The purpose of the safety goal is to ensure that children are not abused or neglected and, if possible and appropriate, to keep them safely in their homes. Generally, when looking at safety, child welfare practice is concerned with addressing the following questions.
- Did the child protective services (CPS) agency respond quickly to reports of child abuse and neglect and take immediate steps to protect the children in the home?
- Once involved, did the CPS agency effectively use a family assessment and case plan to ensure that children were not abused or neglected again?
- Did the CPS agency provide services to make sure that children do not enter or re-enter foster care?
Good practice to achieve positive safety outcomes includes ensuring timely and appropriate assessments and/or investigations and collaborating with the child and family whenever possible. By doing so, CPS agencies can work to prevent or to reduce the risk of maltreatment from recurring. They often do this through a formal assessment and management of safety and risk, asking the questions:
- Is the child currently safe from abuse or neglect in the home?
- What is the risk of maltreatment if the child is kept in or returned to the home?
- If the child is not safe, what must be done to protect the child?
- What services need to be provided to the child and family to both prevent further maltreatment and to help mitigate the effects of the abuse?
The caseworkers, working in collaboration with parents, children (if age appropriate), and caregivers, can look at the risk and protective factors present to help in determining risk of maltreatment and the services needed to achieve safety.