The Safety Intervention
Safety concepts provide the foundation for safety intervention.
Safety concepts are applied differently at different times
during safety intervention
Safety intervention must be sufficiently flexible and relevant
to address safety
issues as they change over time.
noticed from time to time that sometimes confusion seems
to exist concerning the application of safety intervention
across the CPS process. Part of this lack of clarity seems
associated with figuring out how safety concepts apply as
case conditions and safety intervention issues change over
time. This month we attempt to clarify what should happen
in safety intervention; what concepts are involved and when
it should happen.
Intake - Receipt of the CPS
collection at intake is the first safety intervention responsibility.
While the intake interview may focus on specific events and
circumstances related to alleged maltreatment, attempts at
information collection should be broad enough to consider
child vulnerability, caregiver functioning and the identification
of present danger or family conditions that conceivably could
represent foreseeable danger. Clearly reporters often do
not possess sufficient information to allow for a high degree
of confidence about the presence of safety threats but the
intent of CPS should be to assure that efforts occur to seek
out such information.
and determining whether there are any indications of threats
to safety within the information reported is the second safety
intervention responsibility at intake. Presumably, to the
informed intake worker, this occurs simultaneously as the
information is being provided by the reporter. However, after
the report has been completed and as a part of the screening
activity, certainly identifying information consistent with
present or foreseeable danger is a necessary decision step
leading to the third responsibility at intake.
a judgment about the prioritization for assignment to investigation/initial
assessment is the third safety intervention responsibility
occurring during intake. The prioritization decision is based
on present and foreseeable danger. If information gathered
from the reporter indicates that present danger exists then
the prioritization decision should be for an immediate face
to face response. If foreseeable danger is identified or
suggested within the reported information then the response
decision should be for a response within the same day or
within 24 hours depending on the nature of the reported information,
the location and condition of the child and access threatening
people have to the child.
The Initial Contact with
that present danger is the most obvious form of a threat
to child safety. We have described it as transparent, happening
right before your eyes. Upon first contact with a family
and during the first visit, it is crucial to judge whether
present danger is occurring in the home and family. We emphasize
this responsibility here at initial contact but certainly
want to state that during any involvement with a family initial
assessment staff and ongoing case management staff should
be alert to present danger. So, for now let us consider assessing
for present danger as the first responsibility at initial
second safety intervention responsibility at initial contact
is dependent on the first. If present danger is identified
at any time during the initial contact (or for that matter
at any time) information collection and other activities
should be suspended in order to take protective action in
order to stop or control the present danger. This responsibility
includes consideration of the caregivers’interests
and family resources respective of providing protection so
that the initial assessment can proceed and the children
will be safe.
third responsibility is very important and actually is an
enduring responsibility throughout the safety intervention.
At any time that a child is placed as a part of a protective
action or within a general safety plan strategy, you must
assess the safety of the home where the child is placed.
This, of course, includes evaluating the placement providers
whether kin or foster parents.
fourth responsibility, if placement is involved as the protective
plan, is immediately facilitating caregiver –child
visitation. Maybe you've not thought of caregiver –child
visitation as a safety responsibility. We believe that it
is fundamental to effective safety intervention. And we want
to emphasize here that it is of paramount importance that
visitation be an active part of safety intervention throughout
the time a child is placed. So we conclude here that when
children are placed visitation is a safety intervention responsibility
that transcends the various CPS process steps.
safety models instruct staff to assess safety during the
initial contact(s) with a family and establish a safety plan
if needed within a prescribed period of time -- say 5 days.
The spirit of this rule apparently is to focus worker attention
on the importance of making judgments about safety threats
and taking action in a timely manner. Our point of view is
different. We believe that taking action should immediately
follow the identification of a safety threat. In other words
as soon as you judge that a safety threat exists you should
take immediate action to establish a means of protection
-- such as a protective action or protective plan when present
danger exists and a safety plan when you've fully evaluated
and identified foreseeable danger.
