A safety assessment is the systematic collection of information on threatening family conditions and current, significant, and clearly observable threats to the safety of the child or youth. The purpose is to determine the degree to which a child or youth is likely to suffer maltreatment in the immediate future.
Risk assessment is the collection and analysis of information to determine the degree to which key factors are present in a family situation that increase the likelihood of future maltreatment to a child or adolescent.
Many child welfare agencies use safety or risk assessment instruments to help workers assess families. These tools can provide a structure for assessing current and future harm to the child. However, used alone they do not provide a comprehensive picture of the family or help engage them in problem solving. These tools are considered to be most effective when they are directly connected to service planning and monitoring ongoing progress of the case. Resources include State and local examples.
Protective Capacities and Protective Factors: Common Ground for Protecting Child and Strengthening Families [Webinar]
Capacity Building Center for States (2017)
Discusses both the protective capacities and the protective factors frameworks and explores how to use them together to create stronger safety assessments and sharpened prevention focus in child welfare practice. A free login is required to access this webinar.
Safety and Risk Assessment Frameworks: Overview and Implications for Child Maltreatment Fatalities
Pecora, Chahine, & Graham (2013)
Child Welfare, 92(2)
Highlights current models used in child protection to assess safety and risk and discusses implications for child maltreatment fatalities.
Showcase: Safety Outcomes and Decision-Making Approaches (PDF - 198 KB)
Capacity Building Center for States (2017)
Provides jurisdictions with information on models and approaches for targeting safety outcomes. This showcase highlights several examples, including using decision-making models, such as the ACTION for Child Protection Safety Assessment Family Evaluation Model and Structured Decision Making; using practice models that incorporate safety assessments to support decision-making (such as the Signs of Safety practice model); teaming during different decision-making points; and using existing data to engage in predictive analytics.
Signs of Safety® Supervisor Practice Fidelity Assessment: Field Test and Evaluation Report
Casey Family Programs (2016)
Provides background information on the Sign of Safety® approach, which aims to conduct risk assessments and produce action plans for increasing safety and reducing risk. The report evaluates the degree to which the delivery of the practice adheres to the program model as intended and makes recommendations for practice improvement in order to increase safety.
Child Safety and Risk Assessments in American Indian and Alaska Native Communities: Research to Practice Brief (PDF - 368 KB)
Keating, Buckless, & Ahonen (2016)
U.S. Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Provides background on safety and risk assessments in child welfare practice, explores the importance of cultural appropriateness in assessments, and provides examples of Tribal communities’ adaptations of assessments to fit their communities.
Colorado Family Safety and Risk Assessments: Validation and Revisions (PDF - 2,668 KB)
Colorado State University, College of Health and Human Sciences, School of Social Work
Reviews the validity and the usefulness of the Colorado Risk and Safety Assessments and recommends revisions to the existing Colorado risk assessment to improve both reliability and validity.
Safety and Risk
Children and Family Research Center (2017)
Examines the relationship between safety assessment and maltreatment recurrence in Illinois. Publications are updated annually.
SDM Safety and Risk Assessment Procedure and Reference Manual (PDF - 560 KB)
National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (2016)
Provides an overview of the Structured Decision Making system as well as the policy and procedures for the safety and family risk assessments of child abuse and neglect.