How To Establish A Solid Safety Plan In Your Home

Author of 5 books, podcaster, parent trainer, husband and father.

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Safety plans are not an abnormal part of the foster and adoptive journey. In fact, they're necessary for many reasons. But how do you create and maintain a safety plan that keeps everyone in your home safe?

It’s easy to panic when you hear the words ‘safety’ and ‘plan’ in the same sentence. After all, when we were growing up, dreaming of becoming parents someday, those two words were probably not in our vocabulary. However, children who have a trauma history need structure, and a big part of that structure is a safety plan.

A safety plan is a written plan for what to do when an unsafe situation arises. Everyone has safety plans whether we have identified them as such or not. We know what to do if the house catches on fire. We wear seatbelts when riding in the car. If you live in the midwest like us, you know exactly what a tornado siren sounds like and what to do.

If you’re a foster parent who’s been investigated, or parenting children from hard places, you need a safety plan. Safety plans can ensure your family achieves maximum health, and also clear your name, and your family if you ever face a situation where you are under investigation or facing a false accusation. We believe that every foster or adoptive family should function within a safety plan. Parenting children from trauma means there are certain situations you may encounter that require clearly stated boundaries. It’s critical that all members of the family feel safe within the home. 

  1. Gather what you need. Start with a sheet of paper, a pen and your spouse, close friend or therapist. 
  2. A safety plan should identify the situation that might become unsafe. Let’s say you have a child who is starting fires. Fires can be dangerous. Your first step is to identify that you are creating a safety plan around keeping the family safe from fire. 
  3. Don’t panic. If you have identified the unsafe situation because someone has already been harmed, you may feel defeated. Take a deep breath. You are going to get through this. Remember that you have done your best up to this point, you simply didn’t know what you didn’t know. Now you know, so it’s time to move forward.
  4. Determine what steps you will take when a dangerous situation arises, keep the steps simple  then write them down. For instance if you have a child who rages, your first step may be to offer to help the child use a coping skill. Your second step may be to encourage the child to remove him or herself from other children. Your third step may be to alert the other children to the safety plan. (You may add a code word here so that the other children know what to do with very little explanation) such as leave the room, lock themselves in a separate room and turn on a movie. You may need to train your other children to call a family friend for help or even call 911 if needed.
  5. Gather your team. Everyone who works with the child and may encounter the unsafe situation  must know the safety plan. If your child is acting out sexually, you will need to alert the child’s babysitter, teacher and anyone who lives in your home. It is not necessarily a good idea to tell the neighbors or girl scout leader. Determine what situations your child will be in that you will not be able to control. If you only see your neighbor over the fence and your kids never play together you can feel confident that this is not a person to include. If you attend your child’s dance class with her and you are able to keep her in your sight at all times, there is no need to share her struggle.
  6. Practice. Everyone must know the safety plan and be able to follow it with minimal direction. Your safety plan may include simple phrases like, “private parts are private.” Your child should be able to recite a very simple set of instructions like. “Only one person in the bathroom at a time, dress in private, one person per blanket, stay where mom and dad can see me at all times.” Review the safety plan when there is not a crisis.
  7. No shame. We don’t shame someone who wears a bike helmet to ride his bike and we should not shame a child or family who follows a plan to keep everyone safe.
  8. Document. Keep a spiral notebook documenting any unsafe behavior and how the behavior was handled. You may need this, if you or your child are ever accused of unsafe behavior. Share this information with a trusted therapist who will guide you in redirecting the behavior.

You know your situation better than anyone, so your plan will be unique. Here are a few ideas that might be a part of your family’s safety plan. 

  • Separate genders on separate floors (or in separate zones).
  • Give children their own spaces that are off limits to other children.
  • Buy cheap alarms for doors to notify you of doors opening and closing.
  • Post the plan on the wall so everyone can see it.
  • Rearrange your house so children have to pass by you to get to another child within your home.
  • Install wireless camera systems that connect to your phone.
  • Keep sharp objects locked up.
  • Keep medications locked up.
  • Buy a box that locks with a padlock for anything that may be dangerous to the child. 
  • Only one person in the bathroom at a time. 
  • No playing behind closed doors.
  • We change our clothes in private. 
  • Child must stay in view of a trusted adult at all times. 
  • Make a code word, “safety plan” to use with other kids who then know what to do when another child is volatile.
    • (example: take younger kids to bedroom, lock the door, order pizza, turn on a movie)

(Editor’s note: a portion of this content was taken from our book, Honestly Adoption: Answers To 101 Questions About Adoption and Foster Care)

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.