Partnering with the Safe and Together Institute

We’re so excited that we have delivered the FIRST EVER LIVE Core Safe and Together programme in Aotearoa/NZ in Tauranga last week.  We had 30 participants from Iwi, NGO sector, Oranga Tamariki, Corrections and Police who came together to learn more about the approach.  The Safe & Together™ Model is an internationally recognized suite of tools and interventions designed to help child welfare professionals become domestic violence-informed.

The challenges Aotearoa/NZ faces in balancing child safety and care are the same as those faced by agencies worldwide.  Removing children from their families can have long term devastating impacts.  This approach is about keeping children safe and together with the non-abusive parent by working with domestic violence survivors and intervening effectively with perpetrators.   

The model challenges the idea that women who are victims of domestic violence fail to protect their children and should have them removed from their care.  Using this “failure to protect” paradigm has meant children are being removed unnecessarily, mothers are fearful to reach out for assistance for fear of being blamed and perpetrators as parents are all but ignored by systems and are able to take advantage of that to increase their power over their partner and children. 

The Safe and Together Approach draws on over 30 years’ experience in the field of domestic violence and child protection, focusing on improving the response to domestic violence when children are involved.   It is being used worldwide, including the United Kingdom, Australia and North America.  The Family Court of Australia and Federal Circuit Court of Australia have recently announced they have engaged the services of Safe & Together Institute to deliver court-wide domestic violence training focused on improving decisions related to children.

Systems that have used this approach have reported improvement in outcomes for families, greater worker satisfaction and cost savings.  There is promising research to suggest that Safe and Together is reducing the number of uplifts in other countries and we believe New Zealand social workers would welcome using this approach.

The founder of the approach, David Mandel came to Aotearoa in 2019 and delivered a one-day overview to 300 workers in Te Puke, funded by Oranga Tamariki.  The plan was to bring him back to deliver a Core training, but Covid had other ideas.  Instead, Tautoko Mai has become a partner agency with the Institute, and we have trained 6 trainers in the model.  Our first training event was in July this year - a one-day overview to Woman’s Refuge (NCIWR) child advocates.  Some comments from their evaluations included:

  • Language – how case notes are written from the words that are used. Specifically, how important [it is] to add more detail

  • It has made me aware of how minimally mothers are appreciated and acknowledged

  • It is important to identify exactly who the safe parent is and who has the violent behaviour

  • The violence is a parenting choice, and that choice directly and indirectly effects our tamariki and their parent’s capability to parent

  • Identify mum’s strengths and as a protector can be overlooked as “normal” tasks but are so important for giving the whole picture.

  • All the learning was great from today and incredibly useful and relevant

  • I will constantly bring myself back to the child as I have previously become conditioned to waiver from that focus. Ever mindful!

  • Parenting choice…like duhhh… never thought about it like that. That gives me ammo when confronting multi-agencies

  • What the impacts of family violence are to children and to be specific about this. For example, (father) regularly hits (mother) resulting in (child) feeling scared and anxious and seeking a safe space

We love the way this approach focuses on systems change, as well as individual practice change, and we’re so excited to be part of creating a global network of domestic violence informed child protection practitioners.  This approach works whether you work only with people who use violence, or the people they harm (including children).  It also builds on prior knowledge, and doesn’t ask people to cast aside prior learning.  It is both child and whanau centric.  Contact us if you would like to know more. 

He tangata ke koutou, he tangata ke matou, engari I tenei wa, tatou tatou e.

You are diverse, we are diverse, but in the final analysis, we all belong.