Family Safety Planning

The Vermont Department for Children and Families, Family Services Division (DCF-FSD) states in the Practice Model that child safety is a collaborative effort; we engage families and the community to develop safe solutions for children and youth. The Family Safety Planning model supports the philosophy of partnership between social workers and families. Child safety is enhanced when social workers and families collaborate with respect and build a trusting relationship. The family’s point of view should be utilized wherever possible. Cooperation between the social worker, the family, and the child/youth should be developed from the outset, and an emphasis should be placed on building the strengths of the family.

Family Safety Planning is a family engagement strategy that encourages and supports child and family participation in meetings with DCF-FSD staff and community providers. Bringing families and children/youth to the table with professionals while having open and honest discussions about what is working well and where the challenges are, with regard to child safety, is critical in order to form a safety plan and a case plan that the children/youth and their family are able and willing to accomplish. Utilizing the Family Safety Planning Framework provides a balanced assessment of the issues that the family is coping with, the harm that has occurred, as well as the protective factors within the family to address the harm.

A critical component of Family Safety Planning is the importance of bringing families and professionals to the same table to discuss the safety of children/youth. Research findings regarding child death cases and child abuse inquiries support the importance of having all information available while planning for safety. For example, inadequacies in the assessment of the child’s safety are frequently linked to flaws in communication between different professionals in contact with the family.[1]

[1] (Munro, 1999; Reder and Duncan, 2003)