At a time when connection is critical but most challenged, Elia, the home of Signs of Safety, recently established an online practitioners’ forum substantially focused on safety planning during the challenges of COVID-19. Practitioners around the world have jumped on to this group to share their struggles and successes, and hear from the Signs of Safety practice leaders about how to do the work in these difficult times.
What about support for executive leaders of child welfare services? At the best of times, these leadership roles are subject to pressures and demands from multiple areas, unpredictability and are inevitably lonely. The current world crisis presents many challenges and possibly some opportunities as well for child welfare agencies and their leaders.
Elia is establishing an online leaders’ forum called the Child Protection Leaders Support Forum; a strictly closed Facebook group to bring together executive and senior leaders of child welfare services from around the world to share experience and resources, discuss the best ways to meet the challenges and utilise the opportunities as we manage the current crisis and look ahead past its aftermath. Elia will also use this forum to offer innovations we are developing to help leaders and agencies.
We hope that the forum will be a flexible and easy access source of support and learning and ideas for executive and senior leaders. And we hope that it will help leaders establish connections that will support them in their leadership well into the future.
We have already established a practitioners’ forum called the Children Services Support Group which is already a hive of activity with close to a 1000 practitioners from all over the world sharing ideas, posting questions and challenges, and sharing what works. Like this practitioners’ group that leaders are also encouraged to join, the online leaders’ forum is a closed group open by invitation.
“We hope that the forum will be a flexible and easy access source of support and learning and ideas for executive leaders. And we hope that it will help leaders establish connections that will support them in their leadership well into the future.”
We will invite the senior executives and senior leaders for the agencies we have worked with and you can in turn invite your executive and senior colleagues by sharing the link so that they can then be accepted by Elia. We envisage executive and senior leaders as encompassing the top three tiers of management responsible for child welfare services — CEOs (of agencies dealing exclusively with child protection) and executive directors, directors, assistant directors (in larger agencies) and senior leaders, although actual titles and structures will vary.
We want to emphasise and assure that this is a private forum to support conversations where confidentiality will be assured and as such all the share settings will be turned off and potential participants will need to use an organisational email address and enable us to verify their position through an agency webpage or similar.
Only Elia’s Signs of Safety leaders who are former heads of child welfare services, Joke Wiggerink, Terry Murphy and Tim Decker, together with Andrew Turnell, will be part of the forum with agency leaders.
We are using Facebook because it is readily available and very functional. We envisage the Facebook solution to be temporary until we can enable the Signs of Safety Knowledge Bank to offer a similarly interactive platform. We are moving on this straight away, but it will take a little time.
While postings and resources will be continuous and will reflect the needs and issues raised by participants, we also know that the critical pressures on agencies are around safety planning and the number of children who are in care, so Elia is planning video presentations and associated forums in the near future with Andrew Turnell, principal co-creator of Signs of Safety, and Kevin Campbell, model developer of Family Finding, on these fundamentals issues.
We look forward to connecting with and supporting child protection leadership at this critical time and into the future.
Terry Murphy, Joke Wiggerink and Tim Decker
(Signs of Safety leaders and former heads of children’s services in Australia, the Netherlands and the USA respectively)