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Child Protection in Families Experiencing Domestic Violence
Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau., Caliber Associates. Bragg, H. Lien.|
|Year Published: 2003|
Building Collaborative Responses for Families Experiencing Domestic Violence
Child protective services (CPS) caseworkers cannot comprehensively address all of the multiple needs of the families they encounter. Effectively responding to the needs of families experiencing domestic violence and ensuring the safety and well-being of all family members require close collaboration with service providers. This chapter describes specific activities that build collaborative responses between CPS and service providers, presents principles of collaboration, and provides examples of promising initiatives, models, and programs from across the Nation.
Partnering With Service Providers
Safety for children and adults impacted by domestic violence can be enhanced greatly through collaborative partnerships and integrative practice approaches between CPS caseworkers and service providers. It is essential that these groups understand the unique challenges inherent within each system that can compromise case sensitive practice and seamless service delivery. Similar to when CPS partners with substance abuse treatment providers, CPS caseworkers and service providers can engage in daily activities that teach one another about relevant field issues and incorporate their areas of expertise into case practice.
CPS caseworkers can take active roles in building relationships with service providers and in developing a shared understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities through the following:
- Shadowing activities. While visiting another practitioner's office may appear to be a simplistic suggestion, it can be a powerful tool in building relationships. CPS caseworkers can visit domestic violence shelters, observe a domestic violence intake, listen to hotline calls, and participate in domestic violence trainings. These visits will help them to integrate practical domestic violence knowledge and competency into their child protection efforts. Similarly, CPS caseworkers can invite service providers to listen in on child abuse hotline calls or accompany them on a child abuse investigation. By doing so, service providers can learn when CPS accepts a referral for assessment, what they assess for in determining child safety, and how they make the determination that a case meets the legal definitions for abuse or neglect. Domestic violence workers will see that many of the families entering the CPS system have multiple needs and CPS caseworkers face the daunting task of assessing and responding to several problems in addition to child maltreatment and domestic violence.
- Cross-training opportunities. Regardless of who hosts or the focus of the training, cross-training allows child welfare and domestic violence professionals to receive and provide relevant information simultaneously about their respective processes and subject areas. CPS caseworkers can invite service providers to inservice trainings where they provide critical information regarding the definitions of child maltreatment, the criteria for reporting to CPS, and the CPS process. This provides an opportunity to clarify misconceptions about their roles, responsibilities, and authority. Caseworkers likely will see that some domestic violence workers struggle with mandatory reporting requirements because they fear victims will be "revictimized" by punitive child welfare practices, that it will cause them to lose their children, or that they are breaking victims' confidentiality. CPS caseworkers can ease such apprehensions by explaining the criteria for case substantiation, the course of protective custody decisions, and the required steps in the child protection process. Further, caseworkers can offer to help victim advocates develop protocols and staff trainings on mandatory reporting to CPS. Similarly, service providers and organizations can invite CPS caseworkers to trainings such as appropriate safety measures for victims, perpetrator intervention programs, and the dynamics of domestic violence.
- Integrating case practice knowledge and expertise. CPS caseworkers can include service providers in case decisions and hold interagency staffings at critical decision-making points. It also may be helpful to have the service providers facilitate the family team meetings for CPS cases involving domestic violence. This integration of specialized domestic violence knowledge contributes to more informed decisions benefiting the safety and well-being of all family members. It also engages service providers in the CPS process, helps them understand ASFA timelines, and increases their awareness of service planning efforts. Service providers can observe juvenile court proceedings to learn when protective custody is necessary, the implications of child protection reunification efforts, and the conditions for recommending termination of parental rights. Service providers also can be involved in family court proceedings by providing expert testimony that educates attorneys, judges, and other parties about the impact of domestic violence on families.
- Sharing information. Information sharing and confidentiality issues frequently present barriers to collaboration and generate negative stereotypes about CPS caseworkers. Service providers often are accused of being uncooperative with CPS and overly protective of their clients. In turn, service providers often perceive CPS caseworkers as unwilling to share information even when these same caseworkers ask them for information about shared clients. CPS caseworkers can help counteract this misconception by explaining that case record information is protected through agency policy or statutes limiting their ability to share information. Caseworkers can collaborate to the extent allowed by informing service providers of case decisions, explaining the CPS process, consulting with them on practice approaches, and including them in case planning efforts. Service providers also can explain their confidentiality policies to CPS caseworkers along with the victim's expectations that the sensitive information they share will not be used against them. Service providers can explain this delicate balance and ask CPS caseworkers for guidance in developing practice guidelines regarding reporting to CPS and for sharing client information. In some instances, victims may be asked to sign a confidentiality release form so that case information may be shared with other service providers.
