§2 ch9: Safety Analysis and Risk Assessment
9.2 Safety Assessment
The Safety Assessment tool is used for both safety assessments and safety reassessments. It is found in the CPS-1, NCAT and CD-14; or as a standalone tool, Safety Assessment (CD-17). A safety assessment should be completed in the following circumstances:
- Initial contact with the family in an Investigation or Family Assessment;
- Initial contact with the family in an FCS opening (unless recently assessed during the investigation or family assessment) or in a FCOOHC opening when there are child(ren) who remain in the home (unless recently assessed during the investigation or family assessment);
- For all open FCS cases; and all FCOOHC cases, for children who are in are in the home (documented on the CD-14A), a mandatory safety assessment is done at least every 90 days (at the end of a treatment period);
- Any time new information becomes available or the family situation changes which may result in an increased threat of safety for the child regardless of the “type” of case (i.e., CA/N investigation/Family Assessment, FCS, FCOOHC child in trial home placement or home visit, etc), Safety Assessment (CD-17) should be completed.
- Workers should always be on the alert to changes in the family, new dynamics, the interaction of multiple threats of danger and other “red flags” that indicate that the threat to the safety of a child is no longer manageable.
9.2.1 Safety Assessment Flow
Generally safety assessment process can be divided into the following:
- Assessment of Present Danger - Protective Actions (if necessary)
- Information Collection – 6 Safety Questions
- Analysis of Safety Components
- Assessment of Child Vulnerability
- Assessment of Threats of Danger
- Assessment of Caregivers Protective Capacity
- Safety Factor Identification – Using Safety Threshold Criteria
- Safety Decision –Safe or Unsafe
9.2.2 Present Danger
Workers should always be alert to present danger at the time of initial contact or at the time of any contact with a family.
Present danger is an immediate, significant and clearly observable threat to a child occurring in the present which, if allowed to continue without intervention, could result in severe harm.
- Present danger is an active threat of danger. It may be seen on initial contact after an incident of child maltreatment or it may have been impending danger that has become active. What is important is that it requires an immediate response to control the threat.
- Present danger is primarily concerned with a caregiver’s behavior. The caregiver may be directly a danger to a child or may be non-protective of other existing danger.
- Present danger may involve physical aggression; failure to protect a child from aggression or a dangerous situation; or neglectful behavior which deprives a child of essential, immediate safeguards and/or life necessities.
- Present danger is concerned with the circumstances a vulnerable child is in which includes his location, his condition, his proximity to dangerous events or people and social or physical conditions happening or in existence which endanger him.
- Present danger requires a safety plan with protective actions that address the immediate threats of danger to the vulnerable child.
Examples of Present Danger:
- Hitting, beating, severely depriving now
- Injuries to the face and head
- Premeditated maltreatment
- Life threatening living arrangements
- Bizarre cruelty toward a child
- Bizarre/extreme viewpoint of a child
- Vulnerable children who are left unsupervised or alone now
- Child extremely afraid of home situation
- Child needing immediate medical care
- Caregiver unable to provide basic care
- Caregiver exhibiting bizarre behavior
- Caregiver who is out of control now
- Caregiver under the influence of substances now
- Caregiver cannot/will not explain child’s serious injuries
- Family will flee or hides child
9.2.3 Protective Actions
Present Danger requires a protective action to control the threat of danger. Protective actions refers to immediate, same day, short term and sufficient safety interventions to control present danger threats of danger in order to allow completion of more thorough information collection and safety plan development.
The development of a safety plan protective actions usually occurs during the initial contact with a family. Protective actions should be implemented during the same day that present danger is encountered and should provide a child with responsible adult supervision and care and compensates for immediate physical and situational danger.
Protective Actions are not ongoing safety plans. Ongoing safety plans are based on full information and are developed after sufficient information is gathered and organized. Protective Actions are based on more limited, first encounter information.
A worker must assure that the Protective Action:
- Is in place before they leave the home;
- Is focused on the particular family behaviors, conditions or circumstances representing the present danger;
- Controls the identified threats of danger until sufficient information can be gathered and analyzed to determine the need for an ongoing safety plan;
- Does not use the parent or caregiver, who is the alleged perpetrator of physical abuse or sexual abuse, to provide protection;
- Includes safety service providers who can manage the threats of danger for the child and have been confirmed to be suitable to do so (relatives, neighbors, community partners);
- Never is in place after the safety assessment is complete.
