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December/January 2023Vol. 23, No. 10Spotlight on Domestic Violence and Child Welfare

This issue of CBX highlights the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare. Many children involved with the child welfare system are victims of domestic violence and abuse, which can lead to detrimental consequences for children, youth, and families, such as trauma, behavioral issues, and disrupted brain development. Because many child welfare cases overlap with cases of violence in the home, it is important to understand the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare involvement. Read a message from Associate Commissioner Aysha E. Schomburg about the importance of acting without delay when working to keep children safe and in their homes. This issue also includes valuable resources for professionals and the families they serve.

Sad boy sitting against a wall

Issue Spotlight

  • Feel Every Second, A Message From the Associate Commissioner

    Feel Every Second, A Message From the Associate Commissioner

    Feel Every Second

    Written by Aysha E. Schomburg

    We are back in the holiday season again. I’m always in awe about how fast time passes. For many, it will be the first holiday season in 2 years where families can gather indoors in a crowded house. We are heading into the new year and can spend some time reflecting on the past year. I have been thinking about my own family. We aren’t nearly as close as we used to be; the “children” in the family are grown up now and the elders are frail. I’m finding it hard to watch my parents get older, especially my mom who is so dear to me and whose health has declined significantly. My mother has always been my protector. Now, I want to protect her, but I cannot. Still, I see her as often as I can. I cherish our time together. I’m realizing how much I love to hear her laugh. I don’t take any second for granted. I’m thankful for every second. Every second has meaning.

    Yet, as I write this, there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care in this country. How will they experience this holiday season? How are their families doing? What are we saying to the child who has been away from their parents for a month—how many seconds have they lost? What message are we sending to the youth who have been away from their parents for years? That’s not ok. They are not okay. They are losing seconds. As professionals in this field, we must understand the value of a second. We know that children experience time differently than adults. What we think is just a few days can feel like an eternity to a child. Separated children feel every second. Many of these children are living temporarily with other family members, and we hope this will keep the family connection strong and decrease the time to reunification. But is that enough to the child who wants to be with their mom and dad for the holidays? I have wonderful aunts, but when I’m going to see my mother, it’s because I want to be with my mom. 

    I have a request this holiday season. Let’s think about how a child experiences time. Let’s feel every second. I want us all to work harder, smarter, and faster. I want to call on our profession to reevaluate their protocols that make it difficult for parents to see their children. We should reevaluate protocols that add time to a child’s stay in foster care. You don’t have to change everything at once—but accept this challenge to make one small change this holiday season that will bring families back together faster. Consider creating a team that can review current policies and propose new protocols that will eliminate the obstacles parents face that prevent them from spending real quality time with their children. Parents want to hear their children laugh. Parents understand that every second has value.

    Sometimes when I am thinking about particular tasks I want to accomplish, I will use the familiar phrase “all deliberate speed.” When I say it out loud to my team, they know it means that I want us to act without delay. We need to act with all deliberate speed to bring children safely home. Every second has value.

  • Defining Child Exposure to Domestic Violence: Lessons From a Historical Review of the Literature

    Defining Child Exposure to Domestic Violence: Lessons From a Historical Review of the Literature

    Policies and practices about child witnesses of domestic violence vary across the United States. A paper published in Greenwich Social Work Review, "Defining Child Exposure to Domestic Violence: Lessons Learned From a Historical Review of the Literature," suggests that these policies and practices need to be clarified and refined. It explores the history of child welfare and the driving forces behind child welfare policies and practices, particularly in relation to child exposure to domestic violence, and provides evidence-based recommendations for creating policies that protect children who are exposed to domestic violence.

    The paper examines the cultural assumptions and legal practices around parent-child relationships. It explains the evolution of legally recognized child maltreatment, which included poverty as neglect, child sexual abuse, and eventually child witnesses of domestic violence in the various evolutions of child welfare. In the mid-20th century, the child welfare field took on a medical model approach, which assumed that parents who abuse their children are pathological and need professional intervention and treatment. At first, this resulted in children being separated from their family (including the nonoffending parent), which could exacerbate the negative effects for the child. Conflicts between the child welfare and domestic violence fields resulted as laws and policies began to construe being a victim of domestic violence as being a perpetrator of child maltreatment since they were not preventing the child from being exposed to violence. 

