Signs of Safety is an innovative strengths-based, safety-organised approach to child protection casework which can also be used for early intervention work. The model of its approach was created in Western Australia by Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards, who worked with over 150 front-line statutory practitioners and based it on what those practitioners know works well with difficult cases.
1. Working relationships
Relationships must enable honest and respectful discussions of concerns and worries, draw on and honour everything positive, consider multiple perspectives, and always incorporate skilful use of authority. Research shows that, irrespective of the type of intervention, professionals see better outcomes when there is shared understanding of what needs to change, agreement on purpose and goals, and family members feel their worker understands them.
2. Thinking critically and maintaining a stance of critical inquiry.
In order to minimise error, a culture of shared reflective practice and a willingness to admit you may be wrong are vital. Risk assessment is a core task and requires constant balancing of strengths and dangers to avoid the common errors of drifting into an overly negative or positive view of the situation.
3. Grounded in everyday experience.
Assessment and safety planning is always focused on the everyday lived experience of the child. Service recipients and front line practitioners are the key arbiters of whether practice works or doesn’t.
Signs of Safety values both professional and family knowledge. Work with families within Signs of Safety fully involves families in assessing risks and developing solutions. The child/young person’s experience is central to this, and children, young people, and their families are fully involved in developing and delivering their plans.
The assessment and planning framework is used for “mapping” the worries, strengths, and required safety, all in plain language. The areas of enquiry and exploration for the mapping process are - what are we worried about, what is working well, what needs to happen and the scaling question. These are used to explore and understand both the strengths and protective factors within the family, and the concerns and risks, and make it clear what we are working to achieve, and what needs to happen to get there. Scaling questions are used to show how all parties judge the risk to the child or young person, and supports understanding on the level of concerns to be developed between all parties.
Coventry Children's Services and LSCB partner agencies have committed to using Signs of Safety as the overarching practice framework.