SAFE Training Gives Us New Tools for Evaluating and Supporting Parent-Therapists

Two staff members recently participated in specialized training that has provided them with new tools for evaluating and training potential foster parents. The practice of conducting the “Structured Assessment Family Evaluation” (SAFE) has previously been used by Children’s Aid Societies, but was only recently opened up to the private sector.

“This was an excellent opportunity to further develop my skills in the area of home opening and training,” says Cathy Fequet, program supervisor. “We continue to put a great deal of focus on training of our new parent-therapists. To effectively train our parents, we have to first understand the skills each of them brings to his or her position. The use of the SAFE assessment provides me with standardized tools to identify areas of strength and areas of need for each individual in the family. It serves as a great stepping stone in the process of new home opening.”

The SAFE Methodology

SAFE is a home study methodology designed to evaluate homes for adoption, foster care, relative placement and reunification readiness. It provides practitioners with information-gathering tools that support the home study interview, including questionnaires and compatibility inventories. The tools assist the home study practitioner with targeted interviewing so he or she can better identify strengths, as well as areas that might need more exploration.

“The SAFE process is a comprehensive means for guiding interviews and coding one’s observations of individuals and their living environments,” says Stevenson, Waplak & Associates Clinical Director Jeff Waplak, who also participated in the training. “It provides a structured means to check, double check and triple check information. It’s also an effective means for Cathy and I to collaborate in a common language.”

The process involves gathering pertinent information across nine dimensions, including personal characteristics, extended family relationships and physical environment. Procedures are based on 70 psychosocial factors that research has shown to be necessary for safe and effective parenting. Compatibility inventories help placement workers to determine how appropriate a fit is between an applicant family and a child.

“The assessment is approaching the gold standard of achieving evidence-based status, which it appears it will achieve with the completion of ongoing research in the United States,” says Waplak. “Whenever we can add a tool of this nature, it can only advance positive outcomes for the children we treat.”

Looking to the Future

Waplak says they will continue to fully embrace the SAFE process. “We plan to actively work with the Consortium for Children for outside guidance and feedback on assessments so we can continually advance our skills,” he says. “Our agency looks forward to the release of an updated compatibility tool, which will serve as an objective means to drive best-interest treatment decisions.”

Read more about the SAFE process here.