Protective Actions should be simple and the worker should:
- Find support people within or close to the family network – keeping in mind the need to establish the Protective Action before leaving the home.
- Consider ways to separate the child from the threat of danger for a temporary period of time.
- Ensure that everyone is aware the Protective Action is a “brief holding action.”
- The time frame for the immediate protective action is tied to the amount of time it will take the worker to gather all the information necessary to understand the issues/conditions that affect safety.
9.2.4 Information Collection
Whether a worker is making initial with a family on an investigation/family assessment or working with a family on an open FCS or FCOOHC case, the collection and analysis of information pertinent to child safety is critical. The (CD-162) Safety Information Collection Tool is a useful tool for guiding worker through the information gathering process for safety assessment and safety plan development. It consists of the six safety questions; the identification of threats of danger; child vulnerability and the assessment of caregiver protective capacity.
Six Safety Questions
These six safety questions should be addressed with a specific focus on protecting the child from threats of danger. They should be addressed during any Investigation or family assessment, but should also be significant information for general case management in FCS cases or FCOOHC cases. A general framework for safety assessment and case planning will begin to take shape.
- What is the nature and extent of the maltreatment? (Threats of danger)
- Type of maltreatment
- Severity of the maltreatment, results, injuries
- Maltreatment history, similar incidents
- Describing events, what happened, hitting, pushing
- Describing emotional and physical symptoms
- Identifying child and maltreating parent
- What circumstances accompany the maltreatment? (Threats of danger)
- How long has the maltreatment been occurring?
- Parental intent concerning the maltreatment?
- Whether parent was impaired by substance use, or was otherwise out-of-control when maltreatment occurred?
- How parent explains maltreatment and family conditions?
- Does parent acknowledge maltreatment, what is parent’s attitude?
- Were there other problems connected with the maltreatment such as mental health problems?
- How does the child function day-to-day? (Child vulnerability/capacity to protect oneself)
- Capacity for attachment (close emotional relationships with parents and siblings)
- General mood and temperament
- Intellectual functioning
- Communication and social skills
- Expressions of emotions/feelings
- Peer relations
- School performance
- Motor skills
- Physical and mental health
- How does the parent discipline the child? (Caregiver protective capacity or threats of danger)
- Disciplinary methods
- Concept and purpose of discipline
- Context in which discipline occurs, is the parent impaired by drugs or alcohol when administering discipline
- Cultural practices
- What are overall parenting practices? (Caregiver protective capacity or threats of danger)
- Reasons for being a parent
- Satisfaction in being a parent
- Knowledge and skill in parenting and child development
- Parent expectations and empathy for child
- Decision-making in parenting practices
- Parenting style
- History of parenting behavior
- Cultural context for parenting approach
- How does the parent manage his own life? (Caregiver protective capacity or threats of danger)
- Communication and social skills
- Coping and stress management
- Self control
- Judgment and decision-making
- Home and financial management
- Community involvement
- Self-care and self-preservation
- Substance use, abuse, addiction
- Mental health
- Physical health and capacity
- Functioning within cultural norms
- What is the nature and extent of the maltreatment? (Threats of danger)
9.2.5 Assessment and Analysis of Safety Components
The first step in the assessment and response to child safety is to construct a child safety model to work from. In order for workers to analyze safety; develop appropriate interventions and document their efforts to supervisors, other agencies and the courts, they must work from a consistent model and utilize consistent terminology. Child safety can be understood assessing the presence and relationship of three basic concepts.
- Child Vulnerability
- Threats of Danger
- Caregiver Protective Capacity
These components are significant to all phases of the safety assessment and safety planning process. They also provide a framework for workers and supervisors to evaluate active safety plans for effectiveness, proper execution and compliance by all parties involved. Changes in a family circumstances or household composition can upset the balance of these safety components. Safety plans should be considered dynamic, flexible and should be modified as needed.
188.8.131.52 Child Vulnerability
Child Vulnerability refers to a child's capacity for self-protection.
Vulnerability also involves the susceptibility to suffer more severe consequences based on health, size, mobility, social/emotional state, and/or access to individuals who can provide protection.
Typically age, developmental disabilities, mental and/or physical disabilities are identified as significant factors for child vulnerability, but less obvious factors such as the visibility of the child, children targeted as the scapegoat or children exhibiting behaviors that are provocative or irritating can also affect a child’s vulnerability. The vulnerability of every child in the household must be assessed. Factors that affect the vulnerability of a child may include:
- Developmental level and mental disabilities.
