U.S Department of Health and Human Services U.S Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
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Screening and Assessment for Family Engagement, Retention, and Recovery (SAFERR)

Sections and appendices of this publication can be downloaded as PDFs: SAFERR Introduction (PDF 407 KB); SAFERR Section 1 (PDF 540 KB); SAFERR Section 2 (PDF 414 KB); SAFERR Section 3 (PDF 555 KB) or ordered at the SAMHSA publication store. Or call SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). In addition, this publication can be ordered from the Child Welfare Information Gateway at 1-800-394-3366.

What is SAFERR?

SAFERR is a collaborative model to help child welfare, substance abuse treatment, and family court professionals make better informed decisions when determining outcomes for children and families affected by substance use disorders. The guidebook provides strategies to help improve the connections, communications, and collaborative capacities across systems.

The SAFERR model is based on three overarching principles
  1. The problems of child maltreatment and substance use disorders demand urgent attention and the highest possible standards of practice from everyone working in systems charged with promoting child safety and family well-being.
  2. Success is possible and feasible. Professionals from child welfare, substance abuse treatment, and family courts have the desire and potential to change individual lives and create responsible public policies.
  3. Family members are active partners and participants in addressing these urgent problems

While SAFERR suggests standards of practice within each of the three systems, its focus is on the connections, communications, and collaborative capacities across them. These standards apply to the child welfare, substance abuse treatment, and family court professionals. Because families involved with these systems are also likely to be known to other systems such as welfare, criminal justice, and mental health, the strategies suggested are relevant for coordinating services across a wide range of systems.

How will the model help my work?

  • Introduction
    Although there are a variety of tools for screening and assessing children and families and a range of substance abuse treatment and other services, it is only through collaboration and communication across the systems responsible for helping families that workers will get the information they need and that families will feel they have a chance at changing their lives.
  • Section I: Building Cross-System Collaboration
    Describes ways in which collaborative groups differ from other kinds of work groups, creates a framework for selecting and guiding a Steering Committee, and offers ideas about how to establish the group’s mission and mandate. It also describes two essential elements of successful collaboration: understanding each other’s systems and communicating across systems.
  • Section II: Collaboration Within and Across Systems
    Lays out elements that people in each system should know about their own system and about the other two systems—things they can do internally in preparation for working with other agencies. It then presents elements that require communication with the other two systems. It concludes with suggestions regarding how the Steering Committee should guide both the “within system” and the “cross-system” discussions.
  • Section III: Collaboration in Action: Working Together on the Frontline
    Presents activities that compose the daily work of substance abuse counselors and child welfare workers and offers guidance on how they can collaborate in these tasks. Activities include screening for substance abuse disorders and for child maltreatment, conducting initial and ongoing assessments, and developing techniques for engaging families and monitoring their progress. It concludes with suggestions regarding how the Steering Committee should guide these frontline practice changes. and fact sheets to help implInformation, tools, and fact sheets to help implement the SAFERR model.

    • Facilitator’s Guide (PDF 571 KB)
      Presents managers with templates and techniques for creating and sustaining a Steering Committee or other multidisciplinary group. It includes samples of Action Plans, instruments to help Steering Committee members assess their values and their capacity to collaborate, and other forms to make it easier for the Steering Committee to accomplish its goals. This appendix is a companion to Section I of the guidebook.
    • Fact Sheets (PDF 428 KB)
      Provides a series of fact sheets on topics such as the number of people involved with child welfare, substance abuse, and the court systems, the number of children born prenatally exposed to substances, and research findings on the extent of substance abuse problems in child welfare. These fact sheets may be useful in educating legislators and policymakers or heightening awareness among frontline staff. They are intended to complement and not replace more in-depth training activities that should take place.
    • Understanding the Needs of Children in Families Involved in the Child Welfare System Who Are Affected by Substance Use Disorders (PDF 463 KB)
      Provides information about prenatal and postnatal substance exposure and the consequences of exposure on children, issues related to substance use among youth, and a description of resources for children who have been identified as affected by parental substance use disorders.
    • Examples of Screening and Assessment Tools for Substance Use Disorders (PDF 1.71 MB)
      Presents a sample of commonly used screening tools for substance use disorders and discusses the pros and cons of each tool for use by child welfare staff. Child welfare and substance abuse staff should jointly select the tools that best meet their needs.
    • Substance Use, Abuse, Dependence Continuum, and Principles of Effective Treatment (PDF 253 KB)
      Presents Federal principles of effective treatment for substance use disorders and a description of the continuum of substance use, abuse, and dependence. This appendix is a companion to Sections II and III of the guidebook.
    • Examples of Safety and Risk Assessments for Use by Child Welfare Staff (PDF 227 KB)
      Provides an annotated list of commonly used risk and assessment tools, including practice-based tools and the Strategic Decision-making tool. The purpose of these examples is to provide general information to substance abuse counselors regarding the issues addressed in child welfare safety and risk assessments.
    • Sharing Confidential Information (PDF 140 KB)
      Describes Federal rules regarding acceptable means for sharing confidential information. It includes information that can be incorporated into consent forms for use by multiple agencies and links to Federal resources for sharing information in ways that comply with HIPAA and other confidentiality regulations.
    • Glossary of Terms (PDF 182 KB)
      Provides short definitions of terms commonly used by child welfare, substance abuse services, and court staff.
    • A Guide to Compliance With the Indian Child Welfare Act (PDF 331 KB)
      Provides a short description of key provisions of the Indian Child Welfare Act, including when it applies, State/tribe jurisdictions, burden of proof requirements in removing children, and removals of children in emergency situations.

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