• July/August 2014
  • Vol. 15, No. 7

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The Co-Occurrence of Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment

By Lonna Davis, Director of Children & Youth Program, Futures Without Violence; Shawndell Dawson, Senior Program Specialist, Family Violence Prevention & Services Program, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; and Z. Ruby White Starr, Program Director, Family Violence, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

It is well documented that domestic violence and child maltreatment often co-occur in families and that children who are exposed to domestic violence face an increased risk of negative social, developmental, and psychological problems, including juvenile delinquency, decreased social competence, depression, and posttraumatic stress. Historically, domestic violence interventions focused on the adult victim, while child protective services focused on the children; however, more recently, both fields have learned that one of the best ways to keep a child safe is to keep that child's parent safe. Accordingly, services have begun to focus on keeping all family members safe and, whenever possible, keeping children with their nonabusing parent.

The first significant attempt to encourage child welfare agencies, domestic violence advocates, and the courts to address the intersection between child welfare and domestic violence (co-occurrence) was the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) publication Effective Interventions in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice (Greenbook). The Greenbook provided a guiding framework for communities to revise policy and practice, promote coordination, and improve outcomes for families. The Federal Government funded six demonstration sites across the country to implement the principles of the Greenbook, document their progress, and develop tools and resources. More information and resources on the Greenbook Initiative—including a downloadable version of the Greenbook; tools, and resources from the demonstration sites; publications, tools, and materials produced throughout the Initiative; and resources and links pertaining to co-occurrence—can be found at http://www.thegreenbook.info/.

Although the Greenbook Initiative helped to build greater recognition of co-occurrence and promote more widespread use of promising practices, more work was needed at the Federal, State, and local levels. The domestic violence provisions included in the 2010 Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) reauthorization attempted to build upon the progress of the Greenbook Initiative. A summary of these provisions can be found at http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org/userfiles/file/PublicPolicy/CAPTA-FVPSA%20policy%20brief%201'11.pdf.

CAPTA required the dissemination of information on effective programs, practices, and training resources and the collection of information on the incidence and characteristics of co-occurrence. It also authorized the provision of training and technical assistance and supported research on effective collaboration between child protective services and domestic violence. Dr. Marylouise Kelley, Director of the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA), a program of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), said:

"For more than 30 years, child protection workers and domestic violence advocates have increased partnerships to improve parent and child safety. In more and more communities across the country, child protection workers and domestic violence advocates are sitting down together to work with parents and children to improve safety in their home. Collocation of domestic violence and child protection staff is having promising results in New York, New Jersey, and many other States. We look forward to the emerging research on the benefits of these partnerships for families."

Though there is still little data on co-occurrence at the Federal and State levels, some State-level evaluations have been completed on domestic violence programming with results of positive outcomes. As of 2012, 37 percent of local districts in New York State had adopted a collocation model placing domestic violence advocates within child protective services offices to increase collaboration. Information about their collaborative approach is available at http://www.albany.edu/chsr/csp-dv.shtml.

Additionally the Domestic Violence Liaison Pilot Project, a partnership with the New Jersey Coalition for Battered Women, collocated Domestic Violence Liaisons at Department of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) Offices to provide onsite case consultation to DYFS and support and advocacy for domestic violence victims and their children. They expect to publish their results in late 2014. A report on the lessons learned from this project is available at http://law.capital.edu/uploadedFiles/Law_School/NCALP/Celebrating%20Successes.pdf.

FVPSA, the primary Federal funding stream dedicated to the support of emergency shelter and related services, also provides funding for the Domestic Violence Resource Network (DVRN). The DVRN is a collective of nine national resource centers, the National LGBTQ DV Capacity Building Learning Center, and the National Domestic Violence Hotline. For more information on their programs and services, please visit www.acf.hhs.gov/fvpsa.

One DVRN provider is the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody (CPC Resource Center) operated by NCJFCJ. The CPC Resource Center provides tailored technical assistance on co-occurrence that can include help to identify and develop model policies, protocols, and programs that are sensitive to the legal, cultural, and psychological dynamics of child protection and custody cases involving family violence. The CPC Resource Center has developed a number of publications and tools, including the Reasonable Efforts Checklist for Dependency Cases Involving Domestic Violence, the Checklist to Promote Perpetrator Accountability in Cases Involving Domestic Violence, and specialized information packets, all of which can be found at http://www.ncjfcj.org/resource-library/publications/domestic-violence. Specific information about addressing co-occurrence in State Program Improvement Plans can be found in Child and Family Service Review Outcomes: Strategies to Improve Domestic Violence Responses in CFSR Program Improvement Plans, available at http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/cfsr%20dv_web.pdf. Additionally, the NCJFCJ research team has approached co-occurrence from a social science perspective through standardized case file reviews of three judicial districts. These findings are available at http://www.ncjfcj.org/sites/default/files/RE%20in%20DV%20Snapshot%20.pdf.

Futures Without Violence hosts a website called Promising Futures: Best Practices for Serving Children, Youth, and Parents Experiencing Domestic Violence, to help advocates and organizations support children and parents facing domestic violence. Produced by a FVPSA grantee and FYSB national technical assistance provider, Futures Without Violence, Promising Futures is an online resource center that provides domestic violence and child welfare practitioners with access to trauma-informed best practices for serving children and families experiencing domestic violence. A particular resource that the child welfare field will find helpful is a compendium of 16 Trauma-Informed, Evidence-Based Recommendations for Advocates Working with Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence. This compendium summarizes key findings from a review of evidence-based, therapeutic intervention programs for children exposed to domestic violence and offers practical recommendations for program staff and advocates.

To request technical assistance or to learn more about NCJFCJ's projects or any of the resources highlighted, call 1-800-52-PEACE or email fvdinfo@ncjfcj.org. More information about NCJFCJ and the RCDV: CPC can be found at www.ncjfcj.org. More information on Futures Without Violence is available at http://www.futureswithoutviolence.org.

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