- Physical disability and illness.
- Provocative, irritating or non-assertive behaviors
- Powerless and defenseless
- Ability to communicate
- Ability to meet basic needs.
- Accessibility by perpetrator
- Perpetrator’s relationship to the child
Age - Children age 0 to 6 are typically more vulnerable to threats of danger because they are totally or primarily dependent on others to meet their nutritional, physical and emotional needs. Young children lack the ability to protect themselves from abuse or neglect. They lack speech capacity and important social, cognitive and physical skills which are developed in early childhood. Older child may however be more vulnerable because they are more mobile and can get into threats of dangers and infant could not. (Hazardous chemicals, drugs or weapons accessible to older children) Certain stages of development, associated with age such as potty training or acting out teenagers may also make them more susceptible to threats of danger.
Developmental level and mental disabilities - A child who is cognitively limited may be vulnerable due to a limited ability to recognize danger, to know who can be trusted, to meet his or her basic needs, to communicate concerns and to seek protection.
Physical disability and illness - Children who are physically limitations to physical disabilities or continuing or acute medical problems be vulnerable because of an inability to remove themselves from danger and may be highly dependent on others to meet basic needs.
Provocative, irritating or non-assertive behaviors - Children’s emotional or mental health or behavioral problems can be such that they irritate and provoke others to act out toward these children or to avoid them. Children are vulnerable who are passive or withdrawn and not able to make basic needs known, or who cannot or will not seek help and protection from others. Children who exhibit significant behavioral challenges may be more vulnerable because of increased stress levels associated with supervising and controlling negative behavior. Children exhibiting problems with toilet training, inconsolable crying and delinquent or defiant behavior may be vulnerable because these conditions can be highly distressing to many caregivers.
Powerless and defenseless - Children who are highly dependent and susceptible to others are vulnerable. Such children are typically so influenced by emotional and psychological attachment that they are subject to the whims of those who have power over them. Children who are unable to defend themselves against aggression are vulnerable. This can include those children who are unaware of danger. (The reference here is to dysfunctional attachments and the misuse of power. It is noted that all children need to have relationships on which they can rely and have psychological attachment.)
Visibility - Children that no one sees (who are hidden or hide) are vulnerable. Children who do not attend day care, school, community or social activities may have increased vulnerability when compared to children with contacts outside of the family. If children are very isolated, abuse may go undetected or unreported, which may increase the likelihood of future abuse.
Ability to communicate - Children’s inability to transmit information, thoughts, needs and feelings so that they are clearly understood may make them vulnerable. While communication ability is influenced by age and developmental level, it is also related to physical and mental disabilities and other individual characteristics.
Ability to meet basic needs - Children vary in their ability to meet their own basic needs for nutrition and physical care and this affects vulnerability.
Scapegoat - One or more children in a family may be a scapegoat — i.e., consistently the target of maltreatment while other children are not. For instance, one child may resemble a birth parent, which leads to that child being targeted for abuse by the other birth parent or a paramour. Increased vulnerability may be a consequence of animosity toward the individual whom the child resembles. Depending on the particular threat of danger, the gender of the child may also play a role in the in whether the child is targeted for abuse.
Accessibility by perpetrator - Unsupervised access to a child by a perpetrator may present an obvious vulnerability for that child. This may be lessened by the presence of another adult who is capable and takes responsibility for their protection. The key component involves providing safeguards to ensure that a perpetrator does not have access to a child or the opportunity to compromise the safety of a child.
Perpetrator’s relationship to the child - The ability of the perpetrator to exert power and control in the relationship can create situations of compliance and/or fear.
Assessment of Child Vulnerability
How does the child function? What is the child’s capacity for self protection and are there behaviors or disabilities that make this child more susceptible to specific threats of danger? Workers may assess the child vulnerability by using what they know about general child development; by observing the child and observing the interaction of the child with the caregiver; by talking with the child the caregiver and collaterals; by considering current allegations and the family history. Consider the following:
- A judgment about child vulnerability is based on each child’s capacity for self-protection;
- Vulnerability is judged in relation to what one understands about the nature and intensity of the threat of danger;
- Self-protection refers to being able to demonstrate behavior that 1) results in defending oneself against threats of safety and 2) results in successfully meeting one's own basic (safety) needs;
- Child vulnerability is not a matter of degree. Children are vulnerable to threats of danger or they are not;
- Vulnerability means being defenseless to threats of danger;
- Child vulnerability is not based on age alone. Be specific about what makes that specific child vulnerable to a specific threat;
- There are many characteristics of older children that make them vulnerable to particular threats of danger;
- If there are no vulnerable children in a family/household, then no additional safety assessment or safety planning is necessary;
- As a safety assessment concern, a child's vulnerability informs us about the predisposition for suffering more serious injury; and
- As a safety planning issue, a child's vulnerability helps inform us about what must be done to manage threats and assure protection.
