In supporting staff members' work with the families, having a tool that provides a broad snapshot of the family's story can deepen relationships, identify areas of strength and needs, make connections to resources needed, and have continuity and growth reflected in their stories over time. In January 2017, the Future Services Institute (FSI) began development of an assessment tool, dubbed the Integrated Services Assessment Tool (ISAT) in collaboration with Olmsted County staff, to be rigorous and reflective of the integrated practice espoused in the Pathways pilot. The content of the tool was developed in partnership with Olmsted and Dakota Counties (MN) and Boulder County (CO), as well as stakeholders across Minnesota. The format was refined using a human-centered design process with front-line staff and managers in Olmsted County’s Child and Family Services Division.

The ISAT itself has two primary goals:

  1. Help caseworkers engage authentically and build rapport with families in need. The tool is designed to be client facing and accessible. It highlights areas of strength as well as need. The tool enables caseworkers to identify the areas of greatest concern from a family’s perspective because it provides space for families to self-assess across domains.

  2. Measure baseline characteristics and change over time for families attempting to access services from health and human service programs. These characteristics include an array of life domains related to economic self-sufficiency and family wellbeing, such as income, education, health, and child education.

The current working version of the ISAT is a booklet containing pages to record client information across 14 life domains, as well as several supplementary sheets for additional domains (as needed by other programs), a sheet to record household information, family strengths/genogram/other family-oriented scans, and a series of goal-setting sheets. The booklet contains designated space for clients to assess their own subjective wellbeing, as well as space for caseworkers to record information on each of the 14 life domains and up to 8 additional domains of the caseworker’s and client’s choosing. The tool itself utilizes a 5-item response structure that depicts family functioning and wellbeing on a scale from “in-crisis” to “thriving.”

Using the ISAT

  • Setting the stage: Use the first few pages to get to know the family. This includes household details, conversations around the family's strengths, a genogram or eco-map, or other ways to get to know them broadly.

  • Have conversations: Use the domains to guide your conversations with the family. The ISAT can be used as a prompt or reminder on the various areas impacting the person or family's life. Use the ISAT 'faces' to encourage the family to express how they feel.

  • Prioritize, set goals, move forward: From the conversation, you can prioritize what to do and to set goals, to identify resources from the county and other partner organizations, and to think creatively on what's next with them.

  • Tracking: The Caseworker Record provides you a space to document your objective assessment (pair it with the definitions from the Training Manual) of the family at the point in time you spoke with them. You can also document what you hear in other documentation systems or case planning documents required by the program.

ISAT is meant to strengthen your service delivery and complement the way you work with families, providing opportunities to get to know them holistically. ISAT can be a way to help prompt you and your family to explore different parts of their life that lifts them up, and areas that you can work on together.

Interested in the ISAT? Reach out to us to learn more.

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