A chronology is a series of significant events and changes that occur in a family's/child's life. Each event should be considered for the impact it has in a child's or young person’s life. A chronology isn't: a ‘detailed account’, observations, an assessment, a calendar of all events or list of professional interventions.
Download our chronology template to help you with your chronology.
Why do a chronology?
It's a quick, effective way to see what's happening in the life of a child or young person, and the impact that this has had. It helps identify patterns and issues, invaluable in assessing risk and when analysing the likely impact of events, especially where there may be no single ‘incident’, eg in neglect. It's therefore an essential tool in analysis and planning at all stages, especially when cases are transferred. A current chronology must be available at all CIN/CP/LAC planning and review meetings. It's also an essential tool in life story work.
When should I start a chronology?
The chronology should start from the most appropriate time that gives a view of relevant significant events prior to any social care intervention, and as such can start with the birth of parents, but should always as a minimum start at the beginning of social care intervention in the life of the parent, and should then continue through intervention, ending only when a decision is made to close the case.
Where a case comes back for further intervention the chronology should pick up where the previous one ended, and cover significant events that have occurred between the two periods. These should be added as they happen to maintain the chronology and make it useful in the future, eg in court or at review.
How do I record a chronology?
- Accurately – recording the date of the event not the date it was entered into the chronology
- Chronologically - record events /issues as they happen
- In context - give the source, eg 'information in letter from health visitor of …date', 'Report provided to ICPC confirmed xxx', 'Email from police confirmed xxx'
- Factually and succinctly, eg '…. moved to xxx school', 'xxx born at xx hospital', 'Alleged assault on mother by father'. Especially important for the child later and in court where the chronology must be agreed by all parties
- Professionally - recording should always detail the impact the event had on the child, and what action was taken following the significant event
- In compliance - use the agreed format. Each sibling must have their own chronology
What is a 'significant event'?
Use your professional judgment regarding events that have occurred that you think have had a significant impact on the child or family. The following is a guideline:
- Contact referrals about the family/child (including older siblings)
- Assessment (including S47) start and finish dates with outcome decisions
- Child protection episodes, LAC episodes, CIN episodes, EH partnerships
- Child’s plan review dates and decisions made
- Non-accidental injuries / suspicious injuries / significant injury / visible injury
- Child left home alone
- Attendance at A&E / out of hours / minor injuries / walk in centres / hospital admissions / change in GP / non-attendance of health service / cancellation
- Significant ill-health of parent or child including any specialist / consultant assessments
- Births / deaths of adults and children
- House move / placement move / homelessness
- People moving in or out of the home address - note any significant separation from primary carer
- Change in family composition / new partners / separations / people moving into the family home / excessive visitors / unknown adults in the house
- Criminal proceedings and outcomes / civil proceedings involving family / court proceedings / changes in legal status / family proceedings
- Prison sentences of any key adults or young people
- Reported incident of domestic violence / substance misuse / periods of mental health
- Child absconding / missing from home
- CSE reports / assessments
- Attempted suicide / self harming / overdose of child or family member
- Any event in child life deemed to have a significant impact on them
- Disclosure from child or any other party detailing harm or abuse - physical harm / sexual harm / emotional harm
Is a chronology for court any different?
You'll need to present the chronology at the legal planning meeting. Your line manager and legal representative will advise on the significant events that would need to be included as part of the evidence you present to court.
Start your chronologies now and keep them up to date!