184.108.40.206 Threats of Danger
Threats of danger refer to a specific family situation or behavior, emotion, motive, perception or capacity of a family member that is out-of-control, imminent and likely to have severe effects on a vulnerable child.
If there is no a child in the household who is vulnerable to a specific threat of danger, then there is no need for safety planning.
To further understand how the identified threats of dangers are occurring in the family, and to inform safety analysis and planning, the worker must also consider threats of danger according to:
- Duration: length of the threat of danger, how long has it been occurring?
- Consistency: the frequency of the threat of danger, how often does the threat occur?
- Pervasiveness: the extent of the safety threat. Does it affect family functioning in a significant way?
- Influence: describe anything that stimulates, precipitates or influences the threat of danger. What is the pervasiveness, frequency and duration of this influence?
- Continuance: there is no family member who can control or manage the threat sufficiently to ensure safety of the child. The situation will continue without external intervention.
When assessing child safety, the worker must consider the effects that any adult or household member, who has access to the child, could have on his/her safety. The presence or absence of a threat of danger must be based upon all available information obtained through:
- direct observations;
- interviews with family members including the offending and non-offending parent or caregiver, relatives and others who have information about the family;
- contacts with collateral sources; and
- a review of prior or current records such as:
- criminal history (arrest, charge/indictment and/or conviction);
- medical/dental, behavioral and mental health services;
- in-state and out-of-state child protection records and court orders (active or expired) restricting or denying custody, visitation or contact by a parent/caregiver or other person in the home with the child).
Threats of danger can be present danger or they can be impending danger. When impending danger becomes active it becomes present danger. What is important in this distinction is in what response is necessary to control the safety threat.
- Present danger is an immediate, significant and clearly observable threat to a child occurring in the present which, if allowed to continue without intervention, could result in severe harm.
- Impending Danger refers to threats to child safety that are not obvious or occurring at the onset of initial contact or in a present context but which are identified and understood upon more fully evaluating and understanding individual and family conditions and functioning and without safety intervention reasonably could lead to severe harm.
Safety components cannot be assessed without consideration of the other components. Potential threats of danger exist in every household, but generally caregivers have the protective capacity to control or manage any safety threat that is present or becomes active. A safety threat is significant only to children who have specific vulnerabilities. A child becomes unsafe if caregiver’s protective capacity is insufficient to control the safety threat and the likely result to the child is severe harm.
220.127.116.11 Impending Danger
Impending Danger refers to threats to child safety that are not obvious or occurring at the onset of initial contact or in a present context but which are identified and understood upon more fully evaluating and understanding individual and family conditions and functioning and without safety intervention reasonably could lead to severe harm.
- Impending danger is associated with a child living or being in a state of danger; a position of continual danger. Danger may not exist at a particular moment or be an immediate concern but a state of danger exists.
- Impending danger is not necessarily active in the sense that a child might be hurt immediately like is true of immediate, present danger. When a child lives in impending danger one can expect severe harm as a reasonable eventuality.
- Impending danger is not always active but can become active at any time or may become active because of specific, stimulating events; circumstances; or influences.
- When impending danger exists, the child’s daily existence is regularly subject to a threat of dangerous behavior, a dangerous event or a dangerous situation and the resulting effects.
- When impending danger exists as a dangerous behavior, a dangerous event or a dangerous situation, it is associated with a particular event such as pay day or particular timing such as Friday nights or a particular influence such as only when the caregiver consumes alcohol.
- Impending danger refers to threats that reasonably will result in severe harm if safety intervention does not occur and is not sustained.
Factors associated with higher risk may also manifest themselves as present or impending danger; however what distinguishes present or impending danger from risk is that the caregiver’s protective capacity is insufficient to control the threat of danger which is determined by using safety threshold criteria. (See Safety Threshold Criteria)
18.104.22.168 Caregiver’s Protective Capacities
Caregiver’s Protective Capacities refer to knowledge, ability and/or willingness of individuals in the household responsible for the child's care, to protect a child from the threat of serious harm.
