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Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards

The Signs of Safety Approach to Child Protection Casework


The Signs of Safety approach to child protection casework was developed through the 1990s in Western Australia. It was created by Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards, in collaboration with over 150 West Australian child protection workers (CPWs), and is now utilised in jurisdictions in the USA, Canada, the UK, Sweden, The Netherlands, New Zealand and Japan. The approach focuses on the question “How can the worker build partnerships with parents and children in situations of suspected or substantiated child abuse and still deal rigorously with the maltreatment issues?” This strengths-based and safety-focused approach to child protection work is grounded in partnership and collaboration. It expands the investigation of risk to encompass strengths and Signs of Safety that can be built upon to stabilise and strengthen a child’s and family’s situation. A format for undertaking comprehensive risk assessment — assessing both danger and strengths/safety — is incorporated within the one-page Signs of Safety assessment protocol. (This form is the only formal protocol used in the model). The approach is designed to be used from commencement through to case closure in order to assist professionals at all stages of the child protection process, whether they be in statutory, hospital, residential or treatment settings.


The impetus to create the Signs of Safety approach arose from Steve’s 16 years of experience as a front-line child protection practitioner, eight of those working primarily with Aboriginal communities. Steve was very dissatisfied with most of the models and theory regarding child protection practice that he encountered. Despite 16 years of front-line practice, Steve felt that most of the policy, guidance and books he read –  and most of what he learned at university and in training situations (the theory) – was very distant from his experience of actual child protection work (undertaking investigations, deciding when and how to remove children, dealing with angry parents, etc.). Because of this, throughout his child protection career, Steve always sought out new ideas that might better describe his experience of practice.

Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards



SOS Gathering, Norwich England 2016

The 10th International Signs of Safety Gathering, was held in Norwich, UK from July 5, 2016.

The theme: Innovation and Courage in Children’s Services. as with every Gathering we were privileged to hear a variety of presentations from workers, leaders and others which generated a great deal of enthusiasm and energy to take us all forward in our work building upon and creating safety for children with families.

I attended this Signs of Safety gathering in Norwich, England and presented along with Penne Turnell.

Their presentation, Partnership-The Power Behind the Practice, can be viewed here​.

And their power point can be accessed here.

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