How can safety science be applied within child welfare?
“Can child welfare workers follow every policy and complete every task on every case, every day?” Scott Modell and Noel Hengelbrok of Collaborative Safety say, “No, they can’t.” Yet after a critical incident in child welfare, a typical response is a review to determine whether every policy was followed and every task completed. At a two-day child safety convening hosted by Casey Family Programs in May 2018, Modell and Hengelbrok introduced the concept of safety science for child welfare, offering three ways to respond differently to create an environment that focuses on accountability rather than blame, and enables staff to successfully meet the outcomes the organization seeks. They posit that safety is not created by rules and policies, but by the people doing the work and the context in which they do it.
Noel Hengelbrok, co-founder of Collaborative Safety, LLC, says safety is not created by new policies or rules, but rather by the front line staff who do this work every day. Agency leadership is responsible for properly supporting them and removing barriers so they can achieve desired outcomes.
Michael Cull, policy fellow at Chapin Hall, continued the discussion by highlighting specific concepts and skills that can be used at a team level to support a safety culture. He described a model that depicts the interaction between the safety culture and the learning system and how those two components are inextricably connected. He discussed how two strategies, psychological safety and mindful organizing, positively impact performance in the workplace and the importance of building healthy habits into team behaviors.