Caregiver protective capacities are generally understood in terms of the caregiver’s behavioral, cognitive and emotional functioning. These are the general areas that need to be assessed to determine if a parent is protective. Limitations and gaps in any of these areas mean the Division has to substitute for what the parent cannot do if threats to safety exist.
Caregiver protective capacities refer generally to the primary caregiver. Other members in the home or within the family network are considered protective resources within the family network that are available and accessible for use within a safety plan to assist in controlling threats and managing child’s safety while the Division continues to work with the family.
Primary caregivers reside in the home or have primary, major, significant responsibility for caring for a child. Primary caregivers are responsible for a child’s protection; therefore, the focus of the safety assessment is the primary caregivers. Primary caregivers may be parents, step-parents, a parent’s companion, grandparents or others related or not related who reside in the home and who have a primary, major, significant responsibility for a child’s protection.
Primary caregivers are the people who have to change if they are not protective of the child. Primary caregivers are the center of attention throughout the intervention process related to achieving case outcomes and being restored to their independent role and responsibility for child protection.
Environmental factors which are evident through support from family and friends, stability of the living environment, positive interactions with others, and a connection to the community also contribute to the caregiver’s protective capacity.
Assessment of Caregivers’ Protective Capacity
Assessing caregiver’s protective capacity requires a worker to question, observe and document the caregiver’s response to threats of danger in the past, present and plans for the future. Once a worker identifies the vulnerabilities of each child in the household and identifies the threats of danger, the worker must assess whether the caregiver has sufficient or diminished protective capacity to keep the child safe from the threat.
The worker may collect information or evidence of the caregiver’s capacity to protective his or her child(ren) from a variety of sources including:
- CA/N or Criminal History
- The nature and extent of past threats of danger,
- the caregivers response to past threats of danger; and
- the circumstances surrounding the threats of danger
- Interviews with the caregiver, children and collaterals
- Information about past threats of danger or CA/N;
- Past successes in controlling threats of danger;
- Nature of relationships between the caregiver and the children (bonding/attachment/ hostile or blaming…etc.);
- Nature of relationships between the caregiver and other adults (paramours, immediate or extended family, domestic violence, reliable and credible sources for safety interventions);
- The caregiver’s capacity to formulate and follow through with plans for protecting their child(ren)
- Behavioral Observations of individuals (caregiver, child) and interactions (caregiver and child, caregiver and other involved adults, child and other involved adults…etc.)
- Ongoing assessment and monitoring of safety and safety plan interventions
Caregiver’s protective capacities are generally categorized as cognitive, behavioral, or emotional.
Behavioral - A behavioral protective capacity is a specific action, activity or performance that is consistent with and results in appropriate parenting and protective vigilance. Behavioral aspects show it is not enough to know what must be done, or recognize what might be dangerous to a child; the parent must act. Behavioral protective capacity can be demonstrated when the parent:
- is physically able
- has a history of protecting others
- acts to correct problems or challenges
- demonstrates impulse control
- uses resources necessary to meet the child’s basic needs
- demonstrates adequate skill to fulfill care giving responsibilities
- possesses adequate energy
- sets aside her/his needs in favor of a child
- is adaptive and assertive
Cognitive - Cognitive protective capacity is specific intellect, knowledge, understanding and perception that results in appropriate parenting and protective vigilance. Although this aspect of protective capacities has some relationship to intellectual or cognitive functioning, parents with low intellectual functioning can still protect their children. This has to do with the parent recognizing he or she is responsible for his or her child, and recognizing clues or alerts that danger is pending. Cognitive protective capacity can be demonstrated when the parent:
- articulates a plan to protect the child
- is aligned with the child
- has adequate knowledge to fulfill care-giving responsibilities and tasks
- has accurate perceptions of the child
- is reality oriented
- perceives reality accurately
- understands his/her protective role
- is self-aware as a parent
Emotional - An emotional protective capacity is a specific feeling, attitude or identification with a child that motivates the parent/caregiver to exhibit appropriate parenting and protective vigilance. The two primary issues that influence the strength of emotional protective capacity are the attachment between parent and child, and the parent’s own emotional strength. Emotional protective capacity can be demonstrated when the parent:
- is able to meet own emotional needs
- is emotionally able to intervene to protect the child
- realizes the child cannot produce gratification and self-esteem for the parent
- is tolerant as a parent
- experiences specific empathy with the child’s perspective and feelings
- displays concern for the child and the child’s experience and is intent on emotionally protecting the child
- has a strong bond with the child
- knows a parent’s first priority is well-being of the child
- expresses love, empathy and sensitivity toward the child
By considering the cognitive, emotional and behavioral elements of caregiver protective capacity the worker can zero in on the most effective approach to safety or treatment interventions. For example:
One caregiver is observed by the worker to have a high level of attachment to a child who is vulnerable child due to age and poor physical health; however the caregiver has low cognitive functioning and cannot demonstrate the necessary procedures necessary to meet the special medical needs of the child. The caregiver’s capacity to protect this child is diminished because she does not have the cognitive ability to properly care for the child’s special needs, therefore the child is unsafe. A safety intervention might be to arrange for outside assistance in order to meet the child’s special medical needs or training for the caregiver to meet the child’s needs.
