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
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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.
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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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