Signs of Safety Program of Research Update

Signs of Safety™ is an approach to child protection practice used across Western Australia. In 2013, in its fifth year of state-wide implementation, the Department for Child Protection and Family Support (DCPFS) has engaged the Australian Centre for Child Protection (ACCP) based at the University of South Australia to establish a three year program of research that will examine the impact and extent to which the Signs of Safety™ approach are associated (or not associated) with reliable improvements and outcomes for:

  • children at risk of abuse and neglect and/or who are in out-of-home care
  • parents navigating the child protection system and process
  • carers looking after children and
  • practitioners within the Department and external partner agencies delivering the Signs of Safety™ approach and working in the complex field of child protection

In addition, the program of research will examine the implementation of Signs of Safety™ over the last five years, paying particular attention to the stages of implementation and the interplay of drivers in operation.

The program of research is led by Research Fellow Dr Mary Salveron and Deputy Director/Associate Professor Leah Bromfield. Since February 2013, Mary and Leah have been working with the Department on the following:

  • Developing a research framework and model incorporating results logic or theory of change representation to evaluate the impact of the Signs of Safety™ approach on children, parents, families, carers, practitioners and other external partner agencies and key stakeholders. Results logic (also referred to as program logic) “is a systematic, visual representation of the underlying assumptions of a planned program’ (Adamson et al, 2010) and shows why and how a program is presumed to work. Understanding the theory of change underpinning Signs of Safety will inform the development of the research program framework and model for Signs of Safety™ child protection practice over the next 3 years.
  • Children’s Study (as part of a Psychology Honours Student Research Project) to test a rating tool (developed by the student) to gather the views of children and young people about the degree to which their case workers engaged them and enabled their participation in child protection investigations.
  • Applying the body of knowledge on diffusion of innovation and implementation science to help explain the journey of the Department over the last five years as they implemented Signs of Safety across the state.

Publications and presentations arising out of the research endeavour will be prepared and submitted with significant journals throughout the life of the program.

Mary will spend approximately three months of the year on Perth with her next trips scheduled for end August to mid-September and November 2013.

For more information contact Dr Mary Salveron: or +61 (0)8 8302 2980