Safe & Together

Real Change: One Family’s Experience of Safe and Together, and Safety Organized Practice in Queensland, Australia (two videos)


The efficacy of the Safe and Together Model can be measured in a number of different ways. It’s been tied to positive changes in child welfare workers’ attitudes toward adult domestic violence survivors and a decrease in out of home placements in domestic violence cases. In the end, the most important result is the change in the day to day lives of adult and child domestic violence survivors. Improved safety, healing from trauma and stability and nurturance are the ultimate measure of success for domestic violence-informed child welfare systems. These things are always achieved in collaboration with our partners.

In these videos, produced by the Queensland Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Australia), we see a mother and her son talk about how a domestic violence-informed response had impacted them.  These “Appreciative Inquiry” videos were developed to showcase clients’ experiences with transformed child welfare practice.  In the last few years, the Queensland child protection agency has worked with David Mandel & Associates to transform it’s child welfare practice. The Caboolture office, which produced this video, was a leader in this effort, engaging in remote case consultations and coaching.  At the same time, the NCCD Children’s Research Center (CRC), creators of Structured Decision Making®, and Sonja Parker Consultancy, were jointly working with the entire agency to transform their practice framework. The Safe and Together Institute and CRC worked hand in hand to ensure integration of the new practice model with domestic violence-informed practice.   In a third example of major systems change, the agency is also trialling the ‘Walking with Dads’ (WWD) project. In an effort engage domestic violence perpetrators as parents, WWD workers, based in Child Safety offices across the state, provide a specialist response to fathers who have been violent.

In both videos, Tanya Mullins, a social work team leader, interviews a mother about her experience with the agency. This mother, a domestic violence survivor, had multiple prior involvements with child protection. The identified family issues include domestic violence, substance abuse and mental health issues. As she relates in the video, her prior  involvement with welfare agencies were not positive experiences. At one point she says, in the past, she was made to feel like she was to blame for “putting her own hands around her own neck.”

In first clip she describes how this current involvement with Child Safety felt different to her.  She shares how it felt when the worker, Tanya, communicates her concern for her as well as her children, and how she appreciated how her partner’s behavior was addressed for the first time.  Without prompting, she shares how she felt like the agency wanted to keep her and her children “safe and together.”

In the second clip, the mother continues to talk about the positive experience of the family group decision making process and how it helped improve her safety and the safety of her children. As she says in the video, “it was like freedom, and I felt stronger straightaway.” She talks about how the involvement of her partner was a positive experience, and how the lack of secrecy increased her sense of support and safety. Toward the end of this clip, the mother is joined by one of her children who talks about how the process made him feel safer.