People learn as they go. Therefore, it is essential to get training and to be coached throughout the implementation of Signs of Safety. Most important coaching moments are group supervision, individual case meetings and team meetings. As a coach my aim is to teach a “process”. I encourage the growth and development of the participants through an appreciative and curious attitude.

Signs of Safety is a practice-based model that is most effective when there is an opportunity to practise, to get familiar with the method. Depth is created through coaching. Long-term implementation is likelier to succeed when supervisors and staff members are supported in this ‘transformation of attitude’.


Coaching complexe cases

Andrew Turnell, among others, coached me for years throughout my career. In 2011 I started working as a Signs of Safety trainer myself. I get involved in assessments concerning complex cases.

My way of working is solution focused. During the coaching I use: mapping, good practice, and other solution focused skills (partnership & skilful use of authority).

Coaching sessions are either done ‘live’ or digitally (Go to Meeting). It can be individually or in a group session.

Coaching for supervisors

My sessions are structured and goal-oriented, throughout which the coachee is interactively encouraged to grow professionally by:

  • Creating awareness and personal growth
  • Building self-confidence
  • Explore, develop and apply one’s personal skill set and talents

The coachee and I are both responsible for the process.

Coaching is particularly important for supervisors throughout and after a Signs of Safety training. It is inevitable that supervisors get to encounter obstacles and resistance during the implementation process. Therefore, it is important to constantly envision the team/organisational learning process. Signs of Safety is a method that requires a lot of your own attitude towards the teams/organisation, in order to create successful change.

The number and frequency of the sessions will be based on supervisor’s needs and desires.

In-depth coaching for teams and supervisors

These sessions usually take place during ‘regular’ group supervision, individual case meetings and team meetings. The most commonly discussed topics for teams and their supervisors are as follows:

Partnership is an essential aspect of our work. Building relationships is a crucial factor to create change in a child’s life. What are the most important and relevant elements of partnership and how do we integrate these in our way of working? Are we familiar with these elements? The answers to these questions improve a worker’s know-how and increase understanding of one’s personal skills.

How can we integrate Good Practice in our daily practise and (group) supervision (appreciative inquiry interviews, creating an appreciative culture)? How can we build a team culture where it is self-evident that we need to learn from one another constantly? The main objective is that we need to find and examine the good practice and that it is documented  and shared, building a learning organisation accordingly.

Asking Questions is crucial within Signs of Safety. Paying attention to solution focused questions in all kinds of ways, is the essential element of Signs of Safety that is interweaven in the whole process. Asking oneself how to create actual ‘depth’ throughout the analysis and decision-making process.

The Framework is the foundation of our assessment. It is extremely important to recognise connections between different elements: i.e. the link between the danger statement and the safety goal. It is essential to practise this (preferably during existing sessions, like group supervision), in order to get the hang of it.

Mapping is a tool to discuss a case in a Signs of Safety way, preferably during group supervision. Mapping helps setting realistic goals, is transparent, and helps establishing a reflective, in-depth practice.  The knowledge of the whole team is used to make the most important decisions. There are several types of Mapping: 20 minutes, rapid safety planning; or for example the integration of theory (around a specific form of abuse) in Signs of Safety procedures.

Focus is the main quality required from CP workers to ensure that children stay at the centre of the process, despite the complexity of all complicating factors. How this can be achieved can, for example, be seen on an internal level. How are cases being discussed? Does staff understand exactly what his/her supervisor expects of them, and do families know exactly what the CP worker expects of them? Focus is the most important part of ‘Mapping’. It is crucial to learn how a danger statement or a safety goal can be guiding while working on a complex case.

Children can be made central in our work in many different (creative) ways. We contemplate on questions like: what does it yield to involve the children and at what levels are we still hesitant to act? The objective is to ensure that staff members will feel competent to engage every child. Immediate Story; Scale Questioning for Children; Castle; First Aid Kit; Three Houses; and Words and Pictures, are examples of the many resources we can use to help achieve this objective.

Safety planning has developed a lot in recent years. Safety Planning starts with the first phone call in a case, all the way up to case closure (and beyond). We will work with the Roadmap, to get a grip of this overall process. The definite plan covers all the triggers/stressors, red flags, Words & Pictures, and a clear and understandable trajectory/calendar.

Not only the end product; a Safety Plan, but Safety Planning. How do we insert this process in our own existing processes from start to finish?

How can I involve the (family’s) Network? For how long is involvement required and what are the possible resources we can use (genogram, circles, scale questions)? How do we deal with resistance, or with cases concerning people that don’t have a network? What role does the network fulfil? These are all important questions to cover.

Words & Pictures is used for a variety of purposes (i.e. for a danger statement, safety plan or to explain children why they don’t live at home). It is simple and understandable for every family member. Experience shows that the process of making a Words and Pictures and the result product are essential to create change (working towards permanent safety).

How can you safeguard the longevity of the Implementation of Signs and Safety? We emphasise the effective elements and crucial factors, such as the Parallel Process. How can we continually provide our staff members with enough space for growth, and encourage them to keep improving and developing their own skill and creativity? A clear vision, the roadmap to get there, and being able to measure our improvements, are crucial to the process.

Humble Inquiry is the fine art of drawing someone out, of asking questions to which you do not already know the answer, of building a relationship based on curiosity and interest in the other person.

Edgar H. Schein