Another caregiver may have high cognitive functioning, knows how to properly care for the child’s special needs, and can demonstrate this knowledge through interviews. This parent is however observed by the worker to have poor emotional attachment/bonding to the child because of the caregiver’s abuse as a child and negative relationship to the child’s estranged biological father. CA/N history of neglect is also evidence that the caregiver’s emotional caregiver protective capacity is diminished, therefore the child is unsafe. A safety intervention might focus be to provide assistance for the medical care for the child and treatment planning that focuses on the emotional needs and attachment and bonding issues for the caregiver.
- CA/N or Criminal History
22.214.171.124 Analysis of Safety Components
The final questions the worker should be asking are the following:
- What are the threats of danger? (child specific)
- What makes the child vulnerable to these threats of danger?
- What caregiver protective capacities are sufficient to control the specific threats of danger? (Cognitive, Emotional, Behavioral)
- What caregiver protective capacities are insufficient or too diminished to control the specific threats of danger? (Cognitive, Emotional, Behavioral)
126.96.36.199 Safety Factor Identification
The safety factor identification section of the safety assessment is composed of a list of behaviors and/or conditions which are written broadly enough to accommodate any threat of danger identified in the family. The worker must consider each child’s vulnerabilities to the threat and must consider if the caregiver’s protective capacity is sufficient in controlling the threat of danger. The worker must consider each of the following safety factors that apply to this family and they apply the safety threshold criteria to make a safety decision.
The Safety Factors (SDM safety definitions) to be considered are as follows:
- Child(ren) is in danger because parent/caregiver’s behavior is violent or out of control.
- Extreme physical or verbal, angry or hostile outbursts at the child(ren) or between household members;
- Use or threatened use of brutal or bizarre punishment (e.g., scalding with hot water, burning with cigarettes, forced feeding);
- Use of guns, knives, or other instruments in a violent or threatening way;
- Violently shakes or chokes baby or child(ren);
- Behavior that seems out of touch with reality, fanatical, or bizarre;
- Behavior that seems to indicate a serious lack of self-control (e.g., reckless, unstable, raving, explosive).
- Parent/caregiver describes or acts toward child(ren) in predominantly negative terms or has extremely unrealistic expectations.
- Describes child(ren) as evil, stupid, ugly, or in some other demeaning or degrading manner, or objectifies child(ren) (e.g. calling child(ren) "it" or "them");
- Repeatedly curses and/or belittles child(ren);
- Parent/caregiver targets a particular child(ren) in the family by extreme placement of blame for family or community problems (e.g., truancy, delinquency, etc.);
- Expects a child(ren) to perform or act in a way that is impossible or improbable for the child(ren)'s age (e.g., babies and young child(ren) expected not to cry, expected to be still for extended periods, be toilet trained or eat neatly, expected to care for younger siblings, expected to stay alone);
- Child(ren) is seen by either parent as responsible for the parents' problems;
- Uses sexualized language to describe child(ren) or name calling (e.g., whore, slut, etc.).
- Parent/caregiver caused serious physical harm to the child(ren) or has made a plausible threat to cause serious physical harm.
- Intentionally or by other than accidental means caused serious abuse or injury (e.g., fractures, poisoning, suffocating, shooting, burns, significant bruises or welts, bite marks, choke marks, etc.);
- An action, inaction, or threat that would result in serious harm (e.g., kill, starve, lock out of home, etc.);
- Plans to retaliate against child(ren) for agency involvement;
- Use of torture or physical force that bears no resemblance to reasonable discipline, or punished child(ren) beyond the duration of the child(ren)'s endurance;
- One or both parent/caregiver fear they will maltreat child(ren) and request placement.
