The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) was invited to give a workshop on Safety this month. Sheila Searfoss, an NFPN board member, clinician, and trainer, presented the Framework of Safety that she developed to help IFPS therapists and other direct services workers address safety with the families they serve. Here is an overview of the workshop:
Safe is a condition in which the threat of serious harm is not present or imminent or the protective capacities of the family are sufficient to protect the child. Protective capacities refer to the individual and family strengths, resources, or characteristics that mitigate threats of serious harm to the child.
To conduct an effective safety assessment, the worker must answer the following critical questions:
- Is there serious harm to the child? If yes, what is the harm?
- Is there an immediate threat of serious harm? If yes, describe in behavioral terms.
- Is there a vulnerable child?
- Are there protective capacities within the family to adequately mitigate any threats of immediate serious harm?
- Is there a need for an immediate safety intervention or action?
A decision of “unsafe” requires an immediate safety response to protect the child. It does not necessarily equate with removal of the child from the home but does require a safety plan to protect the child. A safety response also requires interventions. Interventions are specifically employed to control the safety threat and protect a child until more permanent change can take place. Here are some examples of safety interventions if the child remains in the home:
- Use of family, neighbors, etc. as safety resources
- Alleged perpetrator leaves the home
- Family preservation services
- Emergency medical/mental health services
- Emergency substance abuse services
The safety plan incorporates all safety interventions and includes the following components:
- Family involved in developing and implementing the plan
- A written document prepared by the worker and approved by the supervisor
- Clear description of the harm, child’s vulnerability, and caregiver’s protective capacities
- Description of how the caregiver views the situation
- Description of each intervention, how it will protect the child, who is responsible for implementation, and time frames
- Details of how the plan’s effectiveness will be monitored
Managing a safety plan involves
- Regular contacts with the child and all others that have a role in the plan
- Continuous assessment for new threats of serious harm
- Continuous work on family engagement
- Periodic evaluation of the need to alter the safety interventions
- Inclusion of the safety plan in the case plan
- Keeping the supervisor informed of the status of the safety plan
Safety reviews provide a formal structure for monitoring and evaluating all the safety issues in a case. The purpose of the safety review is to:
- Measure the growth in a caregiver’s ability to protect the child
- Assess whether there have been any changes in the child’s vulnerability that affect safety
- Decide whether and how to adjust the safety plan (may include increasing or decreasing service intensity)
- Evaluate the suitability of the safety interventions
- Consider whether caregiver responsibility and involvement can be increased.
A comprehensive framework for safety guides the worker in assessing harm, developing, implementing and monitoring a safety plan; protects the child from harm; and assists the family with enhancing protective capacities to prevent future harm.
Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director