Hope you are all really well and enjoying the beginning of 2017. I had a wonderfully restful break in January and am excited and energised for the year ahead.
One of the decisions I made during my holiday break was to provide my resource booklets (and the Three Houses booklet from Nicki and myself) free of charge. These booklets, and the 3H dvd, are now able to be downloaded from my website.
Please feel very free to share these resources.
It has been more than a year since I have written a blog - it's been a very busy work year :). So for my first blog in ages, I'm excited to announce the release of our Three Houses App. Catherine Santoro and I had the idea about 2 years ago to create a series of child protection apps and after discussions with Nicki Weld, we started on the Three Houses app. Cath and I have worked with developers in India for the past 18 months to create the app and it has been a very steep learning curve. The app is now available free on iTunes and Google Play and we hope that it helps make a difference in the work you are doing.
The flyer for the Three Houses app (as seen below) can be downloaded here. Please feel free to spread it far and wide!
Warm regards, Sonja
The 'Immediate Story'
The ‘Immediate Story’ method is a process that I have recently developed as part of my work with Arianne Struik in developing trauma-informed safety planning tools and processes. Even with the best of intentions, our child protection processes (particularly when they involve the removal of a child or the threat of removal of a child) can be shocking and potentially traumatising for children (and parents), so a clear and simple explanation is essential to help mitigate any unintended harm or trauma from our interventions. Research shows that a shocking event doesn’t have to be traumatising if you are able to understand what is going on and you are able to receive comfort from someone who understands. The ‘Immediate Story’ provides a clear and immediate explanation to children (and parents) that helps to minimise the traumatic impact of CPS intervention. The story also provides an immediate explanation to parents, foster carers and family members so that they are able to reinforce this explanation and provide informed comfort and support to the child.
The ‘Immediate Story’ is a clear, simply worded story that is developed by the child protection agency and provided to the child at the point when the child is removed from the parents’ care (or as soon as possible afterwards), or when the agency starts working with the family to create an immediate safety plan. The ‘Immediate Story’provides a simple explanation to the child about the reason for the child protection intervention, about what is happening now or has just happened (for example, the child is being removed from their parents’ care and going to stay with other family members or foster carers, or Dad is going to stay somewhere else and Grandma is going to move in), and what is going to happen next in the safety planning process.
Case Example: Immediate Story for Max (5 yr old boy)
The ‘Immediate Story’ has four components:
The first part of the ‘Immediate Story’ contains a clear explanation from the child protection agency about the reason for the child protection intervention. Children who have experienced abuse and/or neglect will often think that they are to blame for what is happening and that they are not able to stay with their parents (or that Dad has to go and live somewhere else) because they are a ‘bad child’. This simple explanation, provided early in the process, helps to counter any belief the child may develop that somehow it is all their fault. While this message to the child would be more powerful if it was coming from the parents, at this early stage in the child protection intervention it is usually not possible to develop a more detailed explanation in collaboration with the parents. This part of the story can be built on later within the collaboratively developed ‘Words and Pictures’ process. It also forms an introduction to the importance of the ‘Trauma Healing Story’, which will be developed later as part of the healing and trauma treatment process.
The second part of the ‘Immediate Story’ provides a brief explanation about where the child is going to stay (if they are being removed from the parents’ care) or about the most important details of the immediate safety plan (eg. if Dad is going to stay somewhere else and Grandma is moving in). Particularly when a child is being removed from their family’s care, the situation will often be extremely distressing, frightening and confusing for a child, so simple information about where they are going to stay and who they will be staying with, can help to minimise any further trauma. Alongside the ‘Immediate Story’, a foster carer profile is provided to the child, with simple information and photographs of the carers, their family and home.
Including information about the foster carers within the ‘Immediate Story’ and then showing this story to the parents, also begins to build a relationship between the parents and the carers. One of the obstacles to successful reunification is a lack of communication and collaboration between parents and foster carers. While building this relationship is a complex and at times challenging process, the simple act of providing parents with some information about the people who are caring for their child can start the process of building a collaborative working relationship. This also opens up the possibility of the parents being willing to create their own profile, which can be provided to the foster carers or other professionals involved in working with the family, to assist in building a working relationship and to minimise any demonising of the parents.