- The parent/caregiver’s explanation of an injury to a child(ren) is inconsistent with the nature of the injury and/or there are significant discrepancies between explanations given by parent/caregiver, other household members, or collateral contacts.
- Parent/caregiver’s explanation for the observed injuries is inconsistent with the type of injury.
- Parent/caregiver’s description of the causes of the injury minimizes the extent of harm to the child(ren).
- Medical evaluation indicates injury is a result of abuse and parent denies or attributes injury to accidental causes.
- Parent/caregiver is currently refusing access to child(ren) or has refused access to children on prior interventions.
- Parent/caregiver has previously fled or made threats to flee in response to a present or past intervention.
- Parent/caregiver has history of keeping child(ren) at home, away from peers, school, other outsiders for extended periods.
- Parent/caregiver refuses to cooperate or is evasive;
- Child(ren)’s whereabouts are unknown.
- Parent/caregiver has not, will not, or is unable to provide supervision necessary to protect child(ren) from potentially serious harm.
- Parent/caregiver does not attend to child(ren) to the extent that the need for supervision is unmet (e.g., although parent/caregiver or household member is present, child(ren) can wander outdoors alone, play with dangerous objects, play on unprotected window ledge, or be exposed to other serious hazards);
- Parent/caregiver leaves child(ren) alone (time period varies with age and developmental stage);
- Parent/caregiver makes inadequate and/or inappropriate baby-sitting or child(ren) care arrangements or demonstrates very poor planning for child(ren)'s care;
- Parent/caregiver’s whereabouts are unknown;
- Criminal behavior occurring in the presence of the child(ren) or the child(ren) is forced to commit a crime(s) or engage in criminal behavior.
- Parent/caregiver has not, will not, or is unable to protect child(ren) from violence against other family members.
If the item is identified as a safety factor, indicate if the parent/caregiver’s lack of supervision is due to:
- Alcohol or other drug use
- Physical, mental health or cognitive incapacity
- Domestic Violence
- Parent/caregiver is unwilling or unable to meet the child(ren)'s imminent needs for food, clothing, shelter, and/or medical or mental health care.
- No food provided or available to child(ren), or child(ren) starved or deprived of food or drink for prolonged periods;
- Child(ren) without minimally warm clothing in cold months;
- No housing or emergency shelter; child(ren) must or is forced to sleep in the street, car, etc.;
- Parent/caregiver does not seek treatment for child(ren)'s imminent and dangerous medical condition(s) or does not follow prescribed treatment for such condition(s);
- Child(ren) appears malnourished;
- Child(ren) has physical or behavioral needs which parent/caregiver cannot or will not meet;
- Child(ren) is suicidal and/or violent to self or others and the parent/caregiver will not or is unable to take protective action;
- Child(ren) displays serious emotional symptoms, serious physical symptoms, and/or a lack of behavior control which is believed to be a result of the child(ren)’s maltreatment.
- Parent/caregiver has removed child(ren) from a hospital against medical advice;
If the item is identified as a safety factor, indicate if the child(ren)’s basic needs are unmet by the parent/caregiver due to:
- Alcohol or other drug use
- Physical, mental health or cognitive incapacity
- Domestic Violence
- Child(ren) is fearful of parent/caregiver, other family members, or other people living in or having access to the home.
- Child(ren) cries, cowers, cringes, trembles, or otherwise exhibits fear in the presence of certain individuals or verbalizes fear;
- Child(ren) exhibits severe emotional, physical or behavioral symptoms (e.g., nightmares, insomnia) related to situation(s) associated with a person(s) in the home;
- Child(ren) has fears of retribution or retaliation from parent/caregiver or household members.
- The child(ren)'s physical living conditions are hazardous and immediately threatening.
Based on child(ren)’s age and developmental status, the child(ren)’s physical living conditions are hazardous and immediately dangerous. For example:
- Leaking gas from stove or heating unit;
- Dangerous substances or objects stored in unlocked lower shelves or cabinets, under sink or easily accessible;
- Lack of water or utilities (heat, plumbing, electricity) and no alternate provisions made, or alternate provisions are inappropriate (e.g., stove, unsafe space heaters);
- Open windows or broken or missing windows;
- Exposed electrical wires;
- Excessive garbage, or rotted or spoiled food which threatens health;
- Serious illness or significant injury has occurred due to living conditions and these conditions still exist (e.g., lead poisoning, rat bites);
- Evidence of excessive human or animal waste in living quarters;
- Guns and other weapons are accessible;
- Active meth labs;
- Vermin infestation (e.g., rats, roaches, etc.);
- Vicious animal(s) or excessive number of animals in the home pose a safety concern to the child(ren).
