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Partnering with children

Children often become invisible once a safety plan is developed with their parents.

You need to make sure that children are kept connected and involved. Help them to understand what to expect of others, the rules that their parents and others should follow, and any changes to the way things are.

Involving children in safety planning can help reduce their worries and confusion. It is also important they understand what is happening around them.

This process involves naming:

  • who is worried and what about
  • why it matters to the child
  • what is being done about it
  • who is helping
  • what the important rules are
  • who the child’s safety and support network is and who will have a copy of their plan.

The Safety House Tool is a good way to find out what children need in order to feel and be safe. You will also need to know who children see as supports and how they can talk to them about worries. A child’s ideas can be transferred to the safety plan.

The Three Houses Tool can be used to explore the behaviours that frighten and worry the child; as well as what worries they have for others. It can help explore protective factors that can shape safety planning and case planning and create a picture of what needs to change for the child to feel safe and happy.

The Future House is a visual tool that helps practitioners explore with families their vision for the future. The tool focuses on eliciting and understanding the parent’s and the family members’ visions for the future safety, belonging and wellbeing of the child, and then developing action steps towards that future.   

Strengths-based questions for children

Discussing their parent’s alcohol and substance use can be very stressful for children. Ensure they have the opportunity to have a safe person with them and good care after the speaking with caseworkers.

Topic Conversation ideas

Ask about their experiences

  • Where are you when your mother is using heroin?
  • Who is looking after you at those times?
  • What is it like when your parents have been drinking?
  • What is it like when they are not drinking?

Indirect questions (which might reveal more)

  • Tell me about your day. What happens when you wake up?
  • What happens at breakfast time?
  • Where's Mum when you're having breakfast? And Dad?
  • Tell me about getting ready for school.
  • What do you have for lunch at school?
  • When do you do your homework?
  • Do you sometimes bring friends home after school?

Coping and future hope questions

  • Who do you go to when you need comfort or help?
  • Who do you go to when you need protection?
  • What makes you scared?
  • When do you feel afraid?
  • How do you help your little brother and sister?
  • What would you like to change?
  • What would you like to stay the same?
  • What are your hopes?

Scaling questions

On a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means that life at home is as bad as it could be and 10 means that life at home is as good as it could be, what number would you give to how your life is at home these days?


If your life at home was really good, what things would have changed?


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