The third part of the ‘Immediate Story’ reassures the child that they will be having contact with their parents and provides an explanation about when the planning for contact will happen. When a child is removed from the care of their parents, or when a parent moves out of the home as part of an immediate safety plan, establishing safe and meaningful contact between the children and their family is one of the most critical and immediate issues that the child protection agency must deal with. It is also usually one of the first issues that children and parents want to focus on. Establishing safe visits for the child with their parents (and other significant family members) so that the child can receive comfort from their attachment figures, needs to happen as quickly as possible to minimise any additional trauma for the child. The child’s primary attachments with his or her parents (or signficant caretakers) also need to be upheld for the child to be able to develop healthy attachments with other caretakers and in future relationships.
The fourth part of the ‘Immediate Story’ provides parents, children, safety and support network members and other professionals (including carers) with an overview of the safety planning process and initial information about the most important non-negotiables of the safety planning process (such as the need for a safety and support network, that safety needs to be demonstrated, and that everyone will need to work together to develop a comprehensive safety plan that leaves everyone confident that the child will be safe in the parents’ care in the future). While more detailed information about the safety planning process will need to be provided over time (when people are not as distressed and are able to process more detailed information), it is important to provide at least an overview of the safety planning process at this point so that children and parents are able to begin to participate in the safety planning process and are able to hold on to some hope that it will be possible for the child to return to the parents’ care or for the family to live together again. The ‘Immediate Story’ connects the past, present and future in a way that helps people to retain a sense of hope about the future and not become stuck in the pain of the present or the past.
So, in summary, the purpose of the ‘Immediate Story’ is to:
‘Immediate Story’ templates
The casework that is required when a child is removed from their parents’ care or an immediate safety plan is being developed can be incredibly taxing for caseworkers (in both time and emotion). I have developed a number of ‘Immediate Story’ templates so that an ‘Immediate Story’ can be developed for a family with a minimum amount of work. These templates can be tailored to suit each family by changing a few details or adding personal information.
Templates have been developed for a number of scenarios:
These templates will soon be available to download from my website, at http://www.spconsultancy.com.au/resources.html
 Struik, A (2014). Treating Chronically Traumatized Children: Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie!” Routledge.
 Turnell A. and Essex S. (2006). Working with ‘denied’ child abuse: the resolutions approach. Buckingham: Open University Press.
 Arianne Struik: http://www.ariannestruik.com
 Jill Devlin, from Open Home Foundation in New Zealand, developed the idea of creating profiles for foster carers (Te Whanau Nei). For some wonderful examples of foster carer profiles, please see Sonja’s website: www.spconsultancy.com.au/resources.html
 Sonja has developed a parent profile template. An example and template is available from her website: www.spconsultancy.com.au/resources.html
 Struik, A (2014). Treating Chronically Traumatized Children: Don’t Let Sleeping Dogs Lie!” Routledge.
Family Safety Conferencing
Hi Friends and happy new year to you. I hope you've had a nourishing and restful Christmas and new year break.
I've had a lovely holiday with family and friends and am now back at work and getting myself ready to fly to Japan tomorrow. I've been working in Japan for the past four years and this year, am going to be leading a workshop on facilitating family safety conferences. I spent considerable time in 2013 developing materials on the "how to" of family conferencing and the process of facilitating family safety conferences. I've had the privilege of doing some of this work collaboratively with some valued colleagues (Eleonora De Michele, Catherine Bettison, Heather Meitner and Philip Decter) and I'm very excited about the work that I/we have created.
The written material is way too detailed for a blog offering, but I wanted to offer a small sample here. If anyone is particularly interested in family conferencing, you are welcome to send me an email and I'd be happy to share more of the family conferencing work.
I've developed an overview of family safety conferencing and detailed exploration of role of the facilitator, comprehensive agendas for both assessment and safety planning conferences, and family booklets to help everyone prepare for the conferences. The part that I would like to share today though is my articulation of the key principles that underlie the facilitation of family safety conferencing:
1. “Nothing about us, without us”
Child protection agencies have enormous power to intervene in the lives of families and in the parent-child relationship. While this statutory power needs to be exercised if a parent is unable or fails to protect their child from preventable and significant harm, I believe that child protection agencies have a responsibility to ensure that this power is exercised in ways that are respectful and preserve the dignity of family members. Family safety conferences are designed to foster inclusiveness and collaborative decision-making, so that the strength, capacity and empowerment of parents and families is enhanced rather than undermined by the involvement of child protection agencies. The expression “Nothing about us, without us” captures this commitment to ensuring that any planning about the family is done with the family.
