2011 Children’s Bureau Region IV
Child Welfare Collaboration Initiative Meeting
August 15-17, 2011
Domestic Violence and Child Welfare
Fernando Mederos
Shellie Taggart
Isa Woldeguiorguis
Domestic Violence and Father
Engagement in Child Welfare:
Looking at the Big Picture
• Cannot change practice without understanding and
changing system
• Change happens ground up, top down, horizontally
and external/internal
• Technical fixes
Practice Improvements
Systems Enhancements
Culture Change
Leadership happens at all levels.
You are Leaders!
Prepare….know the issue
Assess your environment
Find your allies
Know thyself
Knowing the Issue: Why does Child
Welfare care about domestic
violence and fatherhood?
• 15.5 million U.S. children live in families
in which partner violence occurred at
least once in the past year, and seven
million children live in families in which
severe partner violence occurred.
(McDonald et al, 2006)
Why do we care?
• Witnessing DV is not only associated with
child physical abuse, but all forms of child
maltreatment (physical and sexual abuse,
psychological abuse, neglect and custodial
National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, 2008
• Physical abuse during childhood more
than doubles the risk of future
victimization among women and the risk
of future perpetration of abuse by men.
Whitfield et al, 2003
Overlap of DV and Child
• Most studies found 30 – 60% overlap;
41% was median
• High rates of overlap found in:
– Child fatality reviews (41% - 43%)
– Abused child studies
– Battered mother studies
Edleson (1999b), Appel & Holden (1998)
How are children exposed?
• Directly witness assault, rape
• Hear the violence, name calling, threats,
intimidation, disrespect
• Feel the tension
• See aftermath—broken furniture, bruises on
their mother, father (or mother) being taken
away by police
• Forced to participate in or watch the abuse
of their mother
• Intervene to protect their mother
How are children exposed?
• Threats to their own safety or well-being—
threats to kill, threats to call CPS (removal),
never seeing their mother again
• Physically placed in harm’s way
• After separation, may be used to relay
messages, keep tabs on mother, harass
• Seriously injured or killed during an assault
• Witness homicide of mother
Impact of exposure to DV on
• Over 100 studies available
• A third separated abused from exposed
children and found similar outcomes
• Generally show:
– Behavioral and emotional problems
– Cognitive functioning problems
– Longer-term problems
Edleson (1999a)
Impact of exposure
• Infants and young children—failure to
thrive, somatic complaints, separation
anxiety, regression
• School-aged—withdrawn and passive,
or aggressive and “acting out”
• Older youth—drug and alcohol use,
promiscuity, running away, use of
Consequences for children
• Children who witness domestic violence
are more likely to exhibit behavioral and
physical health problems including
depression, anxiety, and violence towards
peers. They are also more likely to
attempt suicide, abuse drugs and alcohol,
run away from home, engage in teenage
prostitution, and commit sexual assault
(Jaffe and Sudermann, 1995; Wolfe et al, 1995)
Impact of exposure depends
on . . .
• Exposure to DV may have emotional
and physical consequences for children
depending on
– Frequency, severity, chronicity, proximity to the
– Age at which exposure begins
– Multiple forms of exposure/poly-victimization
(exposure to DV, dating violence, bullying, school
crime, gang crime, internet crime, neglect,
community violence, physical and sexual abuse,
family or stranger abduction, rape)
Impact of exposure depends
on . . .
• Exposure to DV may be mitigated by
protective factors such as
Presence of loving and supportive adults
Presence of supportive community
Child’s individual temperament
Opportunities for healing and success
Sense of racial or ethnic pride
Domestic Violence, Substance
Abuse and Mental Health Issues
• Risk triumvirate!
• Research unclear due to various
methods, studies and approaches.
• Victimization-Trauma-Mental Health
Issues-self medication
• Perpetration-Substance abuse
• Children: DV and SA exposure,
challenged parents
National Center for Children and Poverty, 2004
Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality and
Disparate Outcomes
500,000 children in foster care in the US
No significant racial difference in rates of abuse and
Yet, 60% of those children in care are children of color
Disproportionality refers to a comparison between the
children in foster care, for example, and children in
the general population
Disparity speaks to the relationship between person of
color and others
(Hill, 2006)
Assessing the environment:
How are we doing?
What does data tell you about:
– Who you are serving (race, communities, ages of
– Numbers of DV reports
– Rates of screen in/out of DV
– Rates of substantiation in DV
– Rates of removal in DV
– Service plans and types of community referrals in
– Rates of finding fathers
How are we doing?
• What are your policies about:
Threshold for intake in DV situations
Policy or protocols for screening/intake
Decision-making process—SDM, DR, ?
Service planning/referrals
DV Consultation, team meetings, specialized
– Reasonable efforts in DV cases
How are we doing?
• What are your internal processes?
– Does your QA process include DV/F?
– Do quarterly and annual reports include DV/F?
