Last Updated: November 2023
Which Cases
All investigations of alleged abuse/neglect by an SCP, including the following:
  • Licensed foster homes;
  • Non-related extended family members (NREFM);
  • Approved relative homes;
  • Certified foster family agencies (FFA);
  • Small family homes;
  • Adoptive parents if the adoption has not yet been finalized; or
  • Legal guardians, when a dependency case is still open (i.e., the department has protective responsibility for the child).
Excludes group homes, institutions, and residential treatment facilities.

The investigating social worker.


As part of the investigation, prior to leaving the child in the home—documented within two working days of the first face-to-face contact with the alleged child victim. If needed, a subsequent SCP safety assessment may be completed to assess changes in safety during the investigation.


Guides the decision to remove a foster child from the SCP's home, based on whether threats to safety are present in the household and whether interventions are available and appropriate to maintain placement.

Appropriate Completion

Workers should familiarize themselves with the items that are included on the safety assessment and the accompanying definitions. Workers will notice that the items on the tool are very similar to the items on the SDM safety assessment for child protective service investigations.

Use of the safety assessment ensures that every worker is assessing the same items in each investigation of abuse/neglect by an SCP, and that the responses to these items lead to specific decisions. Once a worker is familiar with the items that must be assessed to complete the tool, the worker should conduct his/her initial contact as he/she normally would, using good social work practice to collect information from the child, SCP, and/or collateral sources. The SDM system ensures that the specific items that comprise the safety assessment are assessed at some time during the initial contact.

Enter the name of the primary SCP and record the type of home being assessed. List the referral names and numbers of any related referrals for other foster children in the home. Complete one assessment per referral.

Additionally, record the names of all foster children in the home and their ages, including children in adoptive status for whom the adoption has not yet been finalized.

Enter the date the safety assessment was completed, which should be the date that the worker made initial face-to-face contact with the child(ren) to assess safety. This may be different than the date that the form is being completed in webSDM.

The safety assessment consists of four sections:

This is a list of critical threats that must be assessed by every worker in every investigation of alleged abuse/neglect by an SCP. These threats cover the kinds of conditions that, should they exist, would render a child in danger of harm. Because not every conceivable safety threat can be anticipated or listed on a form, an “other” category permits a worker to indicate that some other circumstance creates a safety threat; that is, there is something other than the listed categories causing the worker to believe that the child is in danger of being harmed.

For this section, rely on information available at the time of the assessment. Workers should make every effort to obtain sufficient information to assess these items prior to terminating their initial contact. However, it is expected that not all facts about a case can be known immediately. Some information is inaccessible, and some may be deliberately hidden from the worker. Based on reasonable efforts to obtain information necessary to respond to each item, review each of the 12 safety threats and accompanying definitions. For each item, consider all foster children in the home. If the safety threat is present, based on available information, mark that item “yes.” If the safety threat is not present, mark that item “no.” If there are circumstances that the worker determines to be a safety threat and these circumstances are not described by one of the existing items, the worker should mark “other” and briefly describe the threat.

If no safety threats are identified, the safety decision is “safe.”

Safe. No safety threats were identified at this time.

Based on currently available information, there are no children likely to be in immediate danger of serious harm. The SDM assessment guides the worker to leave the child in the placement for the present.


This section is completed only when there are safety threats identified as present in the household. If any of the safety threats were marked “yes” and there is evidence that one or more caregivers are experiencing substance abuse, mental health concerns, domestic violence, or cognitive/developmental or physical health concerns, indicate all that apply. These are conditions which make it more difficult or complicated to create safety for a child, but do not by themselves constitute a safety threat. These behaviors must be considered when assessing for and planning to mitigate safety threats. Mark all that apply to the household.


This section is completed only if one or more safety threats are identified. If one or more safety threats are present, it does not automatically follow that a child must be removed from the SCP's home. In many cases, it will be possible to initiate a temporary plan that will mitigate the safety threat(s) sufficiently so that the child may remain in the placement while the investigation continues.

The safety intervention list contains general categories of interventions rather than specific programs. The worker should consider each potential category of interventions and determine whether an intervention in that category is available and sufficient to mitigate the safety threat(s), and whether there is reason to believe the SCP will follow through with a planned intervention. Simply because an intervention exists in the community does not mean it should be used in a particular case. The worker may determine that even with an intervention, the child would be unsafe; or the worker may determine that an intervention would be satisfactory, but has reason to believe the SCP would not follow through. The worker should keep in mind that while any single intervention may be insufficient to mitigate the safety threat(s), a combination of interventions may provide adequate safety. Also keep in mind that the safety intervention is not intended to solve the household's problems or provide long-term answers. A safety plan permits a child to remain in the placement during the course of the investigation.

If one or more safety threats are identified and the worker determines that interventions are unavailable, insufficient, or may not be used, the final option is to indicate that the child will be removed from the SCP's home.

If one or more interventions will be implemented, mark each category that will be used. If there is an intervention that will be implemented that does not fit in one of the categories, mark item 6 and briefly describe the intervention. Safety intervention 7 is used only when it is determined that no interventions that would allow the current placement to continue are available or appropriate to mitigate safety threats.

Safe with plan. One or more safety threats are present; however, the child can safely remain in the placement with a safety plan.

Select this safety decision if one or more safety threats are identified and the worker is able to identify sufficient protective interventions that lead the worker to believe that the child may remain in the home for the present time.

Safety Plan Individual counties should use their own safety plan form. The following must be included in any safety plan:
  1. Each safety threat that has been identified and a description of the conditions or behaviors in the home that place any child at imminent threat of serious harm. The worker should use language the family understands so it is clear to them what caused the worker to identify the threat.
  2. Detailed information for each planned safety intervention. What needs to happen to keep the child safe? Explain how safety threat(s) will be mitigated. What will the family do to keep the child safe? What will other people outside the family do? This should include a written statement of actions or behaviors to be taken by a responsible party, which will keep the child safe in the current conditions.
  3. Who is participating in the plan, the role of each participant, and information that describes how the safety plan will be monitored (e.g., who is responsible for each intervention action) and the timeframe during which each intervention will remain in place.
  4. Signature lines for family members, the worker, and his/her supervisor.
Note: The safety plan should be documented in CWS/CMS.
The safety plan MUST be completed with the SCP, and a copy should be left with the family.

Unsafe. One or more safety threats are present, and removal from the SCP's household is the only protective intervention possible for one or more children.

The worker has determined that the child cannot be safely kept in the home, even after considering a complete range of interventions. It is possible that the worker will determine that interventions make it possible for one child to remain in the home while another must be removed. Select this safety decision if ANY child is removed from the home.

If one or more children are moved to another placement, list the names of foster children who are being removed from the home and the names of any foster children who were not removed from the home.