2. Facilitating a family safety conference involves facilitating a change process.
Family safety conferences are opportunities for family members, safety network members and professionals to meet together to identify the dangers for the children and to work out realistic and meaningful solutions. This is a change process, which may require that family members make significant changes in the way they are living their lives. Facilitation is the key that helps people make the shifts that are required in a change process: understanding the need for change, visioning a different future and acknowledging that real change requires changes in their own thoughts, attitudes and behaviours.
The power of facilitation in helping people move through the change process is in the power of the question. Facilitation is a questioning approach that is focused on helping people to thinking through where they are, where they want to go and how are they going to get there. According to Stuart Smith (Core Team Facilitator with Leadership Strategies, Inc.):
“Facilitation is the key because it is based on the power of the question. And the power of the question is what makes things happen. People can handle change, even if it is thrust upon them if they can answer fundamental and meaningful questions for themselves:
· “What’s it all about?” – What is the nature of the change; why do we need to change?
· “What’s in it for me?” – How will this affect me; what do you need me to do; what risk do I face and what are the benefits?
· “How will you help me?” – What do I need to know; how can I get help; how can I be successful?”
3. Effective facilitation focuses on outcomes, process and relationships.
An effective facilitator of family safety conferences has to focus on three equally important and inter-dependent dimensions of the meeting:
4. The problems are usually complex and there are usually multiple (and different) views.
In situations where family safety conferences are held, there are usually a range of factors that can make it difficult for the group to meet and talk together about the problems and work together to create solutions. The problems or perceived problems within the family are usually complex and there may be very different views about the problems held by professionals and family members, or by different professionals or different family members. There are often strong emotions associated with the harm or perceived harm to the children and the removal of the children from the family’s care or the fear that this may happen. And there may be other complicating factors that make it difficult for people to focus on the issues, such as substance use, mental illness, trauma or extreme stress. In situations where some or all of these factors are operating, it’s amazing that any type of collaboration is possible at all!!!
Having a facilitator who is focused on the group process and on assisting everyone to work together effectively is essential in these complex and contentious circumstances. A skilled facilitator can make the difference between a breakdown in communication and the development of a collaborative solution (for example, a case plan or safety plan).
5. Families are resourceful and can significantly contribute to the solutions.
Effective facilitation starts from a position of equal respect for all participants, which means that family members are viewed as being resourceful and being able to significantly contribute to the solutions. The facilitation of family safety conferences is based on a belief that best outcomes for children are more likely when families and their networks are able to meaningfully participate in decision-making about their children’s safety, care and wellbeing.
Family safety conferences can be held at each stage of the casework process, whenever critical decisions need to be made. The role of the facilitator is to ensure that the structure and process of the family safety conference allows the family (and safety network) to participate to the greatest possible extent.
6. Facilitating FSCs involves managing authentic conversations
As discussed in principle 4, it is common for participants in family safety conferences to feel and express strong emotions, such as grief, anger, despair or frustration. While this can be difficult to manage, I think that expressing strongly felt emotion is a legitimate and necessary part of people being fully present to the situation and being open to the process of change. What is important is that the expression of emotion doesn’t highjack the conference or get in the way of people being able to work collaboratively. So effective facilitation of family safety conferences involves allowing for and acknowledging the importance of authentic conversations, while ensuring that this happens in ways that are respectful and that enable the group to remain focused on working toward the desired outcome.
7. Facilitation involves both high support and high challenge for the participants
Facilitation of family safety conferences involves simultaneously being able to offer high support and high challenge for the participants. If you are only offering support, participants may walk away feeling well supported and listened to, but without having been challenged to reflect on their assumptions or focus on the need for change. If you are only offering challenge, then participants may feel as if their views and positions are not understood and may get stuck in defensiveness and not be willing to shift. To create a space where participants can speak honestly about their own positions and remain open to hearing the views of others, facilitators need to offer a blend of high support and high challenge. Jenny Rogers describes this in her “Support and Challenge Matrix” below.