    The paper makes the following policy and practice recommendations:

    • Policies and practices should be grounded in a family-focused, strength-based model.
    • Policies should focus on family preservation whenever possible.
    • Child welfare agencies should partner with the family to build on their strengths.
    • States should emphasize partnering with families and connecting them with community supports.
    • Child welfare agencies should establish clear and standardized protocols for interventions.

    Additional recommendations include creating clear guidelines at child welfare agencies and employing a more holistic view of child exposure to domestic violence when creating statutes.

    For more details on the history of child welfare and the recommendations, read the paper.

  • Child Welfare and Domestic Violence: The Report on Intersection and Action

    Child Welfare and Domestic Violence: The Report on Intersection and Action

    A report from the Pritzker Center for Strengthening Children and Families focuses on the dilemma faced by a parent who is a survivor of domestic violence (DV) and is losing custody of their child due to an isolated DV incident. Removing children from their homes and placing them in foster care as a result of DV can create further trauma for both the DV survivor and the children. While the report focuses on Los Angeles County, many counties and states have similar dependency laws.

    The report reviews current literature and efforts to address this issue. It also highlights approaches from other jurisdictions and provides recommendations for training, enhanced specialization, and reform within the child welfare system.

    The report suggests that training should be expanded beyond just learning about how to recognize signs of domestic violence to also include information about the power and control dynamics within DV relationships and the effects of that trauma. It also recommends that all mandated reporters engage in a baseline training about DV.

    The report also makes the following other recommendations for Los Angeles County and California that may be applicable in other jurisdictions:

    • Child welfare agencies should establish partnerships with DV organizations, such as the placement of a DV specialist in the agency.
    • States should include parent and child survivors of DV as eligible candidates for Family First Prevention Services Act funding and submit DV-related programs to the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse for review.
    • Counties can pilot a specialized DV dependency court track.
    • States should adjust their statutes to consider additional circumstances for DV as contributing factors to a parental deficiencies.
    • Child welfare agencies should ensure services are targeted, nuanced, and accessible to families.

    Read Child Welfare and Domestic Violence: The Report on Intersection and Action to learn more.

  • How Child Protection Agencies Can Partner With Domestic Violence Programs

    How Child Protection Agencies Can Partner With Domestic Violence Programs

    Casey Family Programs published an article that discusses how child protection agencies and domestic violence programs have historically responded to victims separately although both have the goal of protecting children and families from violence. It also discusses how domestic violence impacts child and adult survivors as well as strategies agencies and programs can use to build capacity and increase collaboration.

    The article posits that this traditionally disjointed approach can have grave consequences, such as increased distrust in the system and the removal of children from the adult survivor and charging them with neglect. An extensive understanding of the intersection of child welfare and domestic violence is needed to provide comprehensive, community-based prevention and intervention programs.

    The article also shares examples of strategies for building capacity and collaboration. It also highlights the Greenbook Project as well as materials from the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.

    The authors suggest that cross-training professionals is one of the most important strategies and provide specific suggestions for child protection agencies, including the following:

    • Establish and use clear guidelines when working with families.
    • Require interagency collaboration.
    • Include cultural considerations.
    • Adopt, create, or adapt tools.
    • Integrate strategies into program improvement plans that build upon collaboration.
    • Create the structure to incorporate consultation from domestic violence organizations.

    For more details about the suggestions and a deeper look at the intersection between domestic violence and child welfare, read "How Can Child Protection Agencies Partner With Domestic Violence Programs?"

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News From the Children's Bureau

In this section, find the latest news, resources, and publications from the Administration for Children and Families, the Children's Bureau, and other offices within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as well as a listing of the latest additions to the Children's Bureau website.

Training & Technical Assistance Updates

This section features resources and updates from the Children's Bureau's technical assistance partners to support practices and systems that improve the lives of children and families.

Child Welfare Research

In this section, we highlight recent studies, literature reviews, and other research on child welfare topics.

  • Meta-Analysis Examines Effectiveness of Mentoring Programs for Youth in Foster Care

    Meta-Analysis Examines Effectiveness of Mentoring Programs for Youth in Foster Care

    An article published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence presents findings from a study examining whether mentoring programs are effective for youth involved in foster care. Using a meta-analytic approach, the study assessed the effectiveness of nine formal mentoring programs in the United States.

     

    Previous research suggests that mentoring programs may promote a variety of positive outcomes in youth populations. However, there is limited research on the impact of these programs for youth in foster care. The purpose of the study was to examine the overall effectiveness of the nine mentoring programs for youth in care as well as the extent to which the effectiveness varies as a function of mentor and youth characteristics and outcomes.

