Signs of SafetyOct 01 2014

Signs of Safety
A Framework that Works
How can child protection professionals actually
build partnerships with parents where there is
suspected or substantiated child maltreatment?
• There is a perceived struggle between family
engagement and the agency’s responsibility
for child safety.
• The Signs of Safety is a framework for building
safety through engagement.
With roots in solution-focused brief therapy, the
Signs of Safety demonstrates the notion of the
interview as a forum for change.
Pay Close Attention to Language
• Child welfare involved families often report
that their workers speak in language they
don’t understand.
• Workers that use professional jargon and
general, diagnostic terms come across as
paternalistic and prescriptive.
• It is important to use plain, behaviorallyspecific language; language the family and it’s
network can clearly understand.
Types of Questions
• Relationship questions: “What would your
sister say is your biggest strength as a
• Exception questions: “Have there been times
when you felt like blowing up, but instead you
stayed calm?”
• Coping questions: “ What have you done to
keep it from getting worse?”
More Types of Questions
• Goal formation/preferred future questions:
“What would be the first sign that you were
making progress?”
• Support/network identification questions: “Who
is the first person you would call if you were in
some kind of trouble?” These become critical in
helping family develop systems of support.
• Scaling questions: First, define what the goalposts
of 0-10 represent, then ask person to rate within
that scale.
Using the Safety Scale Questions.
• On a scale of 0 to 10 where 10 means
everyone knows the children are safe enough
for the child protection authorities to close
the case and zero means things are so bad for
the children they can’t live at home where do
you rate this situation?
• What makes it that for you?
• What else?
Signs of Safety Map
• Insert Map here.
Supervision and the Parallel Process
• Breaking from the “story model” to the
“questioning approach” to supervision.
• When supervisors model a questioning approach,
vs. prescriptive approach, workers will in turn use
good questions with families instead of simply
telling them what they need to do.
• Supervisors can use the map to help workers
think their way into and through a child
protection case.
Questions to Build Harm and Danger
• What are the worries about the children that
gets our agency involved in this case?
• Incidence – How often has the harm occurred
over time?
• Severity – How bad has the harm been in its
impact on the child?
• Safety Scale Judgment - 0-10 worry about
future harm? How would others rate the
Questions to Identify/Build Support
• Start with simple genogram that includes
identified support persons.
• Who listens to you when you need someone
to talk to?
• Who is the first person you share good or bad
news with?
• When you need advice who do you go to?
• Lots more at
Moving from Danger Statements to
Safety Goals and Plans
• What would need to happen to address worries
to the point where it is “safe enough” to close
• The safety plan must be constructed relative to
clearly identified and commonly understood
• The safety plan must describe specific behaviors
that address the dangers
• The safety plan must be developed, refined and
implemented successively and over time.
Safety Plans, cont..
• The safety plan must be endorsed by the
statutory authorities involved in the case.
• The safety plan must involve everyone in the
family and as wide a network as possible.
• In this way the family and professionals are
implementing the definition of safety as
“Strengths, demonstrated as protection over

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