we leave the initial contact let's consider the purpose of
the protective action or protective plan so it is clear what
it is and how it is different from a safety plan. Since present
danger is immediately obvious action must be taken even prior
to knowing much about the family or for that matter knowing
whether the present danger is evidence of foreseeable danger
as well or an aberration in terms of not typical of family
functioning. When present danger exists there is no time
to continue extensive information collection in order to
fully understand whether foreseeable danger also exists and
how it is occurring in the family. The protective plan is
a simple, straightforward action taken to suspend what is
going on in order to allow for the completion of the full
initial assessment. Typically it involves a placement usually
with someone close to the family. A safety plan is best when
it is based on a full initial assessment that provides the
sort of understanding that informs an effective, robust means
for controlling and managing safety threats in the least
intrusive manner possible.
present danger is identified at the initial contact you should
feel compelled to accelerate the initial assessment by attempting
to collect all necessary information as swiftly as possible.
Expedience reduces worry and upset delays produce for families;
shortens the time where protective plans are needed; and
arrives promptly at reasonable and informed decisions and
During the Investigation or
it is certainly possible to collect enough information during
an initial contact to begin making informed judgments about
a family including the presence of foreseeable danger, it
often is unlikely. We have described foreseeable danger as
more elusive; as related to how caregivers and families function;
as something that is building toward having severe effects
on a child. Identifying foreseeable danger requires exploration
and understanding as well as interpretation about what is
happening in a family and what it is likely to result.
the initial assessment the safety intervention responsibility
is to collect information from family members and those who
are familiar with the family that will result in as full
an understanding as possible concerning the presence of safety
threats (foreseeable danger) and the nature of caregiver
protective capacities. We advocate gathering sufficient information
in 6 discrete areas.
extent of maltreatment
surrounding the maltreatment
functioning including vulnerability
threats (from all models nationally) can be revealed through
sufficient information gathering and understanding related
to these 6 information areas.
any time during an initial assessment -- even when everything
is not completed -- when foreseeable danger is identified
safety management should immediately proceed. A safety plan
should be established. Why is that? Think of the safety threshold
criteria. Remember that one criterion is concerned with imminence.
Foreseeable danger is likely to occur soon! That means that
taking action to control foreseeable danger must happen immediately.
At the Conclusion of the Investigation
or Initial Assessment
least unofficially an initial assessment is complete when
sufficient information has been collected to make decisions
like substantiation, risk of maltreatment and whether to
send the case onto ongoing CPS case management. If the presence
of safety issues has not occurred prior to the completion
of the initial assessment then it is imperative that an official
safety assessment occur at this time. This is the first safety
intervention responsibility at the conclusion of initial
assessment. The responsibility includes completion of a safety
assessment which officially indicates the specific foreseeable
danger that exists or confirms that no foreseeable danger
second safety intervention responsibility is to analyze the
information collected during initial assessment –specifically
information related to the foreseeable danger threats –in
order to judge what is required to establish a sufficient
safety plan. There are analysis questions that can be included
in this analysis:
are safety threats/foreseeable danger threats occurring
in the family?
a caregiver or the family at large manage and control
safety threats/foreseeable danger threats without direct
assistance from CPS?
kind of CPS managed safety plan is appropriate for this
family? (e.g. in home; combination of in home and out
of home; out of home)
safety responses, services, actions and providers are
required to adequately control the safety threats?
written about safety assessment and analysis of the safety
threats as if they are two distinctly separate functions.
What we know is they pretty much occur as one process. You
reach a conclusion about the presence of safety threats which
flows immediately into analyzing how they are operating and
what would control them.
next safety intervention responsibility is to put in place
a safety plan that is sufficient based on the analysis of
safety threats. This responsibility must include dialogue
with and involvement of the caregivers and other family members
as appropriate. It is likely that such worker –client
interaction concerned with planning for protection of the
children begins toward the conclusion of the initial assessment
and becomes more focused at the point that you are attempting
to create an effective safety plan. While safety plans do
not depend on caregivers for implementation, they should
include caregivers’interests, acknowledge their role
and be sensitive to their feelings through the process of
safety assessment, safety planning and implementation of
the safety plan.
