There have been many milestones in the evolution of Signs of Safety — Andrew Turnell’s work with Steve Edwards beginning almost three decades ago; their work becoming Signs of Safety as it was codified and tested in the West Australian Department of Child Protection; the first book “Signs of Safety: A Solution and Safety Oriented Approach to Child Protection Casework” by Andrew and Steve in 1999; and after many years of Andrew travelling the world spreading the seeds of the approach, the first Signs of Safety Gathering in 2005; the work and then the book “Working With Denied Child Abuse: The Resolutions Approach” with Susie Essex in 2006 that greatly deepened safety planning work; rediscovering Signs of Safety and going for full implementation in Western Australia in 2007; following on from Bureau Jeugdzorg with Joke Wiggerink in the Netherlands and the first Indigenous agency Ktunaxa-Kinbasket in Canada; the decision to trademark Signs of Safety in 2013 and the licensing of trainers and consultants that followed; Andrew partnering with Professor Eileen Munro and Terry Murphy to create Munro Turnell & Murphy (MTM) in 2014; and Andrew’s decision in 2015 to handover the business to the community and the years of work up until now to make this a reality.
Nothing like this handover has ever been done before and there is no underestimating its challenge and its importance to keeping the hope that Signs of Safety brings to child protection alive and thriving.
On Thursday 13 February, another significant milestone was reached. On the eve of his 60th birthday, Andrew handed over the role of CEO of Elia International to Joke Wiggerink. Put yourself in Andrew’s shoes for this moment and imagine what it has taken for him to make this step. See the faith he is expressing in Joke and in our community to take Signs of Safety forward in a world where it is desperately needed.
“Nothing like this handover has ever been done before and there is no underestimating its challenge and its importance to keeping the hope that Signs of Safety brings to child protection alive and thriving.”
At the event to mark this occasion, all the Elia staff and trainers and consultants who could be there spoke about what they felt most thankful for to Andrew. People expressed gratitude for the opportunity of doing the work they are now doing, for the way in which Andrew has transformed their professional lives in child protection, for the ways he has touched who they are and have become personally, for the learning that they have had from working with him, for being humble and approachable and at other times really challenging, and perhaps most of all for the hope and the difference he has made for children and families all round the world.
Thank you Andrew.
Joke has of course been progressively taking on the role of CEO and has been appointed as much by the community as Andrew and the Executive Team of Elia. There is no-one more suited to this role and meeting its challenges and opportunities. She has led Signs of Safety in her organisation, she is a great practitioner, teacher and leader. She breathes the approach in how she leads as a consultant and in our community. Welcome Joke. We could not be more pleased to have you as our CEO or more confident in your leadership.
In accepting the baton from Andrew — in the form, naturally, of a newly-inscribed copy of “The Signs of Safety” by Turnell and Edwards — Joke said she would of course lead in her own way and the future would bring its own directions but that Andrew’s legacy would always guide our progress.
And so our transition to Signs of Safety being owned and led by the Community, from Andrew’s company Resolutions to our organisation Elia International — the new home of Signs of Safety — moves into its final phase that will culminate at the Elia Gathering in June when, with our members and Board in place together with our new CEO, Andrew will formally and symbolically hand over the Signs of Safety to the Elia Community.
And of course Andrew is stepping back, not stepping out. He will be with us for the long haul, working in areas of importance to the practice and the business, and where he is passionate, and he will be forever restless for the continuing revolution in child protection.
What a privilege to be part of this journey! Again, thank you Professor Andrew Turnell, co-creator of Signs of Safety and the principal architect of its evolution and our community. And congratulations Joke Wiggerink, our warmly welcomed CEO.