Matching Risks to Supports


Team members are often faced with the difficult task of solving a risk issue with few clear solutions. Not all risks should be handled the same way—and increased supervision cannot always protect an individual from harm. Supervision levels or services can become rigid categories instead of being tailored to the person’s needs. A step-by-step approach helps to match the risks to the right supports.

Be specific in describing and evaluating each risk

Once risks are identified, the team needs to specifically describe and evaluate the risks. Considerations include:

– Where and when is each risk present?
– Who will be harmed, and in what way?
– How likely is it that the harm will occur?
– How often is the risk likely to reoccur?

If the potential harm is minimal and the likelihood of it occurring is low, the team may determine that it is a reasonable risk that does not require intervention. But if the potential harm is serious, then additional supports may be needed.

Describe the interventions based on the risk

Instead of skipping straight from a risk to a supervision level or number of service hours, be specific about what support or intervention is needed to address the risk.

– How does the person need to be monitored for each risk? By listening, watching, physically supporting?
– When—or how frequently—does the person need to be monitored for each risk? While eating, while in a certain location or around certain people, while awake?
– How quickly will someone need to intervene, and in what way? Verbally, physically?
– What other supports are in place to monitor or intervene in the risk? Safety equipment, technology, friends or family?

In identifying these interventions, teams need to realistically assess if the services or supports—particularly within the defined supervision levels—can actually impact the risk and lessen the anticipated harm.

Speak the same language

It is important not to use supervision level jargon without ensuring that team members understand and agree on the terms. The supervision reference chart (see below) provides details about common supervision levels including definitions, staff proximity, range from the person, and staff response. Teams can use this crosswalk as a starting point for specifically describing how the services within the person’s plan will monitor and intervene.


Flowchart for Evaluating Risks and Supports

Happy/Safe Grid

Charting the Life Course | Life Trajectory Tool

Supervision Reference Chart