§2 ch9: Safety Analysis and Risk Assessment
9.3 Safety Planning
If one or more safety factors have met the safety threshold criteria, the safety decision is "unsafe" and a safety intervention(s) is required to control the threat of danger. The least intrusive safety intervention which will effectively control the threat of danger should be used. The most intrusive safety intervention is protective custody, used only when less intrusive safety interventions that will control the threat of danger cannot be developed.
Safety Plan - The safety plan is a written, mutually agreed upon, arrangement between the worker and the family that establishes how threats of danger to child safety will be managed.
This may be a single safety action or a collection of safety interventions depending on how each child is impacted by the threat and how the threat operates within the family system. The single purpose of the safety plan is to control or manage threats of danger. If any other purpose is included, it may not be a safety plan.
Information collection, safety assessment, safety analysis and safety planning should all be connected throughout the life of the case. A thorough analysis of the safety components will help the worker determine if a child is safe or unsafe, and will also give the worker direction and purpose in the development of safety interventions to control identified threats of danger as well as linked to long term treatment goals to enhance caregiver protective capacity and a reduction of the need for outside intervention.
The safety plan is separate from custody or visitation orders. (Only a Judge has the power to issue such orders). Existing custody or visitation orders should be considered when developing a safety plan with a family and be cautious about interfering with custody arrangements; however the primary concern is always the safety of the child.
Development of a safety plan should:
- Involve the caregiver and relevant family members in the development of the safety plan as much as possible.
- Utilize the family’s own protective resources first.
- Utilize the least intrusive interventions that will control or manage the threat of danger.
- Utilize interventions that have a direct and logical connection between plan tasks and the way threats operate in the family.
- Evaluate the need for the alleged perpetrator, who is not the primary caregiver, to be included in the safety planning process, by considering the nature of the alleged perpetrator's involvement with the family and his or her relationship to the threats of danger.
- Assess the reliability of sources or providers of the action or supports. (Informal: friend, relative, neighbor or formal: school, agency, program…etc.)
- Assure that people and services identified in the safety plan are accessible and available when threats are present.
- Develop interventions to accommodate time elements (for example, weekends and holidays may require different actions than daytime hours during the week, etc.).
- Develop overlapping interventions to accommodate scheduling for the source or provider or to address times when the threat is active.
- Develop protective interventions (short term that immediately controls the threat) to address present danger threats or safety interventions that address impending threats. (Threats that are present but only active at certain times or under certain circumstances)
- Cultural Diversity - Safety intervention is best when it considers that specific behavior, action, choices, emotions, relationships and so forth are best understood within the context of the family’s culture.
9.3.1 Safety Plan (CD-18) Completion
The Safety Plan is composed of the following sections:
- Describe the Threat(s) of Danger to a Vulnerable Child(ren)
- Identify the Caregiver Protective Capacities (Sufficient/Insufficient)
- Describe the Safety Intervention(s)
- Plan for Monitoring the Safety Plan/Date of initial follow-up
- Describe the Threat(s) of Danger to a Vulnerable Child(ren)
Specify what threats of danger exist. This description should include how the threat to each vulnerable child exists uniquely within the given family. It should include timeframes, triggers and specific circumstances in which the threat of danger is or becomes active. This elaboration is critical because it establishes who is to be protected and what must be controlled.
- Caregiver Protective Capacities (Sufficient/Insufficient)
Specify the caregiver protective capacity necessary to control the identified threat of danger that is insufficient or diminished. Considering the cognitive, emotional and behavioral aspects of the caregiver’s protective capacity that is lacking, the worker can put in place safety interventions to substitute for the diminished protective capacity until the caregiver can be restored to a protective role.
- Describe the Safety Intervention(s)
Identify how the threat of danger will be managed including by whom, under what circumstances and agreements and in accordance with specification of time requirements, availability, accessibility and suitability of those involved.
- Consider caregiver awareness and acknowledgement of threats of danger and caregiver acceptance and willingness for the plan to be implemented.
- Caregivers should understand that the focus of the safety plan to control the safety threat which is dependent on the compliance of participants and the effectiveness of the intervention in controlling the threat of danger.
