2How 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.
3ABOVE ALL, IT’S A QUESTIONING APPROACH With roots in solution-focused brief therapy, the Signs of Safety demonstrates the notion of the interview as a forum for change.
4Pay 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, behaviorally-specific language; language the family and it’s network can clearly understand.
5Types of QuestionsRelationship questions: “What would your sister say is your biggest strength as a parent?”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?”
6More 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.
7Using 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?
9Supervision 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.
10Questions to Build Harm and Danger Statements 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 worry about future harm? How would others rate the worry?
11Questions to Identify/Build Support Network 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
12Moving 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 case?The safety plan must be constructed relative to clearly identified and commonly understood dangers.The safety plan must describe specific behaviors that address the dangersThe safety plan must be developed, refined and implemented successively and over time.
13Safety 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 time”.