The use of mapping in child welfare investigations: A strength-based hybrid intervention

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Child Care in Practice, 20(1): 81-97

To enhance strengths-based service, a large urban child welfare agency in Ontario, Canada implemented part of the Signs of Safety (SOS) model in 2010. SOS was created to engage families involved with the child welfare system, and is rooted in the beliefs of collaboration, strengths-based practice, and safety. The hybrid of the full SOS model focused on the mapping conference, where cases that have been previously opened four or more times to child welfare are brought forward and discussed in a methodological fashion. Repeat referrals to child welfare agencies have dramatically increased over recent years and extant literature lacks a solid understanding of cases that have been opened on multiple occasions. Thus, the goals of mapping conferences were to reduce the total number and increase the understanding of re-opened cases, while still ensuring child safety and improving clinical service. The mapping conference includes a prescribed clinical, strength-based approach and case mapping, which examines: danger/harm; strengths/safety factors; and goals and next steps. The mapping conference was evaluated using mixed methods. Primary results indicate that only 6% of the mapped cases re-opened after a 12-month period. Recommendations from front-line workers include: fully implementing SOS in the investigative process and greater agency support for strength-based practice; including families in the mapping process; and increasing workers' honesty and transparency when engaging with families.

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