- Caregivers should understand that safety plans may be adjusted or modified in response to changes in the conditions, ability of protective sources to perform actions as agreed to according to the safety intervention or to make the plan more effective in controlling the threat of danger.
- The safety plan is designed along a continuum of the least to most intrusive intervention. The worker should consider the least intrusive intervention that will control the threat of danger.
The least intrusive interventions are in-home interventions that utilize the family’s own protective resources or exist within the family’s network.
- Family protective resources are personal; tangible and intangible assets that exist within the family network that are available and accessible for use in a temporary protective intervention or a safety intervention which contribute to controlling threats and managing child’s safety.
- The family network refers to all the individuals and social connections with which caregivers and their children are associated. A family network can include relatives; neighbors; friends; professionals involved with the family; acquaintances connected through formal means such as church members; and members of the community in which caregivers live. How wide the family network circle expands is interpreted by caregivers in accordance with their perceptions about personal and social proximity.
The most intrusive intervention is out-of-home placement and is only utilized it less intrusive interventions cannot be developed or agreed upon that will control the threat of danger.
Generally protective interventions that address impending danger should meet the following criteria:
- Immediately available – can be deployed right now and in sufficient quantity.
- Action oriented – services that are active and focused with respect to safety factors, not change or treatment related.
- Flexible access – services that are located in acceptable proximity and can be called upon for immediate response.
- Immediate impact – services that do what they are supposed to do as they are delivered and achieve the objective…keep children safe.
- No promissory commitments – Safety Interventions will never rely on parental promises to stop the threatening behavior, for example, will stop drinking, or will always supervise the child. Since a criterion for a threat of danger is something out-of-control, it is useless to rely on an out-of-control parent to be in control. Safety interventions should rather provide an alternative action or a third party protective source to assist in controlling the threat of danger.
Here are the safety actions with some examples:
Behavior Management (which might occur while a child remains in his home)
- Out-patient or in-patient medical treatment that provides medical care to control chronic physical conditions which affect behavior associated with foreseeable danger.
- Substance abuse intervention – detoxification or management that controls intake, sobriety, monitors substance abusing behavior and addiction.
- Emergency medical care that treats immediate physical conditions that affect behavior associated with impending danger.
- Emergency mental health care that treats and manages acute mental health conditions that result in behavior associated with impending danger.
- In-home health care that manages health issues affecting caregiver behavior or health concerns affecting the behavior of vulnerable children (both as related to impending danger).
- Supervision and monitoring of caregiver behavior and stress and circumstances that influence caregiver behavior.
- Stress reduction.
- Disincentives, negative/positive reinforcement, alternative behavior options.
Crisis Management (which might occur while a child is in his home)
- Crisis intervention & counseling specifically focused on a crisis situation that is associated with or creating impending danger to a child’s safety.
- Resource acquisition when the lack of resources creates a crisis or obviates the resolution of a crisis associated with impending danger.
- Social Connection (which might occur while a child is in his home)
- Friendly visitor.
- Basic parenting assistance and teaching fundamental parenting skill related to immediate basic care and protection.
- Homemaker services that provide social outlet for family members and are pertinent to family or home issues that are associated with impending danger.
- Home management that provides social outlet for family members and is pertinent to family or home issues that are associated with impending danger.
- Supervision and monitoring that occurs within routine in-home contacts, within social conversations.
- Social support through the use of various forms of social contact formal and informal, with individuals and/or groups, focused and purposeful.
- In-home babysitting that allows for social contact, conversation and support.
Separation (which might occur periodically each week, over weekends, or 24 -7)
- Planned absence of caregivers from the home.
- Respite care.
- Day care that occurs periodically or daily for short periods or all day long.
- After school care.
- Planned activities for the children that take them out of the home for designated periods.
- Child placement: short-term, week-ends, several days, few weeks.
- Out-of-home placement that lasts from weeks to months fits within this action.
Resource Support (which might occur with a child in his home)
- Resource acquisition related specifically to a lack of something that affects child safety.
- Transportation services particularly in reference to an issue associated with a safety threat.
- Employment assistance as an assistance aimed at increasing resources related to child safety issues.
- Housing assistance that seeks a home that replaces one that is directly associated with impending danger to a child’s safety.
Assessment of Protective Sources
For a safety plan to be effective, it requires reliable, available persons to serve as protective sources. To assess the suitability of the person(s) carrying out the safety services or actions within safety plan the protective source must:
- Be fully informed about the threats and associated concerns
- Understand and accept his/her responsibility to protect the child
- Accept and believe the threats exists
- Understand and accept the need for safety intervention
- Be available in terms of time and accessibility
- Be immediately available
- Be aligned with and responsive to CD
- Be trustworthy, dependable, and has no substance use, mental health issues, or other major life issues that may prevent him/her from being protective
- Have a suitable and safe home if the child will be staying there for periods of time
- Plan for Monitoring the Safety Plan
A detailed plan for monitoring a safety plan is a critical piece of safety plan implementation, ongoing assessment of safety plan effectiveness, the need for adjustment and modifications to the plan, the continued presence of threats of danger and ultimately safety plan resolution. It is also important to have a contingency plan for safety providers if they are unable to fulfill their commitment to be protective and a communication plan for monitoring, feedback, and problem solving.
In developing a plan for monitoring a safety plan the worker must consider the following:
- As long as conditions are unsafe (threats of danger exist and caregiver capacity is insufficient to control the threat), safety interventions must be in place.
- When conditions no longer meet the safety threshold criteria, the need for a safety plan is resolved.
- Understanding up front that safety plans must be monitored and may need to be adjusted/modified/added to assure the interventions are effectively in controlling the threat of danger.
The plan for monitoring the safety plan must include:
- Who will be used in the monitoring plan?
- If the worker uses another source to monitor the plan, how, and how often will it be communicated to the worker?
- Date/Time of initial follow up?
- Initial follow up should be based on the nature of the identified threat of danger and interventions implementations.
- Protective actions are short term interventions that must be effective immediately until more information can be gathered and safety interventions can be developed. Initial follow up should be within a day or two.
- All follow initial follow ups shall be made at least within 10 days of the assessment.
- Frequency of monitoring action?
- Frequency should be made according to the situation; no active safety plan should go longer than ten days between monitoring action.
- Monitoring Action – Direct contact with the caregiver, protective resource or child by the worker or a collateral. If the worker is not the monitoring the plan directly, the worker should be updated by the collateral according to the specified plan.
Monitoring will include:
- verification of implementation
- compliance of safety plan participants
- effectiveness of intervention
- credibility, availability and accessibility of protective sources
- flexibility, adjustability of safety interventions that are not controlling the threat of danger
- understanding from the participants that plans must be modified if safety plan is no longer effective in controlling the threat of danger
- understanding that protective actions are short term until more long term plans can be developed
- consider the possibility of revise the safety plan to reduce the level of intrusion
- Being alert to indications that the conditions making the child(ren) unsafe have been resolved. The threat of danger is no longer present. The caregiver has demonstrated protective capacity to manage the threat without the need for intervention. This would trigger a new safety assessment to close out safety interventions. This does not mean that there is not a need for treatment plan to focus on long term, sustainable enhancement of the caregiver’s protective capacity.
9.3.2 A case may not be closed if a vulnerable child is unsafe based on safety threshold criteria.
- Specific and observable means a family condition is observable and can be specifically described or explained; the danger is real; can be seen; can be reported; is evidenced in explicit, unambiguous ways.
- Out of control refers to family conditions that can directly affect a child and are unrestrained; unmanaged; without limits or monitoring; not subject to influence, manipulation or internal power; are out of the family’s control.
- Severity is consistent with anticipated harm that can result in pain, serious injury, disablement, grave/debilitating physical health conditions, acute/grievous suffering, terror, impairment, death.
- Imminence - Likely to occur in the present (present danger) or the near future (impending danger…can become active at any time)
9.3.3 Safety Plan Evaluation
Prior to worker and later the supervisor signing off on a plan, the worker and the supervisor should take a step back and assess the feasibility that the proposed interventions will effectively control the identified threats of danger. The worker and the supervisor should ask:
- Do the safety interventions seem sufficient?
- Are the safety interventions consistent with the purpose of safety planning? (control threats of danger rather that change them)
- Does the level of effort and commitment appear to be sufficient by all parties involved to ensure protection?
- Are there concerns about the time-frames, accessibility or availability related to safety interventions and those involved in the safety plan?
- Is there a sufficient plan for monitoring and verification of compliance of parties involved, and the effectiveness of the interventions in controlling the threats of danger?
- Does the initial time/date for follow up appropriate given the circumstances? Protective actions should have quicker follow up. No timeframe for initial follow up should be longer than 10 days.
- Is the source for monitoring and verification credible and reliable? Ultimately the worker is responsible for assuring that the plan is implemented; executed as agreed; and that all parties involved in the plan are compliant.
- Is there continuity of management/responsibility when cases are transferred from investigator to FCS worker or there is a change in case worker?
- Is the worker alert to changes in the conditions that may warrant adjustment or modifications to the safety plan in order to control the safety threat?
- Is the worker monitoring protective sources who may become unavailable or unreliable.
- Is the worker alert to changes in conditions or composition of the household that create new threats of danger, increase a child’s vulnerability or diminish caregiver protective capacity.
9.3.4 Safety Plan Re-assessment, Readjustment or Modification of Current Safety Interventions
A formal safety assessment begins at initial contact with the family though there are specified mandatory assessment that must be conducted throughout the life of the case; however workers will assess safety informally on an ongoing basis.
Safety interventions should be seen as flexible agreements dependent on the effectiveness in controlling the threat of danger. They should be evaluated, readjusted or modified as needed.
Consideration should be given for utilizing increasingly less intrusive safety plans as a caregiver protective capacity increases. There also may be a need to step up the level of intrusiveness of the safety plan if threats of danger escalate or if caregiver protective capacity becomes diminished. Ultimately all efforts and understanding will be directed toward no intrusion.
9.3.5 Closing out a Safety Plan
When threats of danger are no longer present or the caregiver’s protective capacity is sufficient to control the threat of danger the child is no longer unsafe. Workers will continue to assess safety on an ongoing basis and promote long term changes to family functioning to enhance the caregiver’s capacity to protect the children from threats of danger and thereby eliminate the families need for outside intervention.
9.3.6 Supervisor Safety Plan Approval Process
The Supervisor is a crucial support for the worker in planning, managing and monitoring the appropriateness of the safety plan derived by the worker with the family.
When a reasonable safety plan cannot be agreed upon by the parties involved, the worker should immediately consult with the supervisor regarding alternatives, including:
- Additional guidance or assistance (such as with an FCS consultant or Social Service Specialist); or
- Referral to Juvenile Court when safety factors cannot be remedied otherwise.
- The worker will review the plan with the family, and allow the family to read the information printed on the back side of the CD-18.
The parent/guardian/caregiver or other person involved in the safety plan, will then sign and date the safety plan indicating agreement with the plan.
The worker will sign and date the plan. The worker will review and discuss the plan with the Chief Investigator/Supervisor. The Supervisor will sign/date the plan indicating agreement.
If the Supervisor does not agree with the plan, then a new Safety Plan would need to be developed, or alternate arrangements made to provide for the immediate safety of the children as directed by the supervisor.
The supervisor will also check or list the due date which represents both the date the safety plan expires and the date in which the reassessment is due to occur.
The length of time in which a reassessment should occur should not be longer than the shortest safety intervention end date. If an intervention requires re-evaluation within 48 hours, then the reassessment date should be within that timeframe.
9.3.7 Information for Parent/Caregiver on the Back of the CD-18 Safety Plan
What is a Safety Plan?
A safety plan is a written, mutually agreed upon, arrangement between the worker and the family that establishes how identified threats of danger to child safety will be managed. Once a safety plan has been developed it will continued to be monitored to assure the effectiveness of the plan; that the participants in the safety plan are complying as agreed to in the plan; and that the participants recognize that the safety plan may require modification or adjustment if the interventions are not sufficiently controlling the identified threat of danger. The Safety Plan is not a custody or visitation order. Only a judge has the power to issue such orders.
What are the goals of a Safety Plan?
- To protect the child(ren) from identified threats of danger;
- To make reasonable efforts to address the problems that the family and the Children’s Division have identified as placing the children at risk of removal from the home;
What if there is already a court custody/visitation order in place and I agree to a Safety Plan, but the other parent does not agree to it; am I required to obey the Safety Plan or am I required to obey the Court’s order?
The Safety Plan cannot override a court order. However, a parent may choose to agree to alter his/her custody or visitation to accommodate the safety needs of a child, so long as they understand that all court orders remain effect until they are modified or terminated by a Judge. A person wishing to terminate participation in the plan should notify the Division and the other parties involved in the plan.
What happens if I believe that obeying the custody or visitation order may put my children’s safety at risk?
If you believe obeying the custody or visitation order will place the safety or health of your children at risk, or if you believe your children may have been victims of a crime, you should call law enforcement and/or seek medical attention for the children. You should also report your belief to your attorney and seek legal advice on what further actions should be taken, and the Children’s Division worker involved in the safety planning of your child(ren) should be notified immediately.
What if I change my mind after I agree to a Safety Plan?
The Children’s Division has no power to enforce a Safety Plan or punish someone for violating the plan. If you want to withdraw from the Safety Plan you can do so at any time, however prior to terminating the Safety Plan you should contact Children’s Division Worker involved in the safety planning of your child(ren) immediately. If the Plan is not being followed and the Division has reason to believe that failure to follow a Safety Plan may place the child’s safety, health or welfare at risk, the Division may make a referral to the Juvenile Officer, the Juvenile Court or law enforcement for further action.
Can the Division terminate the Safety Plan?
The Children’s Division may terminate or modify the plan at any time. This may include terminating any services provided by the Division. The Division will notify all participants of this change. The Children’s Division may take any action believed necessary to carry out its duties and responsibilities as provided by law.
What if I have agreed to a Safety Plan, but the other parent either has not agreed to the plan or has violated the terms of the plan?
A Safety Plan is voluntary. The Division has no power to require the other parent to agree to follow a Safety Plan, and has no power to punish the other parent for violating the terms of the plan. If the Division has reason to believe that failure to follow a Safety Plan may place the child’s safety, health or welfare at risk, the Division may make a referral to the Juvenile Officer, the Juvenile Court or law enforcement for further action.
Should I get an order of protection (sometimes known as an “ex-parte order” or a “restraining order”) against the other parent?
Children’s Division employees are not attorneys and they cannot give you legal advice. That is a question that you will need to talk to your attorney about.
What is an order of protection, “ex-parte order” or restraining order”?
These are emergency orders that the court can enter to keep someone who is abusing someone else away from them until the court can hold a hearing to decide what to do. Orders can be entered to protect both adults and children. These orders are only entered for a limited period of time. You can apply for an order of protection at the Courthouse. Again, if you are concerned about the safety of you or your child you should get advice from an attorney about whether an order of protection is right for you.
Should I involve an Attorney?
You have a right to consult with an attorney before agreeing to this plan. The Children’s Division employees are not attorneys and they do not give legal advice.
What if I cannot afford an attorney or do not have an attorney?
You can call the Missouri Bar Lawyer Referral Service at 573-636-3635 for referral information. You can also call the Legal Aid office that serves your area to see if you qualify for free legal advice or services. The contact information for your local office can be accessed via the internet at: http://www.lsmo.org/Home/PublicWeb or you can ask your Children’s Division worker for the number.
9.3.8 Managing Multiple Safety Plans
FACES functionality allows workers to manage multiple safety plans and modify existing safety plans as the situation warrants and as the family's need for intervention changes. For the majority of the families the Division works with, one safety assessment addressing unsafe conditions in the household of origin is sufficient; however, there are certain situations in which it is necessary to assess the safety of children in a household or setting other than the primary household. When considering the need for multiple safety assessments for multiple settings, the worker should consider the following:
- The primary safety plan is most likely the household of origin (case name). Efforts to resolve safety issues in the household of origin should be the initial and ongoing concern.
- Safety plans are developed in response to unsafe safety decisions. Multiple safety plans are the result of multiple caregiver's with unsafe safety decisions.
- Is a second safety plan what is needed or just a modification of the primary safety plan? (Example: If the worker involves a grandmother in addressing safety the question is, is there a threat of danger in her household that needs to be controlled or is she a protective resource to address a safety concern in the primary household.)
- There is more than one way to address child safety; the important question is whether the interventions are sufficient in controlling the threat of danger.