a protective plan or a safety plan is in place prior to the
conclusion of an initial assessment. Reasonably every thing
that has been described here should occur again in terms
of confirming judgments made earlier, factoring in all that
is understood about the family and re-evaluating the sufficiency
of protective action that has been taken prior to the conclusion
of the initial assessment. It is possible in some cases that
protective actions taken during the initial assessment can
be dismissed given full understanding gained from the initial
assessment. It is important to emphasize that when a protective
action or protective plan has been created during an initial
contact and has endured throughout the initial assessment,
it should be replaced by a safety plan if threats have been
judged to exit or should be dismissed. Protective plans should
not continue beyond the conclusion of the initial assessment.
close this segment by identifying the important responsibility
for establishing conditions for return when children have
been removed at any time during an initial assessment and
remain in care as the case transfers to ongoing CPS case
management. Conditions for return establish the benchmark
that is used by ongoing CPS staff and the caregivers to direct
decision making for reunification. Establishing conditions
for return is the responsibility of the initial assessment
worker and reasonably can be contained with court orders
concerned with the placement.
When a Case is Transferred
from Investigation to Ongoing CPS
primary safety intervention responsibility that occurs when
a case is transferred from initial assessment to ongoing
case management is concerned with safety management. The
responsibility, which is shared between the initial assessment
worker and the ongoing CPS worker, is to assure that the
assessment of safety threats and the safety plan are fully
communicated to and understood by the worker receiving the
case. In addition to transmission of necessary documentation,
this responsibility could involve face to face deliberation
between the workers involved; with caregivers and family
members; and with people involved as providers in the safety
exchange and interaction should occur promptly upon case
transfer but certainly within a week. This assures that the
transfer for oversight of the safety plan is well understood
During the Case Plan Assessment
a case is transferred to ongoing CPS case management it is
usual for the beginning work to be focused on assessing the
family in order to form a case plan. The important safety
intervention responsibility at this stage is to evaluate
caregiver protective capacity. Presumably information coming
from initial assessment lays a foundation for considering
caregiver protective capacities that are enhanced and those
that are diminished. While you might study lots of different
things with respect to the kind of case plan assessment that
you complete, your responsibility regarding safety intervention
is to be certain to gain a clear understanding of the nature,
quality and effectiveness of caregiver protective capacities.
Within this assessment is the need to identify which diminished
caregiver protective capacities should be addressed in the
case plan and to consider how enhanced caregiver protective
capacities can be deployed to support and encourage caregiver
participation and progress.
At the Case Plan
Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) requires that safety
issues be addressed in case plans. So, the safety intervention
responsibility at this point is to build a case plan with
caregivers and the family that contains a centerpiece devoted
to addressing diminished caregiver protective capacities.
Evidence of this responsibility being met will be apparent
to the extent that some, pertinent case plan goals are specific
to caregiver protective capacities; that services are identified
relevant to facilitating the enhancement of those diminished
caregiver protective capacities; and that behavioral descriptions
are apparent as basis for measuring progress toward enhancement.
During Service Provision
safety intervention responsibilities for ongoing CPS case
management begin when a case is transferred and are concurrent
with all other case management activities that are occurring.
In other words this is not a linear sort of matter that begins
following implementation of the case plan. We write about
it here as a separate step but keep in mind that this is
a continual thing from case transfer to case closure.
essential safety intervention responsibility during service
provision is oversight of the safety plan. It is safety management.
It involves routinely, frequently considering safety threats.
Are they still apparent? Are they changing? What affects
them? Are there new threats? It requires rather constant
interaction with caregivers, family members and people involved
in the safety plan. The purpose of the contact is to assure
that the safety plan is being implemented appropriately and
that nothing is eroding its effectiveness. Additionally,
this responsibility includes being vigilant in considering
the need to make adjustments to the safety plan. Can intrusion
be reduced? Should different services or providers be installed?
Can the family assume more responsibility?
mentioned earlier, evaluating safety in placement families
is a constant concern in safety intervention. While it is
required that such safety assessments occur every six months,
it is good practice that it be a part of routine consideration
in all contacts with placement homes and providers.
as a reminder, let's mention here that caregiver –child
visitation is a continuing safety intervention responsibility
when children are in placement.
other safety intervention responsibility is concerned with
assessing caregiver participation and progress related to
the case plan. During service provision note must be taken
about whether “treatment”is working with respect
to enhancing caregiver protective capacities.
