Family & Children’s Services of Guelph and Wellington County
We are a child welfare agency in a medium sized private not-for-profit organization that carries out the child welfare mandate in Guelph and Wellington County on behalf of the Province of Ontario. We have three offices, we work in both a rural and urban environment, we have about 130 staff and 150 volunteers. We work with about 650 families at any given time and we have an average of about 200 children in care. We have one of the best provincial records of keeping children out of care, avoiding court, and being a leader in community based services.
We started using Signs of Safety in January 2007 primarily as a format for Family Conferencing. We trained some staff and almost all supervisors at either a 2-day introduction (staff) or a 5-day intensive (supervisors). We are now in a phase two of implementation because when we reflected on our progress on Signs of Safety we concluded we had room for deepening and strengthening our work. We are therefore now beginning a process over the next 18 months to do a 5-day intensive with all staff and supervisors. By the end of 2015 we hope to have had all service staff and management trained with the objective of making Signs of Safety part of how we do business from beginning to end of the life of the case.
Currently we are using Signs of Safety consistently as a format for family conferences and case conferences. It is often used in supervision with workers and supervisors and many workers are using the tools in their day to day casework.
In using Signs of Safety, workers report more satisfaction, less stress, clearer sense of purpose in their work; families report feeling empowered, hopeful, and rewarded. We think we obtain permanence for children sooner in conjunction with family finding. We think cases close sooner. We are in the process of evaluating whether we are moving the needle towards achieving these outcome objectives.
We have a Signs of Safety leadership group and two Signs of Safety “pilot teams”. This was really a way of getting a big enough group at the front of Signs of Safety to push through our phase two implementation and dig into the successes and challenges we have experienced so far. We are seeing good results with an excited and motivated large cohort that can support each other and put the practice making it visible for others to see and use.
Our objective is to have everyone using Signs of Safety consistently by the end of 2015 so that it will become our core way of doing business. We hope to use it to help us with problem solving in other areas of the agency also, such as leadership development and performance management.
We did an initial logic model that has been updated and changed as we have grown in our understanding of Signs of Safety. We are using the logic model to develop our measurement tools and decide on our metrics. We did two surveys with staff in 2011 and 2012. We have just surveyed the Signs of Safety practice leads again with a new survey based on our phase two implementation.