An important part of working with a young person in care includes forming a safety and support network. A safety and support network is a team of family, friends, community members, carers and professionals who are willing to meet with the young person, the family and Child Safety and work together to develop and maintain a plan that will ensure the young person’s long term safety, belonging and wellbeing.
Network members are not add-ons but are integral to case and safety planning. In this integrated practice approach, network members are essential to enhancing safety as they keep in regular contact with the young person, their families and carer, take specific actions when situations become fragile or dangerous, and listen and respond to the young person and their worries.
An important difference between a safety and support network and a more general group of concerned people is that safety and support network members know the harms that have already been experienced and the worries and goals for the future. That is, they know the risks of future harm to the young person should nothing change in the family or if new issues emerge.
The main premise for any safety and support network is that network members are:
- willing to help
- clear about what they must do to respond.
Here are some tools to use to source information from the young person about who is in their network.
One which can be beneficial is the Circles of safety and support (as shown in the diagram).
An example of when a safety and support network may be used includes the development of a placement agreement. A placement meeting is usually held between the carer, CSO and/or carer support worker to:
- develop an agreement about how to maintain a stable placement for the young person
- identify the needs and strengths of the young person
- identify what supports the carer may need in order to best meet those needs.
Safety and support networks and planning may be integrated into placement meetings and include the young person at the centre of the planning.
Another aspect of care with which the safety and support network is involved is when a high intensity response may be needed. This is a particular way of working with the purpose of providing an intensive, seamless, wraparound safety and support plan to identified young people during periods of increased risk and complexity. It is responsive in real time to acute and challenging issues, high risks and significant needs, and is consistent with the overall case plan.
A high intensity response will be generated and coordinated by a young person’s existing safety and support network and any required additional members to respond to immediate safety concerns, highly complex needs or high risk behaviours such as self-harming, suicidal ideation or if frequently missing from placement.
To read more on the safety and support networks and high intensity responses, refer to the Safety and support networks and high intensity responses booklet.
Another technique to use when forming a safety and support network is completing a timeline with the young person. This may help identify people who have cared about the young person. Timelines showcase gaps in what we know about the young person and point out clusters of traumatic events as well as celebrations. It can help surface some of our own empathy when we may be struggling to see the best in the young person.
One thing to note is that doing this with a family or young person can be empowering or traumatising. Be sure to negotiate boundaries and create solid agreements before you try use this mapping approach with a young person.
Helpful questions for unpacking the timeline:
- Who was in the young person’s life at this time?
- Who would have cared about the young person during this time?
- What do we know or imagine their relationship was like?
- What was the young person’s ethnicity, culture, religion during this time?
- Who do we think might have been in the young person’s life (for example, teachers) about whom we don’t know much yet?
A genogram is a pictorial display of a person's family relationships and other factors such as mapping significant medical history and complicating factors. It is best completed with the young person and family to ensure records are accurate.
The genogram can then be used to source network members, who may be suitable as kinship carers for the young person.
It is also a useful tool to identify which family members the young person is close to, to ensure we continue to provide family contact and connection with all important family members while they are in care.
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