8. The use of an independent facilitator may be ideal, but is not always possible.
Most facilitation models or programmes recommend the use of an independent facilitator to establish neutrality in the facilitation role. However, in our busy and often under-resourced child protection agencies, the use of an independent facilitator is not always possible. Some child protection jurisdictions have organised their resources so that they have a team of facilitators whose primary role is to facilitate family safety conferences. Other jurisdictions have a system where team leaders or supervisors or senior practitioners can facilitate family conferences for other teams. But whatever the system that is operating in your jurisdiction, sometimes the caseworker or supervisor working with the family are the ones who need to facilitate the family safety meeting or conference.
In addition to this resourcing issue, the “Partnering for Safety” approach is by its nature a conferencing approach, which means that caseworkers are frequently holding meetings with small or large groups of family members, safety network members and other professionals in the course of their day-to-day work. While the use of good facilitation skills makes an enormous difference to the outcomes of these meetings, having independent facilitators for all of these meetings is just not possible.
So it is important that caseworkers and supervisors develop the capacity to be able to step into the facilitator’s role for cases that they are working with.
Here are some tips that can help in these situations:
In situations where the complexity of the child protection concerns or the contentiousness of the case makes it particularly difficult for caseworkers to work collaboratively with the family, then it is worth doing whatever you can to procure an independent facilitator.
9. Preparation, preparation, preparation!
Good facilitation is all about preparation: Preparation of the agenda and the conference process, but also preparation of the participants. In terms of the preparation of participants, it’s the role of the facilitator to make sure that before the conference:
In relation to the final point above, there are times when family conferences are called for the purpose of sharing critical information, but if the conference has been called for any other purpose, then it’s important that any contentious information is shared beforehand. This increases the likelihood that during the family safety conference, participants can focus on creating solutions and finding collaborative ways forward, rather than getting stuck in arguing about the past or reacting to new and challenging information.
As mentioned above, it is the role of the facilitator to make sure that this preparation of participants has happened before the family safety conference. If the facilitator is someone other than the caseworker, then they might not do the actual preparation themselves (although this might be the case), but they will need to follow up with the caseworker or supervisor to make sure that someone has done this important preparation.
10. Involve the children in Family Safety Conferences.
The question is not whether children and young people will participate in family safety conferences, but how will they participate. Participation can occur on a continuum from the child/young person attending all of the conference and sharing their views, right through to not attending and having someone else share their views.
In family conferencing models around the world, there is a range of opinions about the age at which a child might attend a family conference. In the Partnering for Safety approach, our view is that if the child is old enough to understand the purpose of the family safety conference and wants to attend, then they are old enough to attend. Children and young people might attend all or part of the conference (as long as they are physically and emotionally safe in doing so) and this is a decision that needs to be made jointly between the parents, the child/young person and the child protection agency.
11. Family Safety Conferences are part of the overall case process
Family safety conferences are not one-off events and they are not separate from the case planning process. They are purposeful meetings that are held at critical planning and decision-making points within the casework process to involve family members and their networks in assessing and planning for their children’s safety and wellbeing. The casework that happens before, during and after family safety conferences has a significant impact on whether or not the family safety conference has a successful outcome.
Wishing you all the best in your work with families,
 Rogers, J (2010). Facilitating Groups. Open University Press, McGraw Hill.
My blog this week is a very short one. Someone sent me an email recently about a video they saw on youtube, which was from a training on the "Partnering for Safety" approach that Phil Decter and I gave at UC Davis, California.
In the email, they were commenting on a segment from the video, where I invited the audience to participate in creating a bit of a visual overview of the Partnering for Safety approach. The segment shows members of the audience coming up the front and using their bodies (and senses of humour!) to represent the use of different tools and processes throughout the process of working with families, from the moment we start working with a family to the time when we are able to close the case.They were a fantastic bunch to work with - and lots of fun!
So here's the segment and if it's useful, feel very free to use it.
And a big thank you to UC Davis, Northern California Training Academy, for doing the filming.
My blog this week is a bit of a mixture of words and video and is all about contact/visitation. Involving families and safety network members in decision-making and planning around contact visits (visitation) is a powerful way to begin the process of collaborative safety planning. I've recently developed the "Safe Contact" tool, which is a tool that is designed to help professionals work collaboratively with parents, children and safety network members to plan for safe contact visits. The "Safe Contact" tool focuses on collaborative planning for contact as a building block for long term safety.
