Safety Assessment and Case Closure in Child Protection
When should a family’s child protection case be closed? That is a difficult decision to make.
Generally, there are three reasons for a family to receive ongoing services from a child protection agency: (1) safety threats in the home, (2) high or very high risk of future incidents of abuse or neglect, or (3) a combination of the two. So, when a worker is faced with the decision to close a family’s case, progress toward mitigating risk and
the resolution of any safety threats must both be considered.
The Structured Decision Making® (SDM)
risk reassessment is used to help evaluate risk reduction from the initial risk assessment throughout the life of a case and guides decisions around when a case can be closed. However, to be certain that all safety threats are resolved prior to case closure, the SDM®
safety assessment should also be used.
The safety assessment helps workers determine if safety threats—behaviors or conditions that, when present in a family’s home, indicate danger of immediate harm or maltreatment to a child—are present. It also guides a worker’s decision on whether the child may remain in the home, if emergency services are needed to eliminate the threat of immediate harm, or if the child must be protectively placed. The safety assessment is initially completed at the first face-to-face visit with a family, and safety continues to be assessed throughout a case. If safety threats change according to the thresholds of the safety assessment, a new safety assessment is completed.
When the time comes to close a family’s case after a child has been reunified and the home has stabilized, or risk has been reduced in order to close a case, no safety threats should remain. The resolution of all identified safety threats should be carefully documented in a closing safety assessment, case notes, or case closure summary before closing a family’s child protection case.