Licensing FAQ

This information on this page addresses the following:

Signs of Safety — what exactly is licensed and who owns it?

Andrew Turnell’s business, Elia, has registered and therefore owns the trademark to the name ‘Signs of Safety’ and the associated logo.

Only licensed Signs of Safety® trainers and consultants are permitted to deliver commercial or paid training or consultation using the name ‘Signs of Safety’. Licensed Signs of Safety trainers and consultants will be easily identifiable because they may use the logo.

Steve Edwards, who created the Signs of Safety together with Andrew Turnell, has an irrevocable license to use the name and brand.

Elia also owns the intellectual property created and copyrighted by Andrew Turnell, including the two Signs of Safety assessment and planning frameworks and numerous variations Andrew has created over many years, along with his writings, ideas, case examples, video recordings, DVDs, workbooks, names and titles, training materials, practice guidance and the like. All of this is also covered by the trademark.

Alongside this Elia holds other trademarks connected to the Signs of Safety approach including Signs of Success™, My Three Houses™ and Family Safety Circles®.

What is the purpose of licensing Signs of Safety?

The Signs of Safety is not an end in itself but rather is a vehicle to create child protection practice and organisation that does the following:

  • Places families and children, and those who have natural connections to the children, in the middle of directing their lives and the decision-making when they are caught up in child protection matters.
  • Provides a rigorous, participatory risk assessment and planning process that enables practitioners to lead the casework so that the assessment, decision-making and planning are completely understandable to the service recipients.
  • Provides practitioners with grounded visions – from actual casework – of what best participatory child protection practice looks like even in the highest risk, highest dispute case.
  • Builds a clear vision of what skilful use of child protection statutory authority looks like so that, even where removals and permanency are required, the chances of the parents and children fully understanding and participating in what the professionals decide and do are maximised.
  • Focuses child protection on building everyday safety for children in the daily interactions they have with their carers. In this way, professional interventions and services are seen as just one means to building everyday safety for children, not approached like they are an end in themselves.

Why did the Signs of Safety approach need to be licensed?

Over recent years there has been an explosion of interest in the Signs of Safety around the world. Many people have set themselves up as Signs of Safety trainers and consultants who have the necessary experience and every right to do so, while others are teaching the approach with limited experience. Child protection is risky business at every level. If the Signs of Safety was to remain an open platform where the approach could be taught by anyone, inexperienced trainers or consultants could leave people and organisations vulnerable and at significant risk of tragedy. The Signs of Safety would be particularly vulnerable to untrained use because those who want to promote a values and strengths-based, participatory approach to child protection practice can easily become naïvely optimistic and overly enthusiastic about the Signs of Safety approach. Child protection work is challenging it requires focus and discipline, not just how the approach is used in practice, but also how it is trained, supported and supervised and most importantly how organisations and governments support and organise to foster and sustain collaborative child protection practice.

Most professionals around the world who lead the Signs of Safety are focused on delivering training to practitioners and supervisors. This is completely understandable because, first and foremost, the Signs of Safety is a model of practice that offers practitioners and supervisors clear and structured methods for performing collaborative, safety-focused child protection work. The problem is that training practitioners in a good child protection model, while it will create some improved individual casework, ultimately changes very little or nothing.

What trumps everything in child protection is organisational culture, structure and managerial acuity to what the work is about for the service recipient and the service deliverer. If managers believe the work is fundamentally about procedures and compliance – and we always need some of this – you can throw the best models and trainers into an organisation and very little will change. This is because, eventually, and often quite quickly, the trainer, the training and the training manual are forgotten and workers go back to business-as-usual trying to deliver expert answers under the pressure to deal with one case and then the next, pressured by the need to meet timelines, fill in forms, follow procedure, and deliver performance outcomes.

If workers are to be strengths-based and solution-focused, if they are to honour the wisdom of service recipients, and if they are to lead through questions rather than set piece answers, then agency management MUST invest in a parallel learning culture. That management culture must be strengths-based and solution-focused, must honour the wisdom of frontline practitioners, and must lead through questions rather than through reactive command and control. If the Signs of Safety is to actually land and stick, the main game is transforming the dominant child protection command and control organisational style and transforming the fear-driven reactivity perpetuated by professionals, organisations, governments and media.