The "Safe Contact" tool is designed to be used with families and their networks over the entire period of working with a family to ensure that decision-making about contact is collaborative, transparent and centred on safety, from the moment that the children come into care until the children are safely returned to the care of their family and the case is closed.
The "Safe Contact" tool can be downloaded as a pdf by clicking here.
I've developed a video clip that provides some more detail about the "Safe Contact" tool (thanks Catherine Bettison for doing the filming) and you can view it on youtube: http://youtu.be/3mugsoKTUKE
And if you would like to subscribe to future blogs, please enter your email in the subscribe box in the right hand column.
Wishing you all the best in your work with families,
Mutually-Constructed Safety Goals
This blog focuses on the process of developing mutually-constructed safety goals (goals that are developed collaboratively between the parents/family and the child protection agency) and follows on from my earlier blog about danger statements. If you haven’t read that blog (22/9/13), you might want to read that first so that you have sufficient context for the information contained in this blog.
Safety goals are clear, behavioural statements that describe WHAT the parents will be doing differently in their care of the children in the future to protect the children from the identified dangers and for the child protection agency to be willing to close the case. The safety goals provide a vision for future safety and the focus and direction for the creation of rigorous safety plans.
One of the most common pieces of feedback from families who are involved with child protection systems is that professionals constantly “shift the goal posts” or fail to define the “goal posts” in the first place. The process described in this blog is designed to directly address this issue so that child protection practitioners are able to work with families to collaboratively define the safety goals and then maintain this safety focus in their work with the family.
Just as with the danger statements, the process of developing mutually-constructed safety goals starts with workers initially thinking through and identifying their own views on the safety goals. Once workers have developed their own version of the safety goals, they can then put these aside and use a questioning approach with family members and other significant people to elicit the family/safety network’s views on the safety goals. In this way, workers can move from professionally-created safety goals to safety goals that are mutually-constructed with the family and the safety network (if they are involved at this stage).
Identifying and writing clear safety goals is one of the aspects of collaborative assessment that child protection workers typically find most challenging. If you would like more information about safety goals and how to write clear and comprehensive safety goals, please see the “Partnering for Safety” framework booklet in my bookshop.
This blog will assume you have that understanding about safety goals and will work forward from the point where you have already identified your own version of the safety goals.
Eliciting families' views on the safety goals
When I am ‘mapping’ with a family, the safety goals element is the part of the framework that I frequently start with, particularly with families where we have or could get stuck in arguments about what happened in the past. Asking parents to describe their ideas and hopes and dreams for keeping their children safe in the future enables our conversation to focus on a vision for future safety, rather than getting stuck arguing about the past. And what I have learnt is that when families are able to talk with us about their visions for the future, hope and energy enters the room and enables us to start to build a platform for working together to create future safety.
Time after time, when I have used careful questioning with parents to elicit their safety goals for their children, parents usually come up with most, if not all, of the desired changes that child protection services have identified within their safety goals. The key in eliciting specific and safety-focused goals with parents is using specific, purposeful and safety-focused questions that invite the parents to reflect on future safety for their children and to create a vision for future safety.
In asking parents about their safety goals, the initial question I ask is usually something like one of the questions below:
I usually choose one of these questions (usually relying on my instinct about which will be most effective) and if that question isn't one that the person connects with, then I try another. The question you ask is likely to elicit only some of the parent’s ideas, so you will need to ask (and continue asking) “And what else would you be doing?” until parent/family member has identified all of their ideas.
As parents are identifying their safety goals, you can use follow up questions to help parents refine their safety goals to ensure that they are focused on the children, that they describe the changes in their behaviour and that the safety goals cover all of the identified concerns. The “Partnering for Safety” framework booklet contains a large number of suggested follow up questions that you can use with families to help focus and refine the safety goals.
Asking parents to reflect on the agency safety goal
After eliciting the family’s safety goals, you can then move into asking the parents to consider what the agency safety goals might be. I usually do this only after I have used careful and extensive questioning with the parents to elicit their own safety goals and we have worked through the danger statements together, so that parents can reflect on what future actions they think the child protection agency would need to see them take to protect the children from the dangers.
The place that I usually start is by first acknowledging the ideas that the parent has provided, and then asking them to consider which of these ideas or safety goals they think would be most important for child protection to see in place. I usually ask a question such as:
Once we have explored the parts of the parent’s safety goals that would be important to CPS, we then move to identifying any additional safety goals that CPS would need to see.
