A boy's hand thrust forward towards the camera

Signs of Safety glossary of terms

Here is a brief glossary of terms to help you navigate your way through the terminology used in Signs of Safety.

A | C | D | E |G | H | M | N | P | R | S | T | W

Appreciative Inquiry

This is a solution-focused conversation about a piece of work someone feels they’ve done well. These conversations include sets of questions that elicit a thoughtful response about the work, amplify details in the response, and ascribe meaning to the person’s actions and learning.

A solution focussed EARS (Elicit, Amplify, Reflect, Start Over) approach to questioning when working with families.

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Complicating Factors

Actions, behaviours, circumstances and events in and around the family, child, carers, and by professionals that make it more difficult to address the safety, success or wellbeing concerns.

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Danger Statement

Describes the hurt, injury, abuse or neglect statutory professionals (and family and other professionals where they share the concerns) believe is likely to happen to the child/children if nothing in the family changes. Danger statements need to convey the seriousness of the worries and be written in behaviourally specific plain language (the family’s own language wherever possible) so they are understandable to the family. Where there is a dispute about the worries between the professionals and the family the danger statement should include this dispute. A danger statement is always paired with a safety goal and the set includes a safety scale.

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Existing Safety

Describes the things that the people around the child, including the parents and the child themselves, have done to keep the child safe when the danger has been present.

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Genogram and Ecomap

A map of all participants including the child, parents and extended family (genogram), friends and professionals for example, teachers. GP (Ecomap).

Use at first contact and expand with the safety network and the development of the safety plan.

Group Supervision

Structured team learning builds depth of understanding through the sharing of successes and struggles.

A weekly 90 minute group supervision involving all team members is ideal to create a continuous learning culture.

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Describes specific behaviours of the parents or caregivers for the child and the impact of the behaviours on the child. For adolescents or older children, harm can be caused by the child/adolescent’s own behaviours.

Harm Matrix

Think through the detail and the seriousness of the child at risk.

Use it to prepare and support the danger statement.

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Three column assessment framework for mapping danger statements, safety goals and safety statements.

Use it to involve all stakeholders in a continuous assessment process throughout the life of the case.

Miracle Question

The miracle question (and versions of it) is the central solution-focused technique for getting people to think through what their preferred future looked like when their life was not controlled by the problem, and exactly what they’d like their life to be.

My Three Houses and Variations (Fairies/Wizards/Safety House)

Documents what the child is worried about, what is good in their lives and what they want.

Should be used early in the case assessment and used to review progress with the child.

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Refers to a safety network, support network or other helpful people that have natural connections to the family that parents and children have brought together to help them accomplish their goals. The safety network is the people parents and children have brought around their family to help them keep and accomplish goals, especially those that keep identified dangers from happening.

Network building

Helping a family identify and invite the people they think can best help them accomplish their goals. Signs of Safety has a range of tools to assist practitioners in this task. Family Finding is sometimes used to mean network building.

Next Steps

The immediate next actions that will be taken to build future safety for the child. Next steps describe the best ideas we have right now about what will move us closer to our goals, including creating safety around identified dangers.

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Practice Framework

Defines the values, principles, skills and methods that are used within a particular practice system.

Practice Model

Describes a specific, defined way of undertaking a particular children’s services process. Thus, Family Group Conferencing is a practice model for leading child protection meetings with professionals, families and their network and Signs of Safety is a practice model for undertaking the entire child protection casework process.

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Relationship Questions

Solution-focused way to ask a person to answer a question from another person’s perspective in order to better inform their own perspective.

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Is a strength demonstrated as protection (relative to the danger) over time.

Safety Circles and Network Finding Matrix

Tools to help children and parents determine who should be involved in the safety network.

To be used as soon as safety planning commences.

Safety Goal

Describes the behaviours and actions children’s services needs to see in the day to day life of the child to be satisfied the child will be safe enough to close the case. Must be paired with a danger statement. Avoid saying how safety will be created, wherever possible leaving this detail to be determined by the parents and their support network.

Safety Journal

Is a Signs of Safety® tool codesigned by parents and their workers and completed by parents, their naturally occurring network and sometimes children themselves to show everyone when and how the safety plan is being followed and to document any concerns parents and the safety network have.

Safety Network

A map of all the active participants and their roles in the safety plan.

To be used at the start to find and involve everyone connected to the parents and children.

Safety Object

Is a Signs of Safety® method whereby a child chooses an object that they can use to show parents, safety network members, and professionals with everyday involvement in the child’s life that they are worried about their safety at home.

Safety Planning

Is a specific set of rules and arrangements created by the parents and support people that describe how the family will live its everyday life to show the children, the family’s own network, and the statutory authorities that the children will be safe in the future.

The action plan that describes who will do what to keep the child safe.

Draft at case commencement and update whenever new dangers are identified.

Scaling Question

Solution-focused method question that is used with clients/service users to elicit their judgment of their circumstances. A scaling question asks for a judgment on a scale between 0 and 10, where 10 defines that the goal or preferred future is fully present and 0 describes the problem or what’s least wanted is dominant. Regardless of the number given, strengths, resources, successes, and solutions can be identified by asking for all the things that led the person to give a number that high. Even when the number is 0, asking what kept the person from giving a higher number will often bring out some good things.

Documents and scales the critical issues to be resolved by the family before they take ownership of the safety plan.

Use at all contacts, visits and meetings to assess progress until case closure.

Signs of Safety Map

A written risk assessment tool that addresses four questions through seven analysis categories. Three questions head up each of the three columns of the map: what are we worried about? what’s working well? what needs to happen? The fourth question involves a zero to 10 judgement scale regarding the safety of the children. The seven analysis categories are located on the map within the three columns: harm, danger, complicating factors in the worries column; existing strengths and existing safety in the what’s working well column and safety goal and next steps in what needs to happen column.

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The timeframe for all the steps within the trajectory. The timeline is created in negotiation between the statutory agency and the family with consideration to how long the safety plan needs to be demonstrated to satisfy everyone the plan will be maintained following case closure and considering the reality of what each can do in the given timeframe.

Trajectory plan

Describes the pathway or plan detailing all the steps that need to be taken and who needs to do what, to create safety for the child so the case can be closed. The trajectory provides a clear vision for everyone about what needs to happen.

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What Are We Worried About?

Is one of the columns in the three-column map. This column includes the analysis categories for harm, danger, and complicating factors.

What Needs To Happen?

Is one of the columns in the three column map. The analysis categories in this column are safety goals and next steps are in this column.

What’s Working Well?

Is one of the columns in the three column map. The analysis categories of existing strengths and existing safety are in this column.

Words and Pictures

These stories describe the good times, the reasons a social worker is working with the family, the reasons children have had to live away from their immediate family, when that has happened, and who is doing what now and in the future to make sure the children are safe and their needs are met.

To be used in all cases where safety planning is required or children are taken into Care.

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