The final problem to emphasise here is that, while the Signs of Safety is organised and led by highly committed individuals who mostly all know each other, they are operating largely in isolation. Each individual trainer/consultant is working his/her heart out promoting the approach, promoting the business, getting the next job, creating training materials and delivering training. Most trainers are limited in their ability and capacity to keep growing in their journey with the Signs of Safety approach because they have to keep money coming in and keep the show on the road. While every individual experienced Signs of Safety trainer usually has some brilliant materials, training exercises and materials, there are few structures or mechanisms to share the knowledge. While most Signs of Safety trainers deliver fantastic practice-focused training, they usually have limited capacity to secure management buy-in and to leverage and lead an organisational implementation. Bringing together the community of trainers and consultants creates a community that can support each other, deliver stronger services and have significantly greater influence organizationally.

The Vision: Licensing as a means to structure and lead a child protection (r)evolution

Says Andrew:

“Above everything I want to challenge the paternalism that is the default setting of western child protection. It turns social workers into social police and leads child protection services to alienate the very people that most need societal help to raise their kids.”

“My motivation for creating this licensing structure for the Signs of Safety is that I am, and will always be, seeking nothing less than a revolution in child protection practice, organisation, research and theorising. I believe that the Signs of Safety can deliver that (r)evolution.” 

Child protection practice is defined by governments and large child welfare/child protection institutions. Currently, the Signs of Safety has functioned like the early stages of the industrial revolution, in that it has been led on a wing and a prayer and out from the cottages of myself and virtually everyone else leading the approach around the world. We have been the quintessence of a cottage industry.

If the professionals inspired by, and leading, the Signs of Safety approach to creating a child protection (r)evolution are to put children, parents and naturally connected networks back in the driver’s seat, much depends on our capacity to influence government and large child welfare/child protection organisations. For that to occur, those of us who lead this approach need to stand together. We must build upon a robust business and organisational platform so we can grow Signs of Safety knowledge, resources, training materials, research, practice guidance, theory, tools, capacities and organizational guidance. This is how we can best bring this approach to the governments and large agencies that define child protection practice.

The Signs of Safety leadership community needs to stand together to harness and document:

  • Extensive case examples of Signs of Safety practice across the entire gamut of child protection casework, particularly in difficult cases such as serious neglect, domestic violence where no current harm is evident, and developmental delay
  • Practice guidance, frameworks and tools grounded in what works in practice for intake, assessment, conferencing, ongoing casework, reunification, safety planning, foster care and the whole continuum of child protection tasks
  • Practice guidance grounded in what works in practice for the hardest tasks in child protection such as:
    • removing a child from its parents in a way that maximises the participation of the parents
    • court reports that are professionally and legally rigorous yet also completely understandable to the family
    • leading Signs of Safety meetings and conferences that maximize the contribution and wisdom of the children, parents and natural networks in the highest risk cases involving highly anxious professionals
  • Guidance and experience focused on how to utilise the Signs of Safety cross-culturally and with Aboriginal communities
  • Guidance for supervisors in group supervision process, time efficient mapping, leading appreciative inquiry, building slow thinking and practice depth in the face of anxiety
  • Signs of Safety training materials, exercises, processes and manuals, in hard copy, digital and web-based form
  • An evolving, extensive and readily available theory, knowledge and research base that supports the Signs of Safety approach
  • A business model, structure and organisation that allows us to consistently engage with government and large organisations from the Minister and the CEO through to the practitioner with the reality of the complexity of front-line child protection practice
  • Clear guidance that captures organisational and leadership structures, practices and processes that enable child welfare and child protection organisations to meaningfully implement the Signs of Safety, including:
    • growing an agency culture of appreciative inquiry around front-line child protection practice
    • leadership that demonstrates acuity and active engagement with the experience of practitioners
    • managing death inquiries and times of crisis constructively and confidently
    • shaping and developing key performance indicators and audit processes that have direct connection to improving child safety and wellbeing
    • a business model and platform that allows us to resource all of the above and energise the growth and continued learning of a strong, connected international Signs of Safety leadership community.

The trademarking, branding and licensing process around the Signs of Safety therefore is designed to:

  • Define clearly what the Signs of Safety is
  • Define clearly who is licensed to commercially train and lead the approach
  • Create a structured business platform whereby licensed trainers and consultants can generate sufficient income that they have the time to build the Signs of Safety resource and knowledge base
  • Create a structured business platform whereby licensed trainers and consultants can generate sufficient income that they can work closely together and create a strong international Signs of Safety learning community
  • Create a business platform and model that allows all trainers, consultants and organisations who invest the time to grow the Signs of Safety resource and knowledge base to monetise their intellectual property.

Why should trainers and consultants pay licensing fees and a 15% levy to Elia?

In the first instance, Signs of Safety is the intellectual property of Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards. Since 2000, Andrew Turnell has taken the lead in bringing the approach to the international child welfare community and growing the Signs of Safety brand and intellectual property.