Developing mutually-constructed safety goals
Once you have elicited the family’s safety goals and asked the family to reflect on the agency safety goals, you can then use a questioning approach to combine the different safety goals into one set of safety goals that are reflective of both the family’s ideas and the safety requirements of the agency. Combining the safety goals will often involve incorporating the family’s language or adding goals that are important to the family, but does NOT involve diluting the safety focus.
I usually introduce this next part of the process by saying something like:
Then to develop one set of mutually-constructed goals, I use questions such as:
Working collaboratively to develop safety goals does not mean that everyone needs to agree on the safety goals. As discussed in my previous blog in relation to the statements of future danger, family members, safety network members and even other professionals may not agree with the concerns held by the statutory agency and so may not agree that all of the safety goals are necessary. But at a minimum, everyone needs to be involved in the process of thinking through the care and protection for the children that the statutory agency would need to see in place to be prepared to close the case.
Introductory statement at the top of the safety goals
At the top of the safety goals, I usually include a statement that helps everyone to understand the process of involving a safety network and working from the safety goals to develop the detailed safety plan (for more detail on this, see the “Partnering for Safety” framework booklet). To introduce the introductory statement, I usually say something like:
Exploring a time frame
Once we have talked through all the details of the safety goals that need to be in place to address the danger statements and have come up with a mutually-developed set of safety goals, I then introduce the idea of these safety goals needing to be demonstrated over time. I usually say something like:
Hopefully the suggested process above will help you develop more confidence and capacity in moving from professionally-created safety goals to safety goals that are mutually-constructed with the family and the safety network (if they are involved at this stage). It is these mutually-constructed safety goals that then provide the vision and direction for our future safety planning work with the family.
I've tried to keep this as brief as possible (truly; you should see how much I left out!), but I'm conscious that it's still pretty long for a blog. Hope you've been able to sit and relax with a cup of tea while you were reading it :)
Feel free to get in touch if you would like to discuss this process in any more detail and for further information about danger statements and safety goals, please see the "Partnering for Safety" booklet in my bookshop. And if this is one of the first of my blogs that you are reading and you would like to subscribe to future blogs, please return to the top of the page and subscribe by entering your email address in the right hand column.
Wishing you all the best in your work with families.
Mutually-Constructed Danger Statements
In my blog last week, I introduced the family roadmap process, which is a process to help elicit the views and ideas of family members, in preparation for collaborative safety planning. In describing the family roadmap process, I talked about the importance of working with families to develop mutually-constructed danger statements and safety goals. I’ve received a number of inquiries about how to best do that, and so that's going to be the focus of the next few blogs. Today’s blog is all about danger statements and then next week’s blog will explore safety goals.
First a little bit of background. If you are familiar with safety planning, you will know that an essential first step in the creation of a comprehensive safety plan is the identification of the danger statements (what everyone is worried might happen to the children in the care of the family if nothing changes) and the safety goals (what everyone would need to see happening within the family to be confident that the children will be safe in the future). With family and safety network members, these danger statements and safety goals provide a structure for important but difficult conversations to occur. With skilful questioning, they also help family members and professionals begin to move toward joint understanding and agreement about the nature and purpose of our work together.
It is these danger statements and safety goals that provide direction for the safety plan.
And the following point is one that I can’t emphasize strongly enough (see it in bold and flashing text): For families to meaningfully participate in the creation of a detailed safety plan, they need to have participated in the development of the danger statements and safety goals that provide this direction to the safety planning process.
In my work with organisations and workers, I am always being asked for more detail about how to best do this with families. Below is an overview of the process I usually use to develop mutually-constructed danger statements and the safety goals with families.
Process to Develop Mutually-Constructed Danger Statements and Safety Goals
In written form, this process can be broken down into a number of steps:
As I mentioned above, in this blog I will focus on the process of developing mutually-constructed danger statements, looking in detail at steps 2 – 4 above. If you would like to read further background information about danger statements and how to write danger statements that capture your own view (step 1 above), the “Partnering for Safety Assessment and Planning Framework Booklet” (which is available from the bookshop section of my website) contains extensive information on this.