– Does CFSR prep and internal findings include
– Does your Citizen Review Panel, Agency Board or
Fatality Review Team include DV/F reps?
– Do you have regular legal and policy review and
development processes that include DV/F?
Find your allies…or create new
Relationship, relationship, relationship
Ask more questions than give answers
Pick your battles
Be prepared for the long haul
Keep your eye on the prize:
Safety and well-being of kids and
Domestic Violence Principles
• Safety for children and non-offending parent together
• Engagement of fathers/men; work with fathers in
different ways depending upon strengths and risk factors
• CPS involvement based on clear thresholds of physical or
emotional harm to children--nexus of caregiver behaviors
and impact on children
• Strengths-based, accurate assessment, including:
– patterns of behaviors, both risky and protective behaviors
– family history (including trauma) as it relates to current and
future safety and well-being,
– other issues such job instability, financial stressors, institutional
racism/discrimination, substance abuse, mental health issues,
concrete resource needs related to poverty
Domestic Violence Principles
• Focus on reducing the disproportionate impact of the
system on children and families of color at both a DV
practice level and a systems level
– Practice: behaviorally-based DV assessment; effective father
engagement; safe family meetings; building upon existing
resources and strengths in families; self-reflective practice
– Systems level: use data to understand/address
disproportionality within DV cases; collaborate with juvenile
justice, mental health, and court systems to address the
cumulative differential impact of systems on families and youth
of color; develop leaders to explore and address race-based DV
outcomes; build capacity of the system (policy, programs) to
implement new DV strategies
Child Welfare Practice
Universal screening for DV
Engagement of families
Child Abuse and Neglect
Police responded to a domestic assault in front
of 93 Sterling Avenue. Monique Davis was
punched in the arm and face by her BF Dupree
Simmons because she was going to visit
another BF. Child Preniqua (age 9 months) was
present during the assault. Officers
documented bruises on the arm of Davis and a
swollen left cheek. Simmons was taken into
custody and charged with A&B.
Universal screening for DV
• Of all reports at intake
– “Do you know whether there has been
violence between adults in the home?”
• Throughout life of family’s involvement
• When see “red flags”
Universal screening:
systems issues
• MUST have a system that knows how
to respond when DV is identified
– Learn lessons from other states
– Avoid disclosures of women being
battered to doctors, hospitals, therapists
automatically resulting in report to CPS
• Families from specific communities
over-reported to CPS, others are underreported
Engagement: DV practice
• Engage NOP first
• Engage DV offender early in process
whenever possible
– If safety is a concern, plan for later involvement of
DV offender
– On occasion, may not be possible to engage DV
offender at all for safety reasons
• Relationships are key to safety for
children and the NOP
Engagement: DV practice
• CPS involvement can make things
worse for NOP and children
– Pay attention to safety at every stage
• Family meetings
• Universal messages, without judgment:
– Potential impact of exposure on children
– Cultural norms and values vary
– All families have strengths, and most have
tried to keep children safe
Engagement: systems issues
• Training and consultation are critical
• Disproportionate impact of CPS on FOC
makes engagement/trust more difficult
• Relationships within family’s natural
support system are key to long-term
• If fathers not currently engaged, asking
staff to engage them is an increase in
Assessment: DV practice
• Fundamental question for CPS
involvement: How have these children
been harmed physically or emotionally
as a result of exposure to DV? What is
the evidence? Why specifically are we
worried about the potential for harm in
the future?
• Domestic violence vs. family conflict
Assessment: DV practice
• Assessments must be behaviorallybased to avoid/minimize bias and error
– Avoid “compliance” or “cooperation” or
“completion” as proxies for safety
• Look as rigorously and deeply for safety
as for danger/risk
– Safety is NOT the absence of danger
• Assess progress toward “more safety”
Assessment: DV practice
• Trauma-informed
– Instead of asking “what’s wrong with
you?” asking “what happened to you?”
• Relevance of past history on the
current and future functioning of
families in regards to their ability to
keep children safe
Assessment: systems issues
• Critical thinking happens more effectively in
a group process, not one-worker-to-a-family
• Assessment of systems responses needed
• Research on “poly-victimization” may lead to
more CPS involvement for FOC and poor
• No one good tool exists for assessing impact
of exposure to violence on children
Planning: DV practice
• Planning WITH the NOP
– Safety and empowerment
• Expanded networks of support and
• Build plans based on prior problemsolving and prior acts of protection by
the family, including the DV offender
– Use solution-focused practice
Planning: systems issues
• Avoid trauma of placement
• Family meetings:
– May need separate meetings
– Meeting with DV offender is first about engagement
and support for change, not alternate planning for
• Observable and measurable plans that
increase safety
• Cultural values re: protection of families
from the system
Decision-making: DV practice
• Behaviorally-based decisions:
– Danger, risk to children from DV
– Indicators of safety within DV
• Child exposure to DV ≠ child abuse
• Family’s desire/need for services to
support behavioral changes
• Define “enough safety”
Decision-making: systems
• Look at DV and race/ethnicity data at
decision points:
– Screen in or out
– Support/substantiation/concern
– Placement of children (kin and foster care,
residential care)
– Open for services/close
– Close after services
Working with Men Who Batter
in Child Welfare
• What are the pros/pluses/benefits?