No individual Signs of Safety trainer or consultant can easily defend the name and brand Signs of Safety®. Elia is the business of Andrew Turnell and is best placed to register and secure the Signs of Safety approach and brand. Steve Edwards is in full support of this undertaking. By registering and actively defending the Signs of Safety brand, along with who can and cannot deliver commercial training and consultancy, Elia will increase the value of businesses of all Signs of Safety consultants and trainers.

Licensed Signs of Safety trainers and consultants will command a rare and precious resource. Signs of Safety licensing will increase the value of the services delivered by licensed trainers and consultants; consequently, their business turnover will increase. In this context, it will be a relatively straightforward process to increase fees to cover the 15% levy.

The licensing fees are charged to cover Elia’s costs for processing and providing quality feedback and support for all applicants. The 15% levy:

  • Provides return to Andrew Turnell via Elia for being the primary driver and leader of the Signs of Safety brand and intellectual property
  • Provides Elia with the resources to continue to strengthen the international community of registered Signs of Safety trainers and consultants, so together we have the best chance to use the Signs of Safety as a platform for a (r)evolution in the crazy modern world of over-anxious, bureaucratic child protection.

How do I find out who is licensed?

All licensed and accredited Signs of Safety trainers and consultants will have their details and information presented on the Licensed Trainers & Consultants page at as soon as they are accredited.

We are a child protection agency or child welfare agency and we want to use the Signs of Safety approach and the assessment and planning forms. We want our training department or internal staff to deliver Signs of Safety training to our staff and to collaborating agency staff. Can we do these things?

Most definitely, yes!

Andrew Turnell, Steve Edwards and Elia have always welcomed child welfare and child protection adopting the Signs of Safety approach. Many are inspired from simply reading written materials or seeing videos or having staff attend public training events and desire to use the approach in whatever way suits them best. Agencies and practitioners are welcome to take and use the Signs of Safety assessment and planning forms. Elia, Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards want the Signs of Safety approach to continue to be an open platform for agencies and practitioners.

Where an agency, or individuals from a child welfare/protection agency, wishes to take commercial benefit of Signs of Safety intellectual property and charge others to deliver training or consultation, they then must secure a license to do so.

How will the Signs of Safety licensing be enforced?

Elia has appointed Signs of Safety Regional Directors in the countries where the Signs of Safety is strongest. The Regional Directors will work closely with all licensed trainers in their country and region, and through these networks unlicensed trainers/consultants will quickly be identified. The Regional Director for that country will contact the unlicensed trainers/consultants and ask them to stop offering unlicensed Signs of Safety training or consulting.

If unlicensed individuals or organisations continue to deliver commercial Signs of Safety training or consultancy after being requested to desist by Elia or by a Regional Director, we will take legal action to protect the Signs of Safety intellectual property rights and brand.

What if I want to continue training and leading some form of participatory, safety-focused, strengths-based child protection work but I don’t want to be a licensed Signs of Safety trainer or consultant?

Elia welcomes the development of child protection theory, practices, tools, methods and guidance that:

  • Place families in the middle of controlling and directing their lives when they are caught up in child protection matters.
  • Are created through listening to what works for front-line practitioners and service recipients.

Where professionals wish to draw upon and acknowledge Signs of Safety ideas and materials to deepen their development of participatory, safety-focused, strengths-based child protection work, they are welcome to do so.

What organisations and commercial trainers and consultants cannot do is represent their work as being Signs of Safety, or claim to be a trainer or consultant providing accredited Signs of Safety training or consultation, unless they are licensed to do so by Elia.

It is perfectly possible and acceptable by international IP standards and law that a trainer, consultant or organisation working in collaborative, family-focused child protection work draws upon the resources and IP of the Signs of Safety approach and chooses to adapt those ideas to create a different ‘brand’ or model, even where the approaches are only subtly different. In a different but related example, this is exactly what Bill O’Hanlon did within the Brief Therapy community. Steve deShazer, Insoo Kim Berg, Eve Lipchik and their colleagues created and branded something called Solution-Focused Brief Therapy (SFBT) in the early 1980s. O’Hanlon came along in the late 1980s and ‘created’ something called Solution-Oriented Brief Therapy. To many it was essentially the same product, but the subtle name change meant Brief Family Therapy Centre Milwaukee, which held the registered SFBT trademark, had to accept that a different brand of solution-focused brief therapy was alive in the market.