Eliciting the family’s views (and the safety network if they involved at this point)
Below is a questioning approach that you can use to elicit the parents’ views on the future dangers and to share the agency’s views:
For new cases:
For ongoing cases/children in care:
Developing mutually-constructed danger statements:
Once you have elicited the parents’/family’s views about the future dangers and shared your views, the process is then one of working together to create one set of danger statements that can be used in working together to build future safety for the children. Again, we are using a questioning approach to involve family/safety network members in the process of combining everyone’s views to create one set of danger statements. Try to make this process as visual as possible, with everything being written down in a way that everyone can see and work through together (eg. whiteboard or large sheets of paper).
As you can see from the suggested questioning process above, while the danger statements can be developed collaboratively with parents/family members, this doesn’t mean that everyone has to agree on all of the statements of future danger. What is important is that everyone understands each other’s views about the future dangers and can recognise that addressing these identified dangers is the purpose of the child protection intervention. What is also important is that the parents (and safety network members if they are involved at this point) have participated in constructing the danger statements so that they are more likely to feel able to fully participate in the development of a detailed safety plan to address these dangers.
I hope that this blog has been useful and please feel free to leave a comment or send me an email if you have any questions or comments. Next week’s blog will focus on developing mutually-constructed safety goals.
If you would like to continue receiving my blogs, please return to the top of the page and subscribe by entering your email address in the right hand column.
Wishing you all the best in your work with families.
Hi everyone. I'd like to introduce you to a new process that I have recently developed. The “Family Roadmap” is a highly participatory, family-centred process that is designed to help elicit the views and ideas of family members (and their safety networks), in preparation for detailed, collaborative safety planning. This collaborative assessment process can help to create a platform of shared understanding, which is necessary for professionals and families to then be able to work together to develop effective safety plans for children.
For families and their safety networks to be meaningfully involved in creating a safety plan, they must first be able in participate in a comprehensive and balanced assessment that focuses on what is happening in the family and what needs to happen in the future to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the children. The more that the family and their safety network are involved in the assessment process, the more likely it is that the family will have a sense of ownership of the safety plan and that the detailed safety plan will be achievable and relevant to the family.
Eliciting family’s views can be a difficult task for child protection professionals, particularly given that we are working in a context where family members may be angry, may have little trust in professionals and may feel anxious about the possible consequences of speaking openly. The ‘Family Roadmap’ process has been designed to help families and child protection professionals with this challenging work.
The “Family Roadmap” process is a visual process that takes place up on a wall, on a large table or on the floor and can be developed with one person, a couple or a whole group (family and safety network, for example). What’s important is that everyone who is involved in the process can see everything that is being recorded in the ‘roadmap’, so that they have the greatest possible opportunity to participate in the process. This high level of participation is the other key characteristic of the “Family Roadmap” process, as family members and safety network members are actively involved in writing and creating the family roadmap.
The ‘roadmap’ process starts by asking the family to describe a vision of what family life is like (or would be like) at its best, and this is written on a large sheet of paper and put up on the right hand side of the wall (or table). After the family have described a rich picture of life at its best, it is then often easier for them to be open in identifying what family life is like (or has been like) at its worst, which is the second step in the Family Roadmap process. These two descriptions are then placed a distance apart on the wall (or floor or table) and a scale is created between these two positions.
For readers who are familiar with the “Partnering for Safety” approach or “Signs of Safety” approach, you will recognise the connection between safety goals and ‘life at its best’ and between danger statements and ‘life at its worst’. The beginning of the family roadmap process can be used to develop the danger statements and safety goals collaboratively with the family, or if this has already happened, the collaborative danger statements and safety goals can be used in place of ‘life at its best’ and ‘life at its worst’ at each end of the family roadmap.
The process then involves the family creating a visual narrative of the journey they have already taken, from when things were at their worst for this family to where they are at present, and then a future journey toward their vision of how things would be in their family and for their children if life was at its best.
The family roadmap process is divided into a number of steps, which can all be completed in one session or can be worked through over a number of sessions. Within each step, the participants are invited to write each piece of information that has been identified on a piece of paper and to stick it on the roadmap (or the facilitator can write it on the wall).
The steps in the “family roadmap” process elicit the following information:
I have written the family roadmap process up in more detail in a booklet, which is available through my website. I'm also in the process of finishing off a training video, which shows the use of the family roadmap process with a family, and you will be able to access that from my website in the future.
Wishing you all the best in your work with families!
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