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Signs of Safety Implementation 18 months into a 5 year journey. Natalie Hall, Director Case Practice – DCP. Ready for Reform. Children & Community Services Act 2004 Best interest of the child are paramount

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Signs of safety implementation 18 months into a 5 year journey 1323853

Signs of Safety Implementation

18 months into a 5 year journey

Natalie Hall, Director Case Practice – DCP

Ready for reform
Ready for Reform

  • Children & Community Services Act 2004

    • Best interest of the child are paramount

    • Guiding principles – role of parents, family & community in promoting child's wellbeing

    • Child Participation

    • Cooperation & assistance

    • Exchange of information

    • Initiating inquiries to determine role and actions

    • Child abuse & neglect to be addressed through

      Voluntary services, child centered family support, care services, taking court action if child is in need of protection

  • Review of the Department for Community Development Ford Review January 2007 – 70 Recommendations

  • Department for Child Protection : Reform Agenda 2007 Signs of Safety adopted as the consistent, evidence based child protection practice framework.


2008 2009

In Western Australia:

  • 3857 children in the care of the CEO for some period of time compared to 3589 in 2007-08

  • 3157 in care at 30 June 2009 6% increase since 30 June 2008.

  • 44% of children in care are Aboriginal

    (less than 4% of the Western Australian population is Aboriginal)

  • 5% of DCP overall customer base from CaLD backgrounds

Implementation phases
Implementation Phases

Phase One – June 2008 – June 2009

  • Training of Staff & key stakeholders by Andrew Turnell

    • 2 day Introduction

    • 3 days Safety Planning & Working with Children

    • 5 Days Practice Leader Training

  • Transition to DCP delivering all core training

Implementation phases1
Implementation Phases

Phase One: June 2008 – June 2009

Development of Related Policies & Documents

  • Background Paper on the Adoption of Signs of Safety as the Department for Child Protection’s Child Protection Practice Framework (2008)

  • Case Practice Manual entries for Field Workers

  • Duty and Intake prompts within SoS Framework

  • SoS Meeting Pamphlet for families & agencies

Implementation phases2
Implementation Phases

Phase One: June 2008 – June 2009

Development of Practice Leaders

  • Senior Practice Development Officers (SPDO) and Team Leaders (TL)

  • Recommendation by Andrew for 2 in each district/practice unit

  • 90 Practice Leaders trained (3-4 in each work unit)

    • ‘Map’ cases using the Signs of Safety Assessment and Planning Framework.

    • Undertake Appreciative Inquiry consultations with practitioners to build a constructive culture around frontline practice in their office and teams.

    Practice Leader Facilitators.

  • 5 from Case Practice Directorate, Learning & Development Centre a Metropolitan and a Country office to work alongside Andrew

  • Project Management & creation of ongoing group learning processes for consolidating and refining the Signs of Safety mapping and AI work as the central activities to deepen the practice culture of DCP’s practitioners.

Implementation phases3
Implementation Phases

Phase Two June 2009 – June 2010

Sustaining the Learning Journey

  • commitment by everyone, from the Director General to the front-line practitioner, to maintaining, nourishing and growing the use of the model through an organisational learning journey that will need to be at least five years in duration.

  • Development of training workshops in key areas: Working with Children, Safety Planning

  • Practice Leader sessions (monthly) & workshops (4 per annum)

  • Implementation within Specific Projects

Where we are at
Where we are at

  • Implementation at different phases across the organisation

  • Consolidating strong practice leadership

  • Developing practice depth

  • Building on practice experience

  • Innovation (training, country, aboriginal communities) to support implementation

  • Engagement with stakeholders in journey.

Specific projects
Specific Projects

  • Consistent Duty & Intake processes: SoS consistent assessment framework

    • ASSIST recording system embeds key framework questions within Intake process

    • Duty Prompts based on SoS developed

  • Early Interagency Intervention (pre-birth planning)

  • Pre-Hearing Conferences within Children’s Court processes (cp applications)

Signs of safety implementation 18 months into a 5 year journey 1323853

Early Interagency Intervention

What’s working well:

  • Pre-birth meetings are well accepted by professionals and are seen as an effective process.

  • Participants support the role of “independent” facilitator

  • Signs of Safety is well accepted and generally well understood

  • Participants report that the new process is having a positive influence on outcomes for families, with results achieved in some cases than may have not been achieved otherwise.

  • Participants report an improved relationship between KEMH (maternity hospital) and DCP.

Signs of safety implementation 18 months into a 5 year journey 1323853

Early Interagency Intervention

Feedback from families:

  • "Before it was just me and the DCP worker. I felt like I could not speak-up and they were not listening. Sometimes I would get angry and then decisions would just get made. These new meetings are much better. People were listening to me and I had support too. These are the best meetings I have ever had with the Department.“

  • “I was scared but I realized at the end there was no reason”

Early interagency intervention
Early Interagency Intervention

Feedback from Legal representatives

  • “Provision of information to the parents throughout the meeting was fantastic, every concern, issue, potential risk and view of DCP was discussed with them. There is no way the parents could say they didn't know what the issues were”.

  • “Parents were encouraged to think of their own solutions, the ball was in their court. Parents had the opportunity to say what they could put in place”.

Broader outcomes of project
Broader Outcomes of Project


  • Positive engagement of parents has also assisted in reviewing plans for other children already in care of CEO

  • Young pregnant women in care of CEO very well supported

  • Skills Facilitators now utilising skills in other complex cases, including Pre-Hearing Conferences

  • Improved relationships with families

  • Improved referral pathways and agency collaboration for at-risk families

Broader outcomes of project1
Broader Outcomes of Project


  • Less avoidance of attendance for antenatal care-healthier and safer outcomes for mother and baby

  • Women who have participated in the meetings and know ahead of delivery that their baby will be placed in care are calmer at delivery and process is smoother and less traumatic

  • Have a clearer pathway with legal representation and support of family or support agencies

  • Pregnant women with a history of other children in care actually initiate contact and request a meeting process-having heard of it through their networks or through involvement with other agencies such as FIN WA

  • Hospital staff/Midwives are less traumatised-virtually no security issues

  • Social Work morale improved-practice more in line with ethical principles- due process and natural justice

Challenges ahead
Challenges ahead

  • Developing the foundation skills:

    • understanding of child abuse & neglect, facilitation skills, questioning approach, appreciative inquiry

  • Video recording to share the learning

  • Moving towards reliance on safety networks and safety planning

  • Maintaining the momentum


Aiming for :

  • Improved Professional Identity and Job Satisfaction

  • Case and System Change Data

    • More children safe with family and networks

  • Practice-based evidence