick up a ball or pick up an object without falling
  • speaks in 2-3 word sentences
  • can play "tag"
  • uses a cup and spoon
3 Years
  • weight gain of about 6 lbs. during 3rd year
  • can jump in place
  • composes sentences 3-4 words in length
  • knows own name and sex
  • can make vertical, horizontal and circular strokes with a pencil or crayon
  • engages in "make believe" play
4 Years
  • weight gain of about 6 lbs. during 4th year
  • can count to 3 and make one or more colors; knows age
  • can skip and hop
  • can sing a song
  • buttons and unbuttons clothes
  • prefers play with other children
5 Years
  • can draw a picture of a person
  • dress self
  • can identify names of coins
  • can tell a story
  • can compose sentences of 6-8 words
  • Adapted from the Developmental Anticipatory Guidance by the Department of Health Services, Primary Care and Family Health Division, Children's Medical Services Branch and the Developmental Milestones Record, National Institute of Health MEDLINE plus Medical Encyclopedia
  • The use of this screening tool is not intended to replace a developmental assessment administered by a medical or mental health professional
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