The Law Family DOORS (McIntosh 2012) was the original framework that the Family DOORS is based on. The DOORS is an evidence-based universal screening framework for keeping families safe. Family DOORS is now available for the human and community services sector, not just family law.
The Family ‘Detection Of Overall Risk Screen’ (known as the DOORS) is an evidence-based universal screening framework for keeping families safe. The Family DOORS App is built from the original Family Law DOORS (McIntosh 2012).
Built from the original Family Law DOORS (McIntosh 2012), the Family DOORS App is an evidence-based universal screening framework for keeping families safe.
This new app is designed to assist professionals to detect and evaluate risks before they escalate, and supports the development of a tailored response.
The app can be used by all helping professionals, including family law practitioners, counsellors, psychologists and social workers.
The DOORS is designed for use by all helping professionals, including:
- court staff
- family law lawyers
- legal services staff
- family dispute resolution practitioners
- Family Relationships Centre staff
- child contact service staff
- parenting orders program staff
- social workers
- private practitioners.
The DOORS philosophy is based on the following axioms:
- Risk is not a static factor; it is multi-determined and changes over time.
- Risk assessment therefore needs to occur across many areas and over time.
- Best practice in risk identification involves three steps, with emphasis on each step varying
according to the needs of the case:
- Universal self-report screening
- Tailored professional follow-up, evaluation and response planning
- Implementation and monitoring
- These are universal elements of risk screening, regardless of the setting.
As used in the DOORS, risk is the product of a constellation of long-term and short-term factors that act together, can change over time, and vary from family to family.
This includes risks to the immediate physical safety, psychological wellbeing, or developmental well-being of the children or adults involved in a family law dispute. It includes imminent risks to the safety of others associated with the family (e.g. new partners, friends, extended family).
This is the first level of risk assessment. Safety, in the context of universal early detection screening, refers to the physical safety of adults and children, as well as significant risks to their psychological wellbeing. Screening is usually brief and conducted through standardised questions, usually beginning with client self-report, either self-completed or administered by the practitioner.
This refers to a systematic set of questions for clients, surveying major risk factors leading to safety and well-being problems across multiple domains of family life, post-separation. In the DOORS framework, this is represented by DOOR 1 and functions to alert practitioners to potential risk areas. DOOR 2 then follows, supporting professional follow-up and decision making processes.
This involves professional assessment of the form and potency of the risks identified during screening, and the likelihood that these may translate into further harm.
Risk assessment is the basis for planning treatment pathways and responses.
Risk assessment requires a coordinated, semi-structured and evidence-based approach to understanding the potential interaction of risk factors for client safety and well-being.
The DOORS screening and risk identification processes are based on evidence that there are points in a family’s separation journey where the translation of stress into an assault on safety or well-being may be preventable.
Early identification, triage to counselling support, together with sensitive legal processes, can combine in the right time and place to protect safety and support healthier management of difficult times.
The DOORS framework supports a culturally-sensitive screening of risks to the physical and psychological well-being and safety of parents and children. Central to the endeavour is a focus on protecting clients from significant risks: these range from severe threats to psychological security, through to fatality.
Interpretations of family violence events can vary according to the jurisdictional (legal, policy, service, research) context. The DOORS adopts the working definition of violent acts or threatening experiences that occur between immediate family (former partners and children) and extended family members (families of origin, new partners). These include physically, sexually, emotionally abusive and neglectful behaviours, as well as threatening behaviours.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Section 4AB) defines family violence thus:
“For the purposes of this Act, family violence means violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family (the family member), or causes the family member to be fearful.”
There is no age, stage, or gender immune to the impacts of entrenched parental discord associated with separation. There are elevated risks of poor outcomes for children of divorce, across psychological, social, health and academic domains, extending to adulthood, with increased risk of diminished
emotional, economic and educational attainment. Early screening for potential mental health risks in children and infants is important in the post-separation population. Many studies document the benefits of early detection and intervention, from one-off advice from a doctor or infant welfare nurse, to
community-based parenting supports, to comprehensive assessment and therapeutic support from an infant and child mental health specialist.
As used in the DOORS, child abuse is any non-accidental behaviour that constitutes a risk to the child of emotional or physical harm. There are five main areas of abusive behaviours recognised within Australia. These include sexual, emotional and physical abuse, neglect, and the witnessing of family violence. The aetiology and recognition of child abuse are complex matters, which are well covered by the National Child Protection Clearinghouse. See the Australian Institute of Family Studies website for a comprehensive explanation.