Inclusive, Enabling Communities

Inclusive, Enabling Communities
Learning Brief

Kids Haven

Developing A Behavioural Risk Assessment Tool For Use In Childcare Centres

Category: Inclusive, Enabling Communities | Caring and protection of particularly vulnerable groups | 19 December, 2014 - 18:00


Project background

Kids Haven provides alternative care to street children and others with problematic behaviour. We are in the process of developing an assessment tool that measures children’s behaviour and development. The Kids Haven assessment tool has been piloted with 27 cases has been highly informative, resulting in better engagement and deeper thinking about each case, as well as the overall delivery of our programmes and intervention strategies.

This learning brief outlines the design of the assessment tool, explains why it was developed and the value it adds to our understanding of street-child-care. It also covers practical lessons on implementation successes and challenges.

The assessment tool design

The pilot assessment tool currently consists of three components measuring different, holistic aspects of a child’s wellbeing and development.

First, the tool measures four constructs found in the Circle of Courage, which include Mastery, Belonging, Generosity, and Independence. Each of these constructs has a series of statements against which the child is evaluated and given a score such that 1 = “not evident” and 5 = “always evident”. 

Next, the tool includes a series of statements that measure health and physical development where 1 indicates “unhealthy/inappropriate physical development”, and 5 indicates “always healthy and age appropriate physical development”.

Finally, the tool includes a RISK factor component that considers the child’s home circumstances and his/her relationship with the primary caregiver and community. The risk factor is scored such that 1 indicates a child is “highly at risk” and 5 indicates “everything is fine”.

The tool is designed to be completed by both the child and the assessor. The results can then be compared to check for alignment or disconnect between the two perceptions.

Why develop the assessment tool?

The main reason for developing the assessment tool is to clinically measure behaviour change of the children at Kids Haven. These findings can then be used to help “predict” their likelihood of successful reintegration back into the community, and can help us assign the support required to maximize that success.

At Kids Haven the social workers typically know a lot about each child’s background but have minimal interaction with the children on a daily basis. On the other hand, the childcare workers have frequent interaction, and close personal relationships with the children during their time at Kids Haven but have little knowledge about their backgrounds. The assessment tool is designed to help both parties (the social workers and the childcare workers) gain a common understanding of the child’s basic background and current developmental state.

The final tool will be integrated into the Kids Haven monitoring and evaluation process. It was first piloted in 2014 and will be subject to refinement and discussion going forward.

The value of the assessment tool

The tool collects the assessor and the child’s view, and so it allows the child space to present his/her perception of their own development. This is especially important for the teenagers in our care as it gives them a sense of ownership in tracking their own growth, and it gives us an indication of their self-awareness.

The tool is holistic and covers the important developmental aspects of a child: physical, social, emotional, and cognitive. It indicates both the strengths and weaknesses of the child’s development, which can then be used to plan targeted interventions and support for the child.

After the initial pilot assessment we found that the results encouraged the childcare team at Kids Haven to think more critically about the children and to engage in more in-depth discussions about how the children are evaluated. The findings revealed new insights about the children, and team members reported finding the results ‘fascinating’, ‘surprising’, ‘insightful,’ and said the results ‘make us think differently’.

Implementation challenges

  • The IDP is a compulsory assessment tool that Kids Haven must complete. Our new tool compliments this existing evaluation but adds an additional component to the process. However, this addition is time consuming. We face challenges in handing back the assessments prior to the IDP being completed, and in getting as many people as possible to participate in the new assessment prior to the IDP being conducted.
  • Our new assessment tool is labour intensive because it is printed and completed by hand, which requires later electronic data capturing. In the future it would be best to complete this assessment by directly entering the information on a computer or online.
  • The tool is not useful for newly admitted students. We found that assessments done within 3 months of admission were problematic and some statements seemed irrelevant. Much of the information given in response to questions/statements on the assessment, at this time, appeared to come from the child’s admission file rather than from how the child presents as an individual at the Shelter. Thus, more discussion and planning are needed to adjust the assessment tool for new admissions.
  • Completing the assessments with children under the age of 12 also proved problematic. They needed an adult to help them answer the questions, which required skill to facilitate rather than guide/lead answers. We are examining ways to redesign the tool to be more appropriate for younger age groups – possibly containing pictures.
  • Currently the tool is used by aftercare workers and by incare workers (residential care). This has proved challenging because the aftercare workers have a different level of information about the children than do the incare workers. Usually the aftercare workers only have indirect information about the children and so we are considering changes to the tool that allow assessments conducted for aftercare cases to be evaluated separately from the incare assessments. 

Lessons to share with others

Through our experience in designing and piloting this new assessment tool we have learnt that including behaviour assessments alongside the IDP can reveal programme deficits or successes. This can drive programme development and implementation where implementation is the most important component. This process of behaviour assessment + risk assessment + IDP + targeted interventions can be replicated in other similar organisations and can improve the delivery of childcare services in this sector overall. Furthermore, we believe that this combined information and evidence becomes part of a larger knowledge bank that can drive practical advocacy and interventions for street children.


Strategically, Kids Haven continues to believe that measuring behaviour change is the gold standard of monitoring and evaluation for any programme intervention in child and youth care centres. As such we remain committed to developing an appropriate assessment tool that is user friendly, age appropriate, adaptable, and comprehensive enough to provide holistic evaluation. The data gathered so far in our pilot project, through these 27 cases, have been highly informative and have resulted in better engagement and deeper thinking about the cases and about our delivery of programmes.

This assessment process is valuable but still new and in refinement stage. Other organisations that have insight on how to improve our assessment design and protocol are welcome to contact us and weigh in with suggestions. Conversely, some organisations may find our process interesting and they may learn from the lessons we share in this brief about how to begin designing their own assessment tools.

Kids Haven

P O Box 15001BenoniFarrarmereSouth Africa

 011 421 4222

In Short

This learning brief outlines the design of Kids Haven’s new assessment tool; explains why it was developed and the value it adds to our understanding of street-child-care. It also covers practical lessons on implementation successes and challenges of using this tool.

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