Service providers must have an understanding of what makes individuals with disabilities more vulnerable to becoming victims of abuse and neglect, if they are to be successful in identifying and intervening in situations that place these individuals at risk.

Risk assessment is a term used for the process of determining whether an individual is safe, or likely to be harmed in the near future, as a result of abuse or neglect. Risk assessment should not be considered a one-time determination, but rather, an ongoing process where risk is continually evaluated as new information is obtained and analyzed.

Making a determination regarding the degree of risk present requires an assessment of several factors specific to the individual, the caregiver(s), and the environment, as illustrated below:

The Individual

  • Type and level of disability
  • Medical conditions
  • Type and location of injuries
  • Degree of dependence on caregiver(s)
  • Communication skills
  • Social isolation
  • History of abuse (or abuse allegations)
  • Competency regarding decision-making

The Caregiver(s)

  • Relationship to/with the individual
  • Access to the individual
  • History of abuse
  • Substance abuse history
  • History of possession of weapons
  • Level of stress
  • Mental and physical health
  • Fiduciary relationship to individual
  • Training and abilities
  • Dependence on individual (emotional, financial…)

The Environment

  • Physical condition
  • Location
  • Accessibility