CECW Information Sheet #18E. Toronto, ON: University of Toronto, Faculty of Social Work.
Risk assessment is used to estimate the chances that a particular negative event will occur. In child welfare, risk assessment is used to determine the likelihood of future abuse or neglect, so that action can be taken to prevent it.
Social workers have always assessed risk for future maltreatment as part of their work, by using their clinical judgment and experience. Structured risk assessment has been promoted to improve accuracy and consistency in identifying children at high risk for severe future maltreatment. Severe maltreatment typically refers to acts that endanger the physical health and safety of a child, and may include sexual abuse.