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!