The safety of children and young people is the primary focus of intervention by Child Safety, and is an integral part of all interactions with a child and their family. Assessing safety is done in a collaborative and respectful manner with a child, their family and the family’s safety and support network.
The purpose of the SDM safety assessment is to guide decision-making about:
- whether there is the threat of immediate harm to a child in the household
- what interventions are required to maintain their safety and protection
- a 'safety decision' for each child in the household
- whether an immediate safety plan can be developed to ensure the safety of any child who remains in the home, when immediate harm indicators have been identified.
The safety assessment will help you identify any immediate harm indicators that exist in a family’s household. You will then need to determine if an immediate safety plan can be developed with the parents and the safety and support network to mitigate the risk, if immediate harm indicators are identified. (See the SDM Policy and procedures manual for safety completion instructions and definitions).
When completing a safety assessment, there may be worries due to a parent’s disability, or associated with a parent’s disability that impact on a child’s wellbeing. There may be worries regarding a parent’s ability to meet the needs of their child with disability. In either scenario, the impact of disability on child and family functioning needs to be carefully considered and you must have a full understanding of family circumstances. In addition to the worries and impact on child and family functioning, seek to understand the individual, parental and environmental protective factors and strengths that also exist. Look for these with the same sense of purpose you have when looking for harm and worries.
How the parent or child experiences their disability or the disability of their family member will influence whether they feel guilt or shame, or a reluctance to talk with Child Safety or seek help from others. Some family members may have had poor experiences with services in the past, or may worry Child Safety is there to take their child.
While some people view their disability with a negative lens, equally, there are many people who view their disability with a neutral or positive lens. This is why it is so important to start where the person is at to understand their views.
Preparing to assess safety
Integrate the knowledge you have learned about disability and consider the following questions when preparing to assess the safety of a child where the child or parent has a verified or suspected disability.
Plan for a safe and respectful approach
- How can you prepare to talk to the parents and children? What information do you need to know before you engage with them?
- What are you confident about?
- What are you not confident about? Who can you speak to so you can develop your confidence?
- What information do you still need about the family at this point in time?
- What do you know about their disability? How do you know this, and have you spoken to disability specialists, the family, or the family’s disability supports to understand what this information means? Do you need to know more?
- What information do you need about the family’s culture?
- Who can you consult with if the family is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or culturally and linguistically diverse?
- How can you respectfully approach the family?
- Who are you going to speak to first — the child or the parent?
- Does the person with a disability have complex communication needs? If so, how can you organise this safely?
- If you speak to the child first — what is your purpose and will this affect a parent’s trust? How would you manage that?
- How can you talk to a family about disability with sensitivity and respect?
What are the worries? And how will you be mindful of other risks?
- What are your worries about the impact a parent’s disability is having on their child, or a parent’s ability to meet the needs of their child with disability?
- What specific behaviour is harming the child or is presenting a risk of harm to the child?
- What are the complicating factors?
- What do you know about other issues for the family that can intersect with disability such as neglect, mental health concerns or domestic and family violence?
- What support can be implemented or drawn upon right now to mitigate the worries?
Uncover biases and assumptions to stay fair and curious
- What worries do you have about the safety of each child?
- How can you stay open to other hypotheses?
- What protective abilities, strengths and resources do you think may exist?
- How can you make sure you are always thinking about what life is like for each child in this home?
- What do you know about the disability that the parent/child has? How did you learn this information?
- What have your previous experiences been working with someone who has this disability? Do you think everyone who has this disability experiences it the same way? Why?
- What biases or assumptions do you have about disability? How does the parent’s disability affect their daily life? How much impact does it have on the child?
- What supports does the parent or child require? Do they have access to these supports, are they available in their community?
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