Take 5: to Practice and Share the C-SAFE Philosophy

Take 5: to practice our new C-SAFE philosophy or better yet, teach one person — a volunteer or a new staff member — how to implement this new advocacy practice.

C-SAFE is the "new" GAL philosophy on how to engage even more directly than we already do in the action necessary to advance the best interests of kids. I say "new" because it's really not all that new. These are things we've been talking about and doing for years. But it some respects it is a new philosophy as it is designed to begin every conversation, on every case, with three simple questions leading us to decisive action in three critical areas.

Many of you have received formal training on our C-SAFE philosophy. Some of you may not have. But I hope all of you have at least heard of this unifying approach.

So in short, what is C-SAFE?

C-SAFE is a unifying philosophy that insists that every single one of us ask three questions every time we look at or discuss a case. These three questions should be a part of your normal, standard operating procedure. We don't need you to fill out a form or hold a formal meeting or make a production out of the asking of these questions, but we do need you to ask and answer the questions… every single time. Volunteers, CACs, attorneys and management should all ask these questions every time any one or more of you begin a review or assessment of a case.

I should remind everyone that all decisions like this should be documented in a prominent location, somewhere in your file. Anyone who picks up the file should be able to start with prior answers on these three questions.

OK, enough of the preliminaries… "What are the three questions?" Hey, I'm glad you asked. They are:

  • Is this child safe in their current placement?
    If so, great! If not, what do we need to do NOW to make sure this child is safe? You can also ask this same question about a future, planned placement.

  • Have we actually achieved ALL that we've advocated for in this case?
    If so, great! If not, what do we need to do NOW to make sure that what this child needs is actually delivered?

  • Is this case on track to expedite the right permanency plan for this child?
    If so, great! If not, what do we need to do NOW to get this case resolved with the appropriate permanency outcome?

That's it? Does that cover every conceivable advocacy issue? Probably not. But it certainly focuses us on the three very important issues of safety, assuring that the child's needs are being met and getting permanency for the child as soon as possible.

The whole point, really, isn't the answer to the question, although the question is certainly the springboard particularly when the answer to the question is "no." The point is the action necessary to change the answer to "yes" when the answer needs changing. Action orientation is the absolute, final assessment on the effectiveness of our C-SAFE philosophy.

So, here's my challenge to you. Take five minutes today to practice this new philosophy on at least one file. Ask and answer the three questions in concert with your advocacy team as a conscious exercise. Decide what needs to be done to get the answers you are seeking and get it done. If the answers to all three questions are already yes, then celebrate where this case is heading and move to the next case. And to cement this new philosophy in your mind, teach someone else how to incorporate the C-SAFE model into your day-to-day work.

The immediate goal is to infuse C-SAFE into every level of the organization, and the only way to do that is to make the C-SAFE philosophy and the C-SAFE questions a part of your personal philosophy. I've challenged your management team to ask these questions themselves. If they aren't doing that for you, ask them to help you integrate C-SAFE more effectively by modeling those questions in their own review of files.

The longer-term goal is to change significantly the answers to all three of these questions, where we can, to a resounding "yes" every time. That will require action… and lots of it. But the lives of the kids we serve will be better off for it. But it's the action that will matter in the long run.

"What can we do to change this today?"

C-SAFE applies to everyone who works with a child at GAL. It is the guiding principle for the entire GAL organization, regardless of your position. And most importantly, our success (as individuals, teams, units, circuits, regions and statewide) should largely be determined on how well we can change a "no" to a "yes." If we only advocate without achievement then our advocacy isn't really very effective. So the measure is action and results, not advocacy in and of itself.

I'd love to hear of any stories that result from a C-SAFE discussion or analysis. Tell me a story about where you were able to change a "no" to a "yes" with action that arose from your C-SAFE questioning and collaboration. I'll be happy to share some of those results with everyone. Good luck! Have fun with this and make it happen!

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