Building Family Finding Into Signs of Safety Practice

Family Finding – Core Beliefs

  • Every young person has an immediate and extended family, and they can be found if we try.
  • Loneliness can be devastating, even dangerous, and is experienced by most children and youth in the care system.
  • A permanent, meaningful connection to family and caring adults helps a youth to develop a sense of belonging and hope.
  • The single factor most closely associated with positive outcomes for young people is a meaningful, life-long connection to a family and community of support.
    (Kevin Campbell, 2017)
  • This involves working with the family to bring together their relatives and friends, to share the concerns and offer them a genuine and supported opportunity to create a plan that will keep the child safe now and in the future.
  • Family Finding offers an ethos, principles and tools for professionals to work with families to support them come together to provide a life-long network of connected people to address the concerns and offer the child the dignity of belonging to their people now and in their adulthood
  • Even when children have to be in the care of the organisation, they should remain connected to their family and friends

This is not new thinking, it’s in the LAW

  • One of the key principles of the Children Act 1989 is the presumption that there should be continued contact between the child and their family while the child is in the care of the local authority.
  • Contact arrangements should be focused on, and shaped around, the child’s needs.
  • The child’s welfare is the paramount consideration at all times and each child’s wishes and needs for contact should be individually considered and regularly assessed. For many children, relationships with members of their family, previous carers, friends and others are valued.

Networks are a key component of Signs of Safety practice

 The place for working on developing a network around families is indicated in the highlighted sections of the Safety Planning Roadmap below. The Safety Planning roadmap itself indicates the full breadth of Signs of Safety practice centred on safety planning.

Imagine ….  you are a parent of two children aged 8 and 6

You and your partner are involved in a serious car accident and are going to be in hospital for a long time.
Who in your family is going to look after the children?
Whose house are they going to stay in?
Who is going to take them to school?
Who is going to take them to the park?
Who is going to bring them to visit you?
Who is going to comfort them when they are sad, scared or worried?
Who is going to get up with them in the night if they have a nightmare?
Now imagine them going to a stranger’s house…
To sleep in strange beds
To eat a stranger’s food
A stranger trying to soothe and comfort them?

BUT, what if the network could come to your place and your children could stay at home?

  • And sleep in their own bed?
  • And play with their own toys?
  • And be with their pet?

And if the children do have to leave their home, it will be to go with someone form the network who has been trying to keep them safe.

Building Family Finding into Signs of Safety practice – at its simplest:

Embrace the ethos of Family Finding

  • Every child has a family and every family has a network
  • The urgency of engaging a network
  • That safety and healing occur in relationships
  • Respecting the dignity and uniqueness of the children and families with whom we work

Adopt the network building tools into safety planning in child protection
(and for looked after children)

  • Family finding questions
  • Values conversation
  • Discovery work (file mining, interviews, cold calls, social media, Seneca search )

What did you hear or like most about Family Finding?

  • Taking the time to do the network planning; needing to do this work earlier
  • Aspiration for young people that we are not going to settle that there is no-one, we are going to look at creative ways to do this
  • It was inspiring – to change the conversations we have about children and this fits the bill
  • Permissive type of approach
  • Direct impact on work straight away
  • It’s not hard, you just need yourself
  • Context; ACE’s policy, sets up the course looking at neuro science (nature & nurture) which then made it make sense
  • Understandable course
  • Doing the live case – challenged all of the things you thought wouldn’t work
  • When they said they haven’t got time it challenged this and showed how it can work, reframed
  • There is family, even when we didn’t think there was
  • Extending the network, but doesn’t necessarily mean they have to look after them
  • Tools were good
  • Some are good SW practice which people may have used
  • Emotional permanency
  • Aspire to have different conversations to make people think differently and sooner
  • Need to get buy-in of foster carers; hear their worries about disruption – big challenge but very exciting
  • Opens up possibilities
  • How can we ensure ongoing support of family?
  • One of our (LAC) managers came back shaken to the core but full of energy; Kevin’s advice to her (when she asked him what she should do) was ‘start one case at a time’
  • Enthusiasm
  • Eagerness to roll out

 What is the ethos to you?

  • Everyone has someone; got to engage with fathers, children in care returning home, need to get the core belief of children belonging in their families; significant people in the child’s life who doesn’t have to be their blood relative, mobility mapping is very useful here
  • Family is history past and present and always going to be there. We can find good people if we look for them – everyone has a network
  • Respecting the young person’s important relationships and supporting – shifting from a network for the professional’s purpose to the child’s
  • They can offer permanency
  • When children come into care they should still be connected to their families
  • Growing can be quite lonely especially for children in care
  • Identity
  • Being able to be connected to natural networks
  • One person can’t do something on their own
  • Instilling of hope
  • Ongoing community support around a child.
  • Healing the child, unifying the family, giving them their cultural identity.
  • Responsibility is the families
  • Relationships with people being important, respecting those people who are important
  • Healing can start straight away, let’s not wait for a service to do this
  • Power and re- equalising this

What do you want to adopt?

  • All of it
  • This can work across the life span of families including older adults; calendaring
  • End to end case; how to incorporate this in road map until closure and beyond because we struggle to see this
  • Importance of front loading this early in the case / right from the beginning
  • Family network, investing in them and using our skills to facilitate, move to healing and away from solving
  • Broader than CP, must look at our CLA and finding and exploring those relationships

What have we done to spread this approach?

  • Put together a training package, presenting at a team meeting on 13thNovember, presentation to the leaders later that month
  • Where would this be recorded?
  • It is different conversations, getting them to think differently, engaging them in a conversation,
  • Need to build this into the dashboard, quality of these things and how we report on these
  • We have a training group to deliver the training through the organisation
  • Had workshops to pull the learning together
  • More creative network meetings now being seen
  • YOS have flown with this (Lincs)
  • Real call to action – this is what we’ve brought back and put into a 2-day training, people presenting at the end what they’ve done
  • Have been rolling it out in service areas
  • Training programme now in house
  • Found research from a British perspective on ACE’s
  • Considering cumulative impact on children

Short messages to staff about building networks

Every child has a family and every family has a network and every child has a right to be connected to their network.

Family Finding is about child protection, tools for finding the biggest family or network a child could possibly have, to keep them safe, connected and we do this right from the beginning.

It’s our job to discover and connect children with their important people and they need to be connected to someone.

Every child is part of a network, we will do everything humanely possible to make sure these connections are maintained for the child whatever happens to the child.


Back to the EIP2 Journal – October 2018