Service providers and CPS caseworkers, despite their differences, share one primary goal—safety and freedom from violence. They can work to accomplish this for all victims of violence by joining in partnership to develop new ways to work on behalf of the families they serve. Establishing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) can also aid in communication and understanding of roles. See Appendix I for an example of how to develop an MOU between a CPS agency and a domestic violence services agency.
Community Partnerships and Principles
Domestic violence and child maltreatment are not issues limited to CPS and domestic violence programs. Many of the families who become involved in the child protection system often face additional challenges such as substance abuse, poverty, or mental illness. As a result, a number of communities find that a comprehensive, coordinated approach is needed to meet the diverse and multiple needs of these families adequately.135 Other key members involved in responding to these families include the following:
- Health care providers (e.g., physicians, nurses, and public health agencies);
- Criminal justice personnel (e.g., legal aids, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and judges);
- Mental health care providers (e.g., therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists);
- Educators (e.g., teachers, guidance counselors, and Head Start personnel);
- Substance abuse programs;
- Housing programs;
- Economic support programs;
- Daycare and family support providers;
- Faith-based programs and clergy;
- Neighborhood groups and community residents;
- Survivors of domestic abuse and child maltreatment.
A lack of interagency cooperation frequently stems from the different and, at times, conflicting philosophies, mission, and goals of each system. Regrettably, these discrepancies can lead to systemic barriers that can make collaboration difficult and frustrating. Community partnerships can be created if they are based upon a set of general principles that include the following:
- Finding common ground. As a starting point, partnership members need to begin talking to one another. Asking questions about one another will help clarify misconceptions and confusion about each system. It will help participants find similarities and areas of agreement related to the safety and well-being of families and individuals in their communities. Perhaps one of the most important benefits from establishing common ground is that it often helps to develop trust among partners, which can be instrumental in a partnership's success and longevity.
- Developing a shared mission. Open and respectful discussion can move participants toward identifying common values, beliefs, and goals. Through informal or formal meetings, partners can work toward developing a collective vision for ending domestic violence in their communities. Once a unified mission is established, this mission will provide the foundation and focus in mobilizing the efforts of all those involved.
- Developing leadership. As in any successful initiative, leadership is essential for capacity building and sustainability. Participants need to identify persons among themselves or within the community who are influential, impassioned, and committed to leading the charge of the collective group.
- Taking action. With a common vision as the focus and leadership in place, community members can move towards identifying gaps in services, needed resources, and strategies for crafting a comprehensive response for families in need. Examples of these approaches might include legislative or policy changes, demonstration projects, or multidisciplinary boards that address co-occurring domestic violence and child maltreatment issues.136
Promising Initiatives, Models, and Programs
The above principles of collaboration merely serve as a beginning for groups seeking to improve outcomes for adult and child victims of violence. Institutional and societal changes can only begin when CPS, domestic violence programs, and an expansive network of providers integrate their expertise, resources, and services to eliminate domestic violence in their communities. A number of innovative approaches for addressing overlapping child abuse and domestic violence problems are emerging at the national, State, and local level. For example, CPS agencies are developing agency protocols and specialized units that integrate domestic violence knowledge into existing child welfare practice. In turn, domestic violence organizations are incorporating children's programs into shelter-based services. Other professional groups, such as hospital personnel and law enforcement officers, are including procedures to identify and respond to victims and their children. Child advocates, service providers, and an array of social service providers are forming interagency collaborations to develop comprehensive solutions that provide safety and stability for families.
The following are descriptions of nationally recognized pilot initiatives and programs that have been replicated in States and local communities throughout the country.137 Currently, conclusive data regarding the effectiveness of these programs is not available. The "Greenbook Project," a Federal demonstration project funded by the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice, is the first, multisite evaluation project that is anticipated to provide outcome data on the effectiveness of systems collaboration between child protective services, domestic violence, and the courts in addressing overlapping domestic violence and child abuse. While these examples provide a model for best practice, they are constantly being refined and expanded as emerging information and other creative solutions develop.
Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) and Domestic Violence Protocol—Massachusetts Department of Social Services
The Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) was the first CPS agency to hire a service provider to provide education and consultation to CPS staff. This practice integration model has expanded into the establishment of an internal Domestic Violence Unit (DVU) consisting of specialized service providers staffed throughout local area offices. The DVU provides case consultation, direct advocacy, liaison and referral information, and other assistance to CPS staff. In addition, the Massachusetts DSS Domestic Violence Protocol was the first protocol in the country for CPS caseworkers and has been replicated by numerous State and county child welfare agencies. This protocol provides guidance to caseworkers regarding procedures for assessing risk, interviewing, intervention strategies, and service planning.138 For more information, visit http://www.aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/cyp/dv/pt4.htm.
