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Standard 3 Conducting a Safety Assessment and Developing a Safety Plan

Overview

This standard outlines expectations for CASs in conducting an assessment of imminent threats to the safety of children and developing a safety plan to mitigate immediate safety threats during a child protection investigation. A safety assessment is an assessment of the present conditions, the danger resulting from those conditions and the interventions currently needed to protect the child. This standard includes requirements with respect to the following:

Intent

The intent of this standard is to ensure that during a child protection investigation, universal screening for present and imminent threats to the safety of children is undertaken in a timely manner. It is also intended that whenever a safety threat is identified, a safety plan is developed immediately to mitigate it. This standard encourages the involvement and engagement of the child’s immediate and extended family, and community supports in the identification of safety threats and safety planning where appropriate.

Standard #3 Conducting a Safety Assessment and Developing a Safety Plan

Standard
Conducting a Safety Assessment

An assessment of safety threats is conducted for all investigations at the point of the first face-to-face contact within the response time for all referrals assigned for an investigation (on both new and ongoing cases).

For family-based investigations including out-of-home care by relatives, community members, a foster home or a formal customary care home, a safety assessment is conducted in accordance with the safety assessment tool in the Ontario Child Protection Tools Manual. It is conducted in collaboration with the family in order to determine if any of the safety threats described in the safety assessment tool are present in the family.

For institutional investigations, a safety assessment tool is not available for assessments of safety threats. Despite this, every institutional investigation requires an assessment of immediate safety threats, although different factors are considered8 and the outcome is to be recorded as a narrative in the case record.

8 See Appendix A for a list of factors which are considered.

As part of the assessment of safety threats:

*Of note, other children being cared for in the home, who have not been reported to have been abused or neglected and whose immediate safety is not reported to be compromised, can be interviewed or observed at a later time, subsequent to the first face-to-face contact but before the completion of the investigation.

If the information found in the referral or the safety assessment indicates the possibility of injuries or the need for medical care, a medical examination will be arranged within 24 hours of receipt of the information. The result of the examination is documented in the case record.

When no safety threats are present, the worker reviews the safety assessment with a supervisor on the next working day.

Developing a Safety Plan

Whenever a safety threat is identified it is mandatory to develop a safety plan immediately following the assessment of safety threats. The protection of a child assessed to be unsafe is non-negotiable. The safety plan must secure the safety of the referred child and any other children being cared for in the setting.

Whenever possible and consistent with the child’s safety, the child protection worker actively involves the family and/or extended family members and/or community members and/or the child’s Band or Native community if the child is Indian or Native, in identifying safety threats, developing and implementing a safety plan, and monitoring and assessing its progress.

The adequacy of a safety plan is assessed by a supervisor and approved prior to its implementation.

A safety plan is monitored until:

A new safety assessment must be conducted whenever there is a change in the ability of existing safety interventions to mitigate safety threats.

Documentation

The formal documentation of the safety assessment and plan is to be completed within five (5) days of the first face-to-face contact.

Discontinuing an Investigation without a Safety Assessment or a Risk Assessment

An investigation (initial or subsequent) can be discontinued with supervisory approval without a safety assessment or a risk assessment having been completed if, upon first face-to-face contact, the referral information is found to be clearly wrong.

Closing a Case Immediately Following a Safety Assessment

An initial** family-based investigation can be concluded with supervisory approval immediately following a safety assessment without a risk assessment being conducted if the initial interviews yield information that maltreatment has clearly not occurred and the following criteria are met:

When concluding an investigation with a safety assessment and without a risk assessment, the documentation requirements for concluding an investigation (see standard #5) are followed.

**Of note, this option is not available for new investigations on cases already receiving child protection service.
Practice Notes
Conducting the Safety Assessment

A safety assessment conducted with the family will indicate whether a child is safe at the time of the assessment based on the worker’s direct observations of the family conditions, behaviours, attitudes, emotions or situation. Assessing safety is grounded in gathering comprehensive and accurate (credible) information about a family, specifically about behaviours, attitudes, emotions, intent or situations that have become immediately threatening to a child and are likely to result in injury, or significant pain and suffering, or extreme fear. The analysis of the information gathered should be guided by a cautious evaluation of the facts with child safety being paramount, while being respectful of the parent/caregiver.

The safety assessment should not rely solely on reports by clients. Similarly, the safety plan should not rely primarily on clients’ promises to change their behaviour.

Developing a Safety Plan

The development and implementation of a safety plan is likely the most significant intervention during the investigation phase of service. A safety plan includes interventions intended to mitigate immediate safety threats, but is not expected to remediate or resolve longer-term risks of maltreatment. The child protection worker’s role in developing the safety plan is both supportive/collaborative and assertive in ensuring that a child is protected.

Family and community strengths should be utilized to develop the safety plan. These might include:

Wherever possible and appropriate, the child(ren) in the family should be involved in the development of the safety plan.

The following factors should be considered in assessing the adequacy of the plan:

Monitoring the Safety Plan

The process of monitoring the safety plan is continuous for as long as it is in place. The worker evaluates its effectiveness each time that new information about the family is received.

Monitoring involves:

Consent to a Medical Examination

If a medical examination is arranged, it is preferable that the worker and the child be accompanied by the child’s parent or legal guardian. If this is not possible, the worker should request the parent/caregiver’s written consent to have the child examined. If these alternatives are not available or appropriate, the child should be apprehended so that the medical examination may proceed.

If the child has the capacity to consent to medical treatment, the child’s decision to accept or reject medical treatment may not be overridden.

Discontinuing an Investigation without a Safety Assessment or a Risk Assessment

Occasionally, a CAS receives a referral that upon first face-to face contact is found to be clearly wrong and the investigation should be discontinued. This is not a referral where the protection concerns are not verified. For example, the CAS receives a report that preschoolers are being routinely left unsupervised, but upon attending at the home finds that there are only adolescents living there and no pre-schoolers are cared for in the home.

The decision to discontinue an investigation is recommended by the worker to the supervisor. If the supervisor approves the decision, the investigation is discontinued and the reasons are documented.

Closing a Case Immediately Following a Safety Assessment

Occasionally a situation may warrant the closure of an investigation without the completion of a risk assessment when the criteria outlined in standard #3 have been met. For example, a CAS receives a report that a child has bruising as a result of being inadequately supervised. If the worker attends the home and finds no evidence of bruising, is able to conduct all required investigative steps, determines the child to be safe through a safety assessment, there are no other risk factors (e.g. child welfare history) or concerns present and the family demonstrates considerable strengths.

The decision to close an investigation without a risk assessment is recommended by the worker to the supervisor. If the supervisor approves the decision, the investigation is concluded and the documentation requirements for concluding an investigation outlined in Standard #5 are to be followed.

When an Investigation Involves More Than One CAS

Sometimes an investigation may involve more than one CAS. In these situations, the CASs involved must jointly determine which agency will be responsible for completing the safety assessment and developing a safety plan when a safety threat is identified in accordance with Standard #3.

Typically it is best practice for the CAS in the jurisdiction where the child victim(s) is/are currently located to conduct the safety assessment and develop the safety plan in consultation with the other CAS. It may also be more practical for the CAS in the jurisdiction where the child victim(s) is/are currently located to arrange and document the medical examination of the child(ren) (if required).