Signs of Safety Adopted as National Child Protection Framework for Ireland

Tusla Child Protection and Welfare Strategy 2017–2022

On May 22nd, at Croke Park Dublin (as the home of Gaelic Football and Hurling this is most definitely an Irish sacred site) Tusla Child and Family Agency, its CEO Fred McBride and Minister Katherine Zappone, formally announced that Tusla has adopted the Signs of Safety as Ireland’s national framework for child protection assessment and practice.

The Signs of Safety has been adopted as part of Tusla’s broader Child Protection and Welfare Strategy to enable one uniform assessment and intervention approach to be used across the country. This launch event marks the commencement of a three-year, system wide implementation.

Chief Executive Fred McBride, underlined his determination that the Child Protection and Welfare Strategy together with the implementation of the Signs of Safety would enable Tusla to better work in partnership with parents and children to improve outcomes for the families and children the agency serves.


Above: (from left) Norah Gibbons (Chair of the Board Child & Family Agency), Cormac Quinlan (Director of Transformation and Policy, Tusla), Dr Andrew Turnell (Co-Creator of the Signs of Safety), Professor Eileen Munro (Reader in Social Policy in the London School of Economics and author of the Munro Review of Child Protection in the UK) and Fred McBride (Tusla Chief Executive).


Tusla has arrived at this point following a two-year exploratory process involving all staff in deciding on the child protection framework the agency would choose. There was near unanimous support for adopting the Signs of Safety. This careful preparatory and planning work has been led for Tusla’s senior management team by Director of Strategy and Policy, Cormac Quinlan who is now in charge of the three-year implementation. Cormac also spoke at the launch summarising the development journey so far and spelling out the whole system implementation process that will include:

  • Signs of Safety training for all staff and partner agencies
  • Two-year, role specific Signs of Safety learning and development for Team Leaders, Principal Social Workers, Signs of Safety Mentors, Area Managers, Regional Directors and the Senior Management Team
  • Comprehensive policy and practice guidance realignment
  • Quality assurance integration incorporating collaborative case audit, practice dashboards, parent and staff surveys matched to core data
  • Successive installation of Signs of Safety forms into the Tusla IT system
  • Detailed research of the implementation throughout the three-year project

The three-year implementation begins in the first year by focusing on the front end of the child protection process namely intake, investigation and conferencing. By the second year the focus will expand to incorporate long term child protection casework, reunification practice and work with children-in-care.

Munro Turnell and Murphy Child Protection Consulting have been engaged by Tusla to work with its Policy and Strategy directorate to assist in leading the implementation. Drawing on independent research findings and broader learnings from large scale Signs of Safety implementations in Alberta, Missouri, Western Australia and over 30 English local authorities, Munro, Turnell and Murphy and the Policy and Strategy directorate are preparing comprehensive guidance and implementation materials based on the newly revised Signs of Safety practice and organisational theories of change (for more detail see You Can’t Grow Roses in Concrete pp 13–19).


Above: Dr Andrew Turnell speaking at the launch event.


Representing Munro, Turnell and Murphy and the broader international Signs of Safety community, Dr Andrew Turnell and Professor Eileen Munro also spoke at the launch. Andrew Turnell stated:

Eileen Munro’s 2010/2011 review of English Children’s Services placed a stake in the ground that has resonated around the world. Eileen showed us that while consistent procedure is an essential part of effective children’s services organisation, the child protection world has become caught in excessive managerialism and over-proceduralisation. Child protection work needs to be reclaimed as human work that is both compassionate and rigorous. What better place to do that than in Ireland?

Eileen and I are here today offering the Signs of Safety to Tusla and to the broader Irish society with an open, not a prescriptive hand, wanting to assist Tusla to deliver rigorous, child centred child protection services that place parents, children and everyone naturally connected to the child at the centre of the assessment, decision-making and gives them every opportunity to come up with and try their ideas before we as professionals offer or impose ours.

The Signs of Safety is a whole person, whole system approach to child protection, it has been successively tested and refined by practitioners around the world so that it is fit for purpose. We believe that if we refine and align the Signs of Safety to the Tusla and Irish context we can make the Irish child protection system the envy of the developed world.


Above (from left): Jim Gibson (Tusla Chief Operations Officer), Dr Andrew Turnell (Co-Creator of the Signs of Safety), Fred McBride (Tusla Chief Executive) and Cormac Quinlan (Tusla Director of Transformation and Policy)


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