Safety science and safety culture

Child protection agencies operate under tremendous social and political pressure. Too often, a tragic outcome (such as a child death or serious injury) leads to a cycle of intense media scrutiny, the blaming and firing of individuals determined to be responsible, and an increased focus on compliance and heightened practice monitoring. Such responses often contribute to organizational cultures of anxiety and defensiveness while doing little to improve safety.

Today, research is increasingly available to guide child protection agencies in creating a safety culture that is more effective in protecting children from harm. A safety culture must be cultivated throughout the agency — from top to bottom — and with external partners, including those with lived experience and other constituents. A safety culture promotes learning, and balances individual and system accountability by examining system factors.

A safety science approach goes hand in hand with the development of a safety culture. Tools must be created to collect data and identify and understand systemic barriers to child safety, and recommendations must be made to effectuate change. The safety science approach leads to instructive, retrospective learning when applied to systemic critical incident reviews, and also includes a proactive component focused on mindful organizing and other team-based strategies to prevent future harm.


Portrait of a happy mixed race family.

How are child welfare leaders applying safety science to critical incident reviews?


Serious Hispanic little boy looking at the camera embracing

How can child protection agencies use safety science to promote a safety culture?


Portrait of a group of young children standing in a line in the hallway of a school

How are child welfare leaders applying the principles of safety science to prevent harm to children?


Please explore the related resources below and at Questions from the field to learn more about safety science and safety culture.