Within the child protection domain, Insoo Kim Berg and Susan Kelly were influenced by the work of Andrew Turnell and Steve Edwards. Andrew and Steve were of course hugely influenced by Insoo and Susan as each body of work was published by Nortons in 1999. However, the two bodies of work are different in various ways, including the fact that Insoo and Susan called their approach ‘solution-building child protection practice’.

It is also perfectly possible and acceptable by international IP standards and law for an individual or agency to take and adapt the Signs of Safety assessment and planning forms.

A clear example of this is the Olmsted Consultation and Information Sharing Framework created and copyrighted by Sue Lohrbach when she worked at Olmsted County Child and Family Services, Minnesota. Sue’s framework is directly related to the Signs of Safety Assessment and Planning framework, but it is sufficiently different and unique to what Sue Lohrbach has brought to the child protection field that Andrew Turnell and Elia have always supported this adaptation.

Elia and Andrew Turnell support professionals making such adaptations of the Signs of Safety Assessment and Planning framework as suits their purposes, but it must be emphasised that these adapted forms, frameworks and protocols CANNOT be called a Signs of Safety form or tool. Andrew does ask that if professionals or organisations make adaptations of the Signs of Safety assessment and planning forms that they acknowledge the Signs of Safety frameworks as a source document, but cannot enforce this request.

I want to write a professional book or paper about the Signs of Safety but I am not a licensed trainer or consultant. Can I do this?

Elia welcomes experienced professionals writing their ideas and experience about using the Signs of Safety and recognises that not all people who wish to author such material will want to be a Signs of Safety trainer or consultant. We ask that authors notify Elia and seek our endorsement to do so. If we have reservations about a writing project, we will seek to work with the author to deal with our concerns and get the publication into print. Elia will negotiate terms with each author and publisher. Wherever we feel able to support such a project, Elia will do everything it can to promote these writings and materials.

I am a licensed Signs of Safety trainer/consultant and want to write or create a book, workbook, paper, case example, training materials, video, practice guidance about the Signs of Safety. Can I do this?

Absolutely! This is part of what being a licensed Signs of Safety trainer or consultant is all about! This material will be owned by its author and creator and we would expect the author to copyright the material as their own intellectual property. Elia will do everything it can to promote these writings and materials.

I want to write something referencing Signs of Safety publications. Is this okay?

We absolutely want the helping professions within the fields of social work, psychology, psychiatry and child protection to draw on the Signs of Safety knowledge base, resources and publications. The normal referencing protocols and standards that apply at any university apply in these circumstances.

I am an academic or educator and I want to teach my students about the Signs of Safety. What is the position on this?

If universities or colleges of education wish to expose undergraduate and postgraduate students to the Signs of Safety approach as one model among many within the helping professions and in child protection work, that is absolutely fine and no licensing is required. If individual students want to research the Signs of Safety approach and write about it or make presentations based on their study, this is also completely fine and welcome.

Where a university or college is seeking to teach the Signs of Safety in any way that suggests the teaching and coursework will equip the students to use the approach in practice, or equip them to teach others, the academic or teacher delivering this teaching must become a licensed Signs of Safety trainer and negotiate a fee structure with Elia for this teaching work.

Who can I talk to in my country about Signs of Safety licensing and support?

Elia has Signs of Safety Regional Directors in many countries. The complete list can be found here.

The role of the Regional Directors is to:

  • Provide a first point of contact within their country and region for professionals and organisations interested in being Signs of Safety trainers or consultants, and for organisations that need to understand the parameters of the licensing arrangements.
  • Provide in-country co-ordination of all licensed Signs of Safety trainers and consultants
  • Ensure that all relevant child protection and child welfare organisations in a country are aware of the Signs of Safety licensing arrangements.
  • Provide a first point of contact with professionals or organisations who are breeching the Signs of Safety licensing arrangements, encourage them to desist and thereby avoid legal actions.
  • Work with the IP legal firm representing the Signs of Safety licensing arrangements within the country, when necessary.


We are looking for professionals who:

  • Are experienced in the Signs of Safety; who want to develop their expertise and work as part of the international community of Signs of Safety trainers and consultants
  • Want to grow themselves and the Signs of Safety approach and are committed to sharing their experience of this journey. We are looking for professionals who want to bring the approach to practitioners and particularly to organisations
  • Want to do the hard but exciting work of building a revolution in the way child protection is thought about and practiced, so there is a better chance of parents and children being placed at the centre of the work.

Signs of Safety Application Process

If you are interested in making an application to become a Signs of Safety Trainer and/or Consultant, please contact your local Regional Director and submit an application form. Links to both forms can be found below.

Trainer Application Form

Consultant Application Form