• What are the cons/minuses/risks?
• Effective intervention with men can
have a great impact on the safety of
children and their mothers
• If we don’t intervene with men in DV
– We makes mothers responsible for all
changes needed
– We increase risk to her
• Many men who batter have great
potential to change and can be
recovered as good fathers and partners
• If we fail to intervene with them, a
significant opportunity to improve the
lives of families is missed, as is the
potential to repair the relationship with
their children
MWB—Who are they?
• Moderately violent
• On-going re-assaulters
• Highly dangerous/
potentially lethal
40 – 70%
30 – 50%
less than 5%
Systems filter issue
Not a major mental health group
CPS population may differ
• Safety
• Engage men and fathers in different
ways depending on strengths and risks
• Strength-based, holistic, behaviorallybased assessment
• Confidentiality
• Ongoing assessment
• Avoid pressuring mother/children to
have contact with father (risk and
trauma issues)
• Attend to fathers’ potential use of
children to abuse/punish mother
Differential engagement
Differential engagement: work with fathers
in different ways depending upon their risk
levels and strengths
– With moderately violent man, consider
services to help him address domestic
violence and to support his parenting.
Visitation may be highly advisable OR he is
at home.
Differential engagement
• With ongoing re-assaulters or highly
dangerous men, primary emphasis more
narrowly focused on services to address
domestic violence and/or substance abuse.
– For men not in the home, access to
children can be more restricted and
– For men at home, ongoing assessment of
children--may be no access to children.
Relationship with children
Commitment to fatherhood
Positive discipline
Children & mom not afraid
Change in behaviors (violence and
• Acknowledge importance of fathers
• Inquire about fatherhood vision,
attachment to children
• Look for stability, social capital
• Respect, listen
• Education: impact of behavior on
children and their mother
• You are really important to your children
• You are a role model for them—boys and
girls—in different ways
• A man cannot hurt or abuse his children’s
mother without also hurting his children
• They will carry these memories with them
always. You can make a difference for them.
CAPTA Reauthorization
CAPTA requires addressing the co-occurrence of domestic
violence and child maltreatment:
• Disseminate information on training resources, effective
programs and best practices in the collaboration between
CPS and domestic violence services,
• Collect information on the incidence and characteristics
of child maltreatment cases where there is also domestic
violence, and
• Discretionary grants to promote and support linkages
among services for abused children and their mothers
and the development of effective collaborations.
CAPTA Collaboration
• Support statewide collaborations between domestic
violence coalitions and child welfare agencies
• Federal collaboration to address the needs of
children and adults impacted by violence
• Research on effective collaborations between CPS
and domestic violence services that provide safety
for children exposed to domestic violence and their
non-abusing parents; to improve investigations and
delivery of services for children and families;
FVPSA Reauthorization (2010)
• Emphasis on collaboration at national,
state, and local levels
• Expanded best-practices and evidencebased solutions
• Dedicated funding for children exposed
to domestic violence
• Better protections for survivors
FVPSA Program Purpose
Provide the primary Federal funding stream
dedicated to the support of emergency shelter and
related assistance for victims of domestic violence
and their dependents;
Provide for a national domestic violence hotline;
Assist States and Indian tribes in efforts to increase
public awareness about and prevention of, family
violence, domestic violence, and dating violence.
FVPSA Grants Overview
• Formula Grants
– States and Territories
– Tribes
– State Domestic Violence Coalitions
• Discretionary Grants
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National and Special issue Resource Centers
Expanding Services for Children and Youth
Expanding Leadership Opportunities for
Underserved Groups
Fostering Connections (2008)
• Requires all adult relatives of a child be notified of foster
care placement but carves out an exception to this
requirement in cases of family or domestic violence.
• Established Family Connections Grants on a competitive
basis for a range of programs, including supporting
“family group decision-making” with exceptions to
certain requirements when potential for danger exists.
• Mandates attention to helping children exposed to
domestic violence and linking them to appropriate
Affordable Care Act –
Home Visitation (2011)
• Part of Affordable Care Act
• New state-level program to expand home
visitation programs–help to vulnerable
pregnant women and new mothers around
caring for their babies
• “Decreasing domestic violence” as one of 5
outcomes (must choose 3) by which
programs will be measured
Fernando Mederos
Director of Fatherhood Engagement, Massachusetts DCF
[email protected]
(617) 548-9171
Shellie Taggart, Consultant
Through the NRCCPS OR independently at
[email protected]
(413) 336-6767
Isa Woldeguiorguis, Consultant
[email protected]

Domestic Violence and Child Welfare – PowerPoint Presentation