Signs of Safety
The speaker we had at our September Peer Support Meeting was Jennifer Mckenzie who is a Children’s Services Specialist with Children’s Division. She is charged with training on the Signs of Safety program. Signs of Safety is a new approach to casework that focuses on the safety of the child, involving the family in their plan toward reunification, and giving the caseworker and team tools to engage the family and child in their plan for success.
How does this apply to us as CASAs?
It is helpful for us to have an understanding of Signs of Safety for various reasons. When working with caseworkers, one of the things we need to understand, is that they are charged with the task of showing that all reasonable efforts have been made to reunify the family. They use a strengths-based approach as a base to start with. With Signs of Safety Mapping every meeting begins with “What are the strengths and positives in the family?” or “What’s working well?”. They then proceed to “What are our worries or concerns?” and finally to “What needs to happen for this child to be safe in the home with their parents?”. There is an opportunity for the parents to be a part of this conversation and contribute to it rather than just being told what to do.
Scaling is used as a way to think about progress or lack thereof. It basically is just having each team member think about safety in terms of a scale of 1-10. 1 being that it is in no way safe for the child to return to the home and 10 being that conditions are ideal for the child to return. This gives a visual way to see if the team scores have gone from a 3 to a 5 based on what the family has done since the last hearing that there is progress being made.
A real advantage to using Signs of Safety in court is by putting safety of the child as a priority in case planning, the court can use that as a way to determine best interest of the child instead of just relying on whether or not a parent has completed court ordered services. As we know, there are situations where a parent has complied with services but the home situation is still not safe for the child or situations where maybe a parent hasn’t complied with all services but that the team feels that the home environment is safe for the child.
It is important for us to have an understanding of Signs of Safety so that we can better know how to participate as a member of the child’s Family Support Team. There are various tool that are used with Signs of Safety that can be useful with our work with our CASA children. If you are interested in learning more about those tools, please sign up for our Fostering Futures course on December 2!
Thank you all for reading this and for all you do as a CASA Volunteer!
If you would like to read a recent research project about the evolution of the child welfare system, current developments, and successful programs in other regions, please click on the link below.
Our program is funded by the Victims of Crime Act, which is part of the reason why we collect your monthly advocacy reports. We have to account for the time spent providing services to the victims of crimes. The act was passed in 1984, and is actually a really amazing concept! It is funded through fines, penalties, and forfeitures collected from persons convicted of offenses. Then the money is given to organizations like ours who help the victims of crimes. Transferring the money from criminals to victims - how cool!
At July’s Peer Support Meeting, the area Chafee worker, Holli Gillam, spoke about the benefits of the Chafee Program. I have attached their brochure to this for further reading.
In 1999, the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Act was passed to provide funding for foster youth remaining in care up to or beyond the age of 18. It was created with the goal of assisting youth to achieve independence in early adulthood, providing funding for a high school diploma, vocational training, life skills training, budgeting, substance abuse prevention, preventative health (including alcohol and tobacco avoidance), job placement, and career assistance. It also created the Educational and Training Vouchers Program (ETV) for Youths Aging out of Foster Care, which provides up to $5000 annually for college tuition. Not only does the Chafee Act prepare foster children for the transition into adulthood, but it rewards their own efforts towards independence.
Last year Governor Jay Nixon signed the bi-partisan House Bill 1877 which changed sections 210.110, 210.180, 211.031, and 211.036 RSMo to create more accountability for child sex offenders, create a task force to study the prevention of abuse and neglect in Missouri, and add language which allows foster parents the "prudent parent" legal standard in order to create some normalcy for children in foster care. Let me explain...