Here are some ways that we focus on keeping children safe in all elements of the Core Practice Model:

Transparency and full disclosure.

We communicate clearly about worries among the family and the Department. Building our partnership from shared goals helps keep children safe.

Teaming with people who know the child, youth, and family.

Building rapport with team members as well as the family means more people are looking out for the children – including those who know the safety worries in the family. Building a ‘village’ and safety net pays off, even when we are not around, and enables us to develop a deeper understanding of the family.

Working the team agenda.

The team agenda addresses child safety in multiple areas:

  • Non-negotiables make clear that child safety is the bottom line, and help the team understand what must happen to keep children safe.
  • Strengths-Worries-Needs. Focusing on strengths gives hope that the youth or family can overcome this challenging time. Moving on to worries allows the entire team to talk about safety worries for the family. Keeping this element in the agenda and sharing the language of worries also makes it more likely that stakeholders will act if they believe the family is unsafe. Finally, identifying the underlying needs of children and families enables the team to develop an individualized plan tailored to address them.
  • The plan. The plan should be based on the underlying needs of the family, starting with the children. Meeting these underlying needs will improve child safety and family functioning. As part of the plan, teams often create a circle of support that gives the family ongoing assistance, especially in difficult times.
  • What Could Go Wrong? This part of the meeting focuses on the possibilities that could prevent the plan from succeeding. In this section of the meeting, the team

Ongoing engagement and teaming.

This allows the worker and team members to track when things go well and when times get tough. Tracking and adapting is central to our work, so the ongoing meetings allow the team to deepen their commitment to child safety as well as their ability to support the family after the case is closed.

Non-negotiables should be minimal to allow the family team to generate ideas within the brainstorming part of teaming and planning work. CSWs and other staff should know the non-negotiables for each case, through consultation with the SCSW and input from any transferring staff (ER, DI, prior worker, etc).

Adherence to court orders should be a given.

The team, worker or parent may decide to return to court to get court orders changed, but for now the team members must all uphold what the court has ordered for the family. Of particular importance:

  • Custody and contact/visitation orders
  • Orders related to Substance Abuse and Intimate Partner Violence

When there are no court orders, state the safety standards that the agency is going to set. These could include:

  • The children cannot be cared for by anyone whose judgment is impaired by the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • The children cannot be left alone without adult supervision
  • The children must be free from physical harm
  • The children’s medical needs must be met (for medical condition-related referrals)

The primary non-negotiable is always, the children must be safe.

Facilitators should enlist the family and team to support this goal, possibly by saying: