Practice Model

Action for Child Protection’s foundational work is the Safety Assessment Family Evaluation (SAFE) Model. SAFE is largely considered the first comprehensive safety decision-making model and intervention framework. Numerous states and jurisdictions have adopted versions or components of this strengths-based, family-centered model to inform child welfare agency decision-making.

SAFE uses standardized tools to assess family behaviors, conditions, and circumstances, including individual child vulnerabilities and caregiver protective capacities, to make well-founded child safety decisions (present and impending danger threats). Six domains of information collection promote understanding of the family beyond the incident(s) of maltreatment. The model involves multiple assessments of child safety throughout the life of the child welfare case, moving seamlessly through intake or screening, into the child protective services investigation or assessment, and into ongoing services. SAFE then supports change-focused case planning, ongoing safety management, and timely reunification and/or case closure when children are in safe, permanent homes.

The following assessments are incorporated into the SAFE model:

Intake/Hotline Screening Assessment

The Intake Assessment first determines if the information being relayed to a Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline warrants a child protective services response. This assessment process incorporates gathering information related to family behaviors, conditions, and circumstances across six domains including: the Extent of Maltreatment, the Surrounding Circumstances of the Maltreatment, Child Functioning, Adult Functioning, General Parenting Practices, and Disciplinary Practices. When a report is assigned, analysis of potential danger threats then guides the necessary child protective services response time.

Family Functioning Assessment

The Family Functioning Assessment is conducted as part of this systematic decision-making framework to properly identify families in need of ongoing child protective services. This assessment process incorporates information gathering from children, parents/caregivers, and collateral sources related to family behaviors, conditions, and circumstances across the six domains. The Family Functioning Assessment is designed to ensure families in which children are unsafe are appropriately identified and provided ongoing services; including safety management, change-focused treatment services and other supportive services.

Safety Assessment

Child safety is the primary focus of the SAFE model, and focus is given to children who may be unsafe based on the presence of uncontrolled danger threats. The approach to safety assessment recognizes that issues concerned with child safety change as the child protective services intervention proceeds. This change is influenced by movement along a trajectory, beginning with the identification of safety threats and proceeding toward reduction in those threats as protective capacities increase. In the beginning of a child protective services intervention, the safety assessment is directed at understanding the unsafe environment through the identification of danger threats and assessment of diminished caregiver protective capacities. Later in the safety assessment process, impending danger threats and protective capacities are reassessed to determine whether children are safe or unsafe.

Safety Plan Analysis

The Safety Plan Analysis is conducted after there is determination children are unsafe. This analysis has structured questions/criteria to determine the least intrusive, sufficient Safety Plan to ensure child safety. These criteria directly align with Reasonable Efforts to prevent the removal of children. The Safety Plan Analysis considers what Safety Plan actions and/or services need to be implemented to manage, mitigate, or substitute for reduced protective capacities and sufficiently control danger threats. Safety plans range from in-home to out-of-home care.

Out-of-home Safety Plans also include development of Conditions for Return Home; directly based upon findings of the Safety Plan Analysis. These written statements identify and describe the specific behaviors, conditions, or circumstances that must exist within the home environment before a child’s return home. Aligned with Reasonable Efforts, Conditions for Return entail returning a child to the parental home as soon as possible; when active impending danger can be managed.

Ultimately, through ongoing application of the Safety Plan Analysis, the caseworker is focused on development of the least-restrictive and least-intrusive plan that fully ensures child safety while appropriate services are put in place to support caregiver protective capacity enhancement.

Protective Capacity Assessment (Initial and Ongoing)

The Initial Protective Capacity Assessment engages parents to consider what must change (protective capacities) in order for children to be safe, resulting in the implementation of the Case Plan. Case Plan goals are based on necessary behavioral change instead of treatment service attendance, compliance or completion. Ongoing Protective Capacity Assessments are then conducted periodically as the case progresses. These assessments measure caregiver behavioral changes and progress made toward addressing the safety concerns that led to child welfare involvement. Case Plan goals are reviewed to ensure services are working effectively to address family and child needs.

As part of the process, the Safety Plan is reviewed to ensure it continues to be necessary and is least-restrictive and least-intrusive. Conditions for Return Home are also reviewed and assessed.

Confirming Safe Environments

Confirming Safe Environments is a safety assessment specific to out-of-home placement providers to ensure children are placed in safe, appropriate out-of-home care settings. This assessment is utilized in relative, kinship, and/or traditional foster home environments. There is specific guidance provided for the safety assessment at the time of initial placement, and then throughout the placement episode. Confirming Safe Environments provides caseworkers a framework to conclude the likelihood of child safety in placement to determine if supports are needed to preserve the placement and/or if a change of placement is warranted to ensure child safety.