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Phase 2: Assess the Client System

Assessments play a critical role in determining what activities are planned in a psychosocial response to a disaster. Before planning can begin, it is necessary to find out what has happened and how people have been affected. Assessments are closely linked to monitoring and evaluation activities. The kind of data that is collected in assessments depends on the context and the nature of the crisis that is being responded to. It also depends on when in the response the assessment is taking place. Information needed in the initiation phases of a response differs from information needed later or at the end of the response.

Dual assessments help social workers to look simultaneously at the needs of the individuals/groups/communities being served, as well as the policies that are either hindering or facilitating service user’s’ pursuit of their goals. Perform a dual assessment to determine if your clients are also members of groups that are particularly experiencing serious consequences, and to examine the policies that might drive these disparate impacts. You are looking for patterns indicating that current policies and programs are failing multiple clients. As you assess the immediate needs in the aftermath of the disaster, also keep an eye on how the community can work to reduce vulnerability in future.

Important to planning to intervene is an assessment of the community’s strengths and how they can be leveraged for maximal effect. For example, in Hudson City, are there natural community leaders in the population receiving and giving help? What about church groups, neighborhood associations, residents’ and family councils in nursing homes and other congregate living facilities, as well as other mutual aid societies? How can these groups be leveraged as advocates to assure the same groups don’t continue to be disadvantaged?
Hudson City Main Image

An assessment is a multidimensional examination of the client system. Different problems and different theoretical perspectives call for different assessment strategies. However, it is safe to say that during the assessment phase a generalist social worker should:

  • Assess the strengths that a system possesses as well as the problems.

    It is the strengths that are ultimately called into play to remove barriers to achieving the goal.

  • Assess the environmental context.

    The formal and informal resources of the family, the community, and the state. Leave room for modification. Situations change, and things happen. Assessments should be equally fluid.

  • Strive for transparency.

    Both the client system and the worker should be “on the same page” when it comes to the purpose of the social work encounter, the system goals, and the means of attainment.

  • Develop a plan for changing that which requires changing.

    In the form of specific short-and long-term goals—or, in the case of work with involuntary clients, achieving the foreordained goal.

Mapping A Social Problem

Review and take notes on the phases of disasters and their effects on communities

My Assess Tasks

Look at the graphic of Phases of Disaster Response. As a social worker, you need to understand the relationship between various micro-, mezzo-, and macro level for the planning, response, and recovery in disasters. Which factors in this model are most salient for the Hudson City case?

Visit the BioPsychoSocial Perspectives tool. It will open to reveal a series of questions intended to both provide you with the knowledge required to work this case, but also to drive home an important point, namely that the problems we deal with are both multisystem and multidimensional. If they were simple, we would not need social workers! Answer the questions, and then write down in your notes the ways in which they specifically inform the Hudson City case.

Take the Values Inventory. To be an effective social worker, you will need to be able to follow our core principal values and our Code of Ethics. This inventory will help you get at issues that are often difficult for social workers.