“Safe with a plan.” These four words are probably some of the most anxiety provoking for child welfare workers when making a decision about child safety. The other (one-word) options seem much more straightforward:
Safe. No dangers are present that could imminently impact the child.
Unsafe. The child will be brought into protective placement where, in theory, he or she will be safe from danger.
However, “Safe with a plan” means that dangers are indeed present, yet the child can remain in the home. This decision, as with any in child welfare, is not made lightly. While danger has been identified, “with a plan” indicates that the danger will be mitigated by protective capacities and safety interventions, which also are present in the same household. Developing a plan to address the dangers and maintain safety is then dependent on the child protection worker collaborating with the family to use the protective capacities and safety interventions in meaningful and effective ways.
The Structured Decision Making® (SDM)
safety assessment helps to guide this very difficult decision. When used correctly, and in combination with other practice skills coached by NCCD staff, the SDM®
safety assessment can help workers make good decisions and take the lead on building rigorous and comprehensive safety plans. These plans should inspire confidence in both workers and families that children will be safe as they continue to live at home.