Chronlogies have become one of the most talked about and least understood tools in modern social work practice
Social Work Inspection Agency, 2010
An effective chronology can be used by practitioners as a tool when working with children and families, allowing an understanding to develop of the impact of events in the life of the child. Analysis of a chronology can provide insight into both the immediate and long-term effects of these individual events on a child's emotional and physical development.
In their analysis of Serious Case Reviews (2003-2005), Brandon et al. identify that a common theme identified in many reviews is that there is a "lack of a thorough social history on which to base a more coherent and developmentally informed analysis". Our past experiences make us what we are today, and many predictors of risk are based in what we know has happened historically.
A chronology is not a substitute for an assessment, but forms part of the assessment. It should:
- be accurate - contain fact, not opinion
- contain sufficient details but not replicate the case recording (i.e. pertinent information only)
- be flexible - allow for unplanned events to form part of the recording
- be reviewed regularly - chronologies should be up to date to allow analysis
- note action that was taken in response to any particular event (i.e. x happened and so we did y). It is also important to note if no action was taken.
A sample layout of a chronology is as follows:
|Date||Event||What action was taken?|
|01/01/01||Police called to domestic abuse incident between mother and partner. Children present.||Visit to family to discuss incident and impact on the children of witnessing violence. Family advised that any further incidents would lead to child protection conference being called.|
Key information in chronologies should include:
- Key dates - e.g. dates of birth of important family members, deaths of important people in the child's life.
- Key professional interventions - e.g. date of initial and historical referrals to Children's Services, outcome of s35 enquiries, date of child protection plans being made, date of court orders being granted.
- Significant events - e.g. child coming to school with an injury, neighbours reporting child out in early hours of the morning, significant illnesses.
- Key transitions - e.g. significant relationships starting and ending, moves of home, moves of placement, moves of school.
It is important that chronologies are shared with the family as this allows the content to be checked for accuracy, but also allows them to reflect on the content of the chronology.
A valuable addition to a chronology is a genogram.
- Child protection
- Youth Offending
- Children with Disabilities