     

    The mentoring programs included in the study varied in format and structure (e.g., offering mentoring as the sole intervention vs. offering mentoring in conjunction with other interventions, one-to-one format vs. group format). Program outcomes (including mental well-being, academics and career, externalizing and behavioral problems, service utilization, and social competencies) were used to assess the effectiveness of the programs.

     

    The following are key findings from the evaluation:

     

    • Most programs had a small-to-medium effect.
    • Smaller effects were found in programs with higher proportions of youth with emotional abuse histories.
    • Near-peer mentors (mentors close in age to mentees) were more than twice as effective as intergenerational mentors.

     

    The results highlight the potential benefits of mentoring programs for youth in care as well as implications for future research and practice. This includes the need for additional research on near-peer mentoring interventions and the importance of training related to emotional attunement and trauma-informed mentoring practices.

     

    More information is available in the article, “A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Mentoring on Youth in Foster Care.”

  • Lessons Learned From the CHaRMED Fatherhood Project

    Lessons Learned From the CHaRMED Fatherhood Project

    The Coparenting and Healthy Relationship and Marriage Education for Dads (CHaRMED) project is a federal evaluation conducted by Child Trends that began in 2018. Its goals were to better understand how responsible fatherhood programs support healthy relationships and coparenting, to examine how these approaches align with the needs of fathers, and to recommend future directions for related programming.

     

    A blog post on the Child Trends website, "Fatherhood Programs Can Support Fathers’ Healthy Relationships With Children and Coparents," highlights important lessons learned from the CHaRMED study over the last 3 years, including the following:

     

    • Tailoring curricula to participants can make relationship education more relevant for fathers.
    • Fathers feel more connected to healthy relationship programming when they build personal connections with program staff and other participating fathers.
    • Many fathers are eager to build their coparenting skills.
    • Legal and social system involvement can prevent fathers from seeing their children and can strain coparenting relationships.
    • Virtual programming may increase fathers’ access to relationship programming.

     

    This work is significant since positive father-child relationships can lead to improved outcomes for children, and a crucial component of improved father involvement is a strong coparenting and/or romantic relationship with their partner.

     

    Child Trends plans to release more information about CHaRMED later in the year. Visit the project page for more information and updates.

Strategies and Tools for Practice

This section of CBX offers publications, articles, reports, toolkits, and other resources that provide evidence-based strategies or other concrete help to child welfare and related professionals.

  • Resource Hub Provides Professionals With Sexual and Reproductive Health Research

    Resource Hub Provides Professionals With Sexual and Reproductive Health Research

    Activate: The Collective to Bring Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health Research to Youth-Supporting Professionals is an online resource hub designed for professionals who work with youth involved in child welfare and juvenile justice, as well as youth experiencing homelessness and opportunity youth. Activate was developed by Child Trends, in partnership with Chapin Hall and Healthy Teen Network, and is funded through a grant from the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

     

    Activate was designed to bridge the gap between research and practice in support of OPA’s mission to prevent teen pregnancy and promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The research-based, online hub gathers, synthesizes, and disseminates information about effective adolescent sexual and reproductive health policies and practices. It also facilitates a dialogue on adolescent sexual and reproductive health between researchers and professionals. Activate maintains partnerships with a research alliance of researchers, professionals who work with youth, young people, and other collaborators to guide the work.

     

    The following resources are currently available on the Activate website:

     

    • Helping Young People Choose the Birth Control Method Right for Them: A Guide for Youth-Supporting Professionals
    • "Sex-Based Harassment in the Workplace: A Training for Professionals Who Support Opportunity Youth"
    • Understanding the Sexual and Reproductive Health of Opportunity Youth
    • Using Trauma-Responsive, LGBTQ+ Affirming Care to Connect Young People to Sexual and Reproductive Health Services
    • Incorporating Social Determinants of Health and Equity in Practice to Address Sexual and Reproductive Health for Young People Involved in Foster Care

     

    For more resources and more information about Activate, visit the Activate website.

Resources

This section of CBX presents interesting resources, such as websites, videos, journals, funding or scholarship opportunities, or other materials, that can be used in the field or with families.

Training and Conferences

Find trainings, workshops, webinars, and other opportunities for professionals and families to learn about how to improve the lives of children and youth as well as a listing of upcoming events and conferences.