1 Volume 3, Number 2 A look AT SAFETY IN SOCIAL work . It's an open secret, really: SOCIAL work practical suggestions for assessing Children's Services Practice Notes is a news- is a dangerous profession. Every day, potentially dangerous situations and letter for North Carolina's child welfare work - ers produced four times a year by the North armed only with a genuine concern for provides strategies for maintaining Carolina Division of SOCIAL Services and the families, SOCIAL workers step out of your personal SAFETY .
2 In keeping with Family and Children's Resource Program, their offices and into the homes of our family-centered approach to prac- part of the Jordan Institute for Families and the School of SOCIAL work at the University of families in crisis. Each time they do, tice, we also discuss ways to integrate North Carolina at Chapel Hill. SOCIAL workers run the risk of becom- SAFETY precautions into your practice ing the focus of an assault. in a way that won't send the wrong In summarizing recent research, we try to give you new ideas for refining your practice.
3 How- Although there is no way to guar- message to families. ever, this publication is not intended to replace antee you will not become the victim We hope this issue will be a jump- regular supervision and peer consultation of an attack, there are steps you can ing-off point for discussions with oth- only to enhance them. take to reduce your risk. This issue ers in your agency. SAFETY concerns Let us hear fr om you! from of Practice Notes gives you some should be safe to talk about! If you would like to comment about something that appears in this or any other issue of Children's Services Practice Notes, please do MAINTAINING YOUR SAFETY IN THE FIELD.
4 So! Address your comments to: Not long ago, a CPS SOCIAL worker in SAFETY Assessment Assessment. To gather the John McMahon Michigan was killed by two members of basic information you need for an ac- Jordan Institute for Families a family with whom she was working. tion plan, you should conduct a SAFETY UNC CH School of SOCIAL work Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3550 If you read about it in the papers, assessment of the situation. Doing a State Courier Number: 17-61-04 your first reactions to this killing were SAFETY assessment before you leave E-mail: probably horror and sympathy this the office will allow you to decide what Newsletter Staf Stafff woman was doing the same thing I do.
5 Preventative measures you should Joanne Caye, MSW, Advisor Unless you managed to put it out of take, such as who to bring (going out Lane Cooke, MSW, Advisor your mind right away, you may have in teams, or with police), cont. page 2. John McMahon, MA, Writer/Editor Daniel Brezenoff, Writer moved on to feelings of curiosity and Angie Pittman, Writer fear what went wrong? Were there Michelle Wetherby, Writer warning signs? How can I keep that from happening to me? BEFORE YOUR VISIT. Before you enter a family's home, you should have a SAFETY action plan.
6 This plan should include precautions that will help you avoid stepping into a dan- gerous situation. It should also con- Can you keep a confrontation tain strategies that will help you man- from turning violent? age a confrontation if one occurs. SAFETY IN THE FIELD fr om page 1. from when to visit (preferably during day- right contains suggestions for keeping light hours), and how to proceed. yourself safe on a visit. SAMPLE ACTION PLAN. As a first step in this assessment, To ensure your plan fits with the par- Drive by the residence to see learn what you can about the family's ticular visit at hand, think about similar if things seem okay is there history: have they had violent encoun- visits you've had to make in the past.
7 Anything suspicious going on? ters with the police, schools, or SOCIAL what worked and what didn't? If you have When pulling into the parking services? Is there a history of mental limited practice experience, consult lot/neighborhood, look around illness in the family? Have they had nega- someone you know who does. And trust to see who is hanging around tive interactions with agencies in the your instincts. If something doesn't feel and what the atmosphere past? Some of these details will be noted right, it probably isn't.
8 Try to figure out seems to be. in agency records. For others, you may why, and decide what to do. Note at least two (if possible). need to consult informal sources, such AWARENESS IS KEY exits and entrances to parking. as your supervisor, coworkers, or col- No matter how thorough you are, SAFETY Back your car in and don't park leagues from other agencies. assessments and action plans are not directly in front of the home/. Also, give serious consideration to magic bullets. If they are to work at all, residence.
9 The street, neighborhood, or area where you must remain alert and observant Listen outside the door of the the family lives. You will want to exer- once you are in a family's home. home for disturbances such as cise extra caution for example, avoid Observing your surroundings and screaming, yelling, or fighting. wearing jewelry in known drug areas, the people you are talking to are sec- When knocking on the door, isolated places, or high crime areas. No ond nature for you as a SOCIAL stand to the side, not in front matter where you are going, be sure worker this is how you assess the of it.
10 Your car has enough gas and is in good SAFETY of children and the needs of Introduce yourself clearly, working order. their families. But you can also use your letting the family know who you Find out what you can about the ac- skill as an observer to identify potential are and why you are there. tivities and whereabouts of cults and mi- SAFETY risks. Assess the person/persons litia groups in your area. Even if they Finally, a word of caution: don't get you are talking with. What is are not directly involved in a case, these carried away.