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.
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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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