"Domestic Violence: A National Curriculum for Child Protective Services"—Family Violence Prevention Fund, San Francisco, California
The Family Violence Prevention Fund, a national domestic violence advocacy and public policy organization, developed the first national cross-training curriculum regarding the overlap between domestic violence and child abuse. This training curriculum provides practical information, guidelines, and tools for identifying, assessing, and intervening with families who are experiencing domestic abuse and child maltreatment.139 For more information, visit http://endabuse.org.
Community Partnerships for Protecting Children—Jacksonville, Florida, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Sponsored by the Edna McConnell-Clark Foundation, Jacksonville, Florida, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are two of four sites that are implementing a community-based, child protection response to domestic violence. In this model, formal and informal community networks, such as CPS agencies, domestic violence programs, substance abuse facilities, neighborhood centers, and community residents, share the responsibility for protecting children and strengthening families. In Cedar Rapids, domestic violence and CPS staff are located in neighborhood-based centers to provide onsite consultation, support, and advocacy to families affected by violence. Hubbard House, in Jacksonville, is one of the first domestic violence shelters to train CPS caseworkers, who then come onsite to interview the victim and children. CPS and domestic violence workers also "shadow" one another, participate in cross-training, and pair off on consultation teams.140 For more information, visit http://www.emcf.org/programs/children/index.htm.
Advocacy for Women and Kids (AWAKE) Program—Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts
Boston Children's Hospital was one of the first organizations that identified the link between child maltreatment and domestic violence. Subsequently, this discovery led to the establishment of the Advocacy for Women and Kids (AWAKE) Program. The AWAKE Program incorporates domestic violence advocacy in a pediatric setting and offers services to victims and their abused children. AWAKE also provides training and case consultation to Children's Hospital staff on domestic violence and child abuse.141
The Child Development-Community Policing (CDCP) Program—New Haven, ConnecticutThe Child Development-Community Policing Intervention (CDCP) Program was created in 1992 by the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine and the New Haven Police Department. This initiative convenes community police officers, service providers, and mental health clinicians to provide joint responses to victims of domestic violence and their children. Law enforcement officers are trained to identify children exposed to violence and refer them to mental health providers for further assessment. Police officers also connect victims with domestic violence services. For more information, visit http://www.info.med.yale.edu/chldstdy/CDCP.
Dependency Court Intervention Program for Family Violence (DCIPFV)—Miami-Dade County, Florida
The Dependency Court Intervention Program for Family Violence (DCIPFV), located in the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida, was the first national demonstration project to develop a coordinated approach to victims and children involved in child protection and dependency court proceedings. The judiciary, along with other key systems, employs a two-pronged approach to enhance the safety and well-being of children and victims involved with CPS and experiencing domestic violence. DCIPFV locates staff at juvenile court proceedings where domestic violence service workers are available for assessment and referral. They also provide support to victims and their children. DCIPFV staff assists victims in navigating the child welfare and juvenile court systems and helps them obtain civil protection orders. For more information, visit http://www.miamidcip.org.
Effective Interventions in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice—The Greenbook Project
The Greenbook Project is a Federal demonstration project consisting of six pilot sites selected to test and implement the recommendations of the National Council for Juvenile Federal Court Judges' Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. Published in 1999, this document offers a set of principles and guidelines for designing comprehensive approaches to co-occurring domestic violence and child abuse. The Greenbook Project focuses on three primary systems in the development of this coordinated response—juvenile and family courts, CPS, and domestic violence programs. A concurrent, cross-site evaluation measures the extent to which the demonstration sites' collaborative efforts result in system change and improvements in safety, recidivism rates, and abuser accountability.142 For more information, visit http://www.thegreenbook.info.
Domestic violence and child maltreatment cannot be viewed separately by professionals responding to family violence. The mission of CPS is to ensure the safety, stability, and well-being of child victims. This calling, however, is consistent with the domestic violence field's goal of providing protection and strength to victims of abuse. Adult and child victims suffer similarly and often in the same families. Thus, a thoughtful and synchronized approach is needed by the two systems charged with intervening. CPS caseworkers and service providers can and must join together to achieve their shared goal of freeing victims from the violence in their lives and working to prevent future violence.
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