Chronologies provide a key link in the chain of understanding needs/risks, including the need for protection from harm. Setting out key events in sequential date order, they give a summary timeline of child and family circumstances, patterns of behaviour and trends in lifestyle that may greatly assist any assessment and analysis. They are a logical, methodical and systematic means of organising, merging and helping make sense of information. They also help to highlight gaps and omitted details that require further exploration, investigation and assessment.
They can and should also be used to promote engagement with the service user/s. The content of chronologies is however determined by individual/collective professional judgements as to what is in fact significant in a child's and family's lives. They should not replicate or attempt to substitute for case recording but should rather provide clear outline of the most important elements of individual or family circumstances.
As noted in the former Social Work Inspection Agency Practice Guidance on Chronologies, chronologies need to be:
- Succinct, if too detailed and capturing every issue or contact they lose their value
- Simple, ensuring that information can be effectively and efficiently combined and sorted
- Standardised in format utilising a shared template to capture core details and events (SWIA, 2010)
Chronologies can be single agency or multi-agency in character, simple or sophisticated in format, individual or collective in focus and can be used for a variety of purposes. A good chronology is a critical tool in helping make sense of the complexity of a child and family's life and circumstances. It also establishes a sound foundation for future understandings, and analysis where professional staff change or new staff or services come on board. Chronologies are, however, not an end in and of themselves; rather they constitute one significant element of the suite of tools that we point to as useful in facilitating analysis of needs/risks in assessments and interventions, including Risk Indicator Sheets, Risk Prompts, EcoMaps, Genograms and the Cycle of Change.
As dynamic tools, chronologies require consistent attention to ensure they are kept accurate, informative and up to date. As example, each agency involved with a child and their family should collate key information into a single agency chronology of contact and where working with partner agencies actively work to combine and consolidate this into a multi-agency chronology. As is noted within the Western Isles Inquiry Report of 2005:
"All of the agencies involved in protecting children must gather the information they have on individual children at risk into a chronology of key events and contacts, review it regularly and make sure that it is passed on to the professional with the lead role in protecting the child. The professional with the lead role must co-ordinate this into a multi-agency chronology on a regular basis". (SWIA, 2005).
Below are two suggested templates - one simple, one complex - for use in undertaking a family or individual chronology. They succinctly set out an order and structure to framing the core information required. There is also a column that can be utilised to suit particular needs. For example you can colour code or mark this to indicate and assist counting of similar events or behavioural/situational themes - for example, substance misuse, violence, mental health, neglect, physical assault and so on. Or as GIRFEC Briefing 8 suggests, note event significance through something like a "traffic light" system of red, amber and green (Scottish Government, 2012).
It is acknowledged that many services will have already developed a format for chronologies within their GIRFEC processes and that this already reflects some of what they capture at present. The key is to have an up-to-date chronology, to ensure that there are good cultures of use of the chronology to inform understandings and analysis (single and multi-agency) and to subject it to regular review and update.
|Date Last Reviewed/Updated:|
|DATE OF EVENT||DETAIL OF EVENT||OUTCOME||NOTES/ COMMENTS||CODE|
|Date Chronology was Last Reviewed/Updated:|
|DATE OF EVENT||DETAIL OF EVENT||ACTION||OUTCOME||SOURCE OF INFO||AGREED BY FAMILY||AGE OF CHILD||NOTES||CODE|