Domestic Violence and the Child Welfare System
Series: Bulletins for Professionals|
Child Welfare Information Gateway |
|Year Published: 2009|
Scope of the Problem
Estimates of the number of children who have been exposed to domestic violence each year vary. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (2007) estimates that, on average, between 2001 and 2005, children lived in at least 35 percent—and as many as 50 percent—of the households experiencing intimate partner violence.
As a result, large numbers of children come in contact with domestic violence service providers each year. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, one-half to two-thirds of the residents in domestic violence shelters are children. It reports: "On one day in 2007, 13,485 children were living in domestic violence shelters or transitional housing [facilities]. Another 5,526 sought services at non-residential programs" (National Network to End Domestic Violence, n.d.).
Exposure to intimate partner violence is in itself traumatic for children; the co-occurrence of maltreatment and domestic violence can be devastating. A literature review found that a median of 40 percent of families who experience domestic violence also experience some form of child maltreatment (Appel & Holden, 1998). It's important to note that a more recent study (Hartley, 2004) found higher rates of neglect (specifically lack of supervision) and lower rates of physical abuse in families experiencing severe domestic violence, when compared to families experiencing less severe domestic violence or child maltreatment alone.