At the Case Evaluation
policies require a case evaluation of some sort at least
every six months. Often these are tied to administrative
reviews associated with placement cases. We prefer that case
evaluations occur every 90 days following the implementation
of a case plan. It just makes sense to be tuned into whether
people are participating, providers are suitable and plans
are working so that they can be adjusted in a timely way.
safety intervention responsibilities at case evaluation are
two-fold. First, you must measure progress. ASFA requires
it. You must judge whether progress is occurring with respect
to enhancement of caregiver protective capacities. This is
incredibly important when it comes to placement cases. Whether
termination of parental rights occurs within the limits of
the law depends on caregivers making progress toward resuming
their protective parental role. Big stakes! This responsibility
for measurement involves more than checking on caregiver
progress. It includes judging whether plans and providers
are right for what is needed and working appropriately. It
includes considering whether the target(s) of the case plan
are the right ones. Did you and the caregivers select the
right protective capacities to address? All of this, of course,
results in a judgment about proceeding as planned or adjusting
you make conclusions about the suitability of the safety
plan that remains in place. The spirit of this responsibility
is to determine whether intrusiveness can be reduced and
if caregiver responsibility and involvement can be increased.
When a case evaluation occurs you assess the prospect of
adjusting the safety plan: confirm a current one; decrease
intensity; or increase intensity.
decided to address reunification by itself. The reunification
decision is a part of the safety intervention responsibility
occurring at the case evaluation concerned with judging the
adequacy of the safety plan. First off, we believe that reunification
exists within a process that begins when a child is placed
and is officially concluded at a “formal”case
evaluation. We put quotes around formal because we don’t
want to suggest that it can only occur at some official,
policy required case evaluation but can occur when case conditions
indicate that it is appropriate. But the decision should
happen as a discrete, point in time sort of event; thus,
we refer to formal. The process of reunification begins at
placement and is formally established based on the conditions
for return. The conditions for return guide the ongoing case
manager and caregivers to know when the time has come that
a child can be returned home. For the record, conditions
of return do not require caregiver change necessarily; conditions
for return requires specific circumstances that must exist
within the home for the child to be returned.
later article will focus entirely on reunification, but let's
briefly summarize the safety intervention responsibilities
of caregivers and family members in the decision
that conditions for return have been met or exist;
of how caregiver progress contributes to reunification
of caregiver -- child visitation and its influence on
assessment of caregivers and home
or increase of an in home safety plan
plan for child's return to home
of safety alerts
At Case Closure
intervention responsibilities are not completed until certain
assessments and conclusions are reached. Here we make no
distinction about whether safety threats have disappeared
during ongoing case management or whether safety plans have
been dismissed some time prior to the question of closing
for the record, it is important to emphasize that in no instance
should a case be closed if a child is not safe.
the safety intervention responsibilities at case closure
are governed by the definition for child safety.
child is considered safe when there are no threats to child
safety or sufficient caregiver protective capacities
exist to protect a child from threats.
first safety intervention responsibility at case closure
is safety assessment. A judgment is required concerning the
absence of safety threats or the presence of safety threats
(e.g. how they are occurring; what’s influencing them;
how they remain.) If safety threats are absence this judgment
includes considering the likelihood they will remain absence.
second responsibility is concerned with judging caregiver
protective capacities. Are they sufficient to protect against
threats that continue to exist or might emerge? Are protective
capacities well established and robust? Do caregivers fully
embrace and act effectively in their protective role?
final safety intervention responsibility is to review the
need for a “safety net”followed by establishing
one as appropriate. Now a safety net is different than a
safety plan. We've said if a safety plan is needed the case
should not be closed. A safety net refers to arrangements,
connections, supports within the family network or community
that can be created, facilitated, reinforced that reassure
the caregiver and provide resources and assistance.
interest has been to demonstrate in as brief a manner as
possible that safety intervention is comprehensive and relies
on the application of concepts, practices and decision making
differentially in accordance with CPS and family circumstances
not fully discussed, we hope you've noticed that we are in
favor of vigilance in safety intervention; flexibility related
to seeking to adjust intrusion downward; and caregiver inclusion
in planning and in experiencing an ever increasing return
to fulfilling his/her rightful role as the child's protector.