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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|
Developing a Memorandum of Understanding
During the past decade, traditional interventions designed to address family violence have provided marginal assistance to victims and maltreated children. Although domestic violence and child welfare professionals frequently serve the same families, they have historically operated in isolation from one another. Consequently, this "disconnect" between these two professions has produced negative outcomes for the actual victims that they attempt to serve. Recently, a number of communities have developed new strategies to address this disconnect and joined together to integrate domestic violence and child welfare services to best meet the needs of victims and maltreated children. One of these strategies is a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).
What is an MOU?
It is a written agreement that serves to clarify relationships and responsibilities between two or more organizations that share services, clients, and resources.
Why is it important to have an MOU?
The purpose of an MOU is to strengthen partnerships between two or more organizations that seek solutions to mutual problems. The overall goal is to develop partnerships between all of the parties as they work more closely together and benefit from the interchange of ideas and practices. Communities with MOUs report that the strengthened partnerships resulted in enhanced services for adult victims and children affected by family violence.
What is actually included in an MOU?
Generally, MOUs can include a variety of different issues and topics. Input from each partnering agency enhances the overall process of creating a jointly crafted MOU. Each MOU can range from one to several pages in length, with an allowance for signatures that represent the commitment from all involved leaders. MOU content areas may include:
- Agency role clarification
- Cross-agency referrals
- Assessment protocols
- Confidentiality parameters
- Case management intervention
- Interagency training of staff
- Agency liaison/coordination
- Interagency conflicts resolution management
- Periodic review of the MOU.
How do we know our community is ready to develop an MOU?
Communities that are concerned about reducing the growing incidence of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect are excellent candidates for creating an MOU. Communities with a history of collaboration will have a foundation with which to build. It is important to note, however, that in those communities that experience strained relationships, the MOU writing process provides an opportunity to address misperceptions and differences and to work together to resolve service delivery gaps.
What strategies should we undertake as we begin the MOU process?
Depending on pre-existing relationships within communities, one strategy may include inviting key supporters to meetings to explore the feasibility of MOU development. Communities report that once they have the commitment and investment from the leaders of the domestic violence and child welfare agencies, the MOU process quickly crystallizes and results in a written MOU. An additional strategy may include inviting an outside consultant to facilitate a mutual partnership that leads to the development of an MOU.
What are the potential problems that arise during the MOU process?
Problems may arise concerning misperceptions about each other's goals, missions, and philosophy. Domestic violence and child welfare agency professionals report that the MOU meetings help them understand each other's language and history and provide a context to view each other's philosophy and mission. Another area of tension involves confidentiality and the various implications for each agency. Additional problematic issues may include assessment decisions, levels of intervention, and out-of-home placement for children whose battered mother is not the maltreator. The MOU process provides an opportunity to address these critical issues to best meet the needs of the mothers and children.
How does the MOU actually help families and children?
Families affected by domestic violence and child maltreatment report that they are reluctant to request assistance, are required to participate in services that do not address the underlying issues, and frequently feel misunderstood by professionals. Communities with existing MOUs have found that children who are exposed to domestic violence were less likely to be placed in out-of-home settings and that families were more motivated to work with professionals to reduce their risk of future family violence. Families served in communities where MOUs have been established report a higher level of satisfaction in working with professionals. One mother commented: "Before, when I called, no one seemed to understand, and, now, I finally feel as though someone is really listening to what I have to say."
|For an example of a current Memorandum of Understanding used by the partner agencies of the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team in Colorado, visit: http://www.dvert.org/overview/Downloads/Memorandum%20of%20Understanding%202002.rtf.|
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