- Child(ren) sexual abuse is suspected and circumstances suggest that child(ren) safety may be an imminent concern.
- Access by possible or confirmed offender to child(ren) continues to exist;
- Circumstances suggest that parent/caregiver or household member has committed rape or has had other sexual contact with child(ren);
- Circumstances suggest parent/caregiver or household member has forced or encouraged child(ren) to engage in sexual performances or activities;
- Non-offending parent/caregiver is unable/unwilling to protect the child(ren).
- The parent/caregiver’s maltreatment history is significant to the current circumstances, and suggest that the child(ren)’s safety is an immediate concern. (Note: Prior incidents, in and of themselves, do not constitute a current safety factor.)
- Prior death of a child(ren) as a result of maltreatment.
- Prior serious harm to child(ren)- previous maltreatment by parent/caregiver that was serious enough to cause severe injury (e.g., fractures, poisoning, suffocating, shooting, burns, bruises/welts, bite marks, choke marks, and/or physical findings consistent with sexual abuse based on medical exam).
- Termination of parental rights- parent/caregiver(s) had parental rights terminated as a result of a prior CD investigation.
- Prior removal of child(ren)- removal/placement of child(ren) by CD or other responsible agency or concerned party was necessary for the safety of the child(ren).
- Prior CD investigation with a probable cause finding or preponderance of the evidence finding.
- Prior CD investigation with an unsubstantiated finding - factors to be considered include seriousness, chronicity, and/or patterns of abuse/neglect allegations.
- Prior threat of serious harm to child(ren)- previous maltreatment that could have caused severe injury; retaliation or threatened retaliation against child(ren) for previous incidents’ prior domestic violence which resulted in serious harm or threatened harm to a child(ren).
- Child(ren) is in danger because parent/caregiver’s behavior is violent or out of control.
188.8.131.52 Safety Threshold Criteria
The worker must consider each of the above safety factors and then apply the safety threshold criteria to make a safety decision about whether a child is “safe” or “unsafe”. Safety threshold refers to the point at which family behaviors, conditions or situations rise to the level of directly threatening the safety of a child. The safety threshold includes only those family behaviors, conditions or situations that are judged to be out of the parent/caregiver or family’s control. The safety threshold criteria include:
- Out of control refers to family conditions that can directly affect a child and are unrestrained; unmanaged; without limits or monitoring; not subject to influence, manipulation or internal power; are out of the family’s control.
- Severity is consistent with anticipated harm that can result in pain, serious injury, disablement, grave/debilitating physical health conditions, acute/grievous suffering, terror, impairment, death.
- Imminence refers to a belief that threats to child safety are likely to become active without delay, a certainty about occurrence within the immediate future or may become active in the near future.
- Specific and observable means a family condition that exists as an impending danger; is observable and can be specifically described or explained; the danger is real; can be seen; can be reported; is evidenced in explicit, unambiguous ways.
184.108.40.206 Safety Decision
The result of a safety decision is safe or unsafe.
Safe - A child can be considered safe when there are no threats of danger to a child within the family/home or when the caregiver’s protective capacities within the home can manage or control threats of danger.
A safety decision of safe assumes that the worker has identified the vulnerability of all children in the household and has identified the threats of danger specific to the vulnerable child. The worker has also assessed the caregiver’s capacity to protect the vulnerable child from the threat of danger.
Unsafe - A child is unsafe when a child is vulnerable to a threat of danger within a family/home and the caregiver’s protective capacities within the home are insufficient to manage the threat thus requiring outside intervention.
Changes in family composition or circumstances can increase a family’s risk level, or risk factors can escalate into full blown threats of danger. An effective treatment plan that successfully reduces risk will likely increase the caregiver’s overall capacity to protect the vulnerable child from threats of danger as well, however when conditions meet safety threshold criteria, safety interventions should be developed and implemented that are immediately effective in controlling threats of danger. This does not mean that a family will not continue to work on the current treatment plan in place only that controlling threats of danger and keeping the children safe is always the priority.