Victim advocacy with children exposed to domestic violence
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Victim Advocacy with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence. Kathryn Ford, LMSW Center for Court Innovation 520 8 th Ave., 18 th Floor New York, NY 10018 (646) 386-4181 [email protected] What Do Kids Need to Heal & Grow?. Sense of safety, structure, limits & predictability

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Victim Advocacy with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

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Victim Advocacy with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Kathryn Ford, LMSW

Center for Court Innovation

520 8th Ave., 18th Floor

New York, NY 10018

(646) 386-4181

[email protected]

What Do Kids Need to Heal & Grow?

  • Sense of safety, structure, limits & predictability

  • Not feeling responsible for adults, clear message about responsibility for DV

  • Good boundaries around adult info

  • Strong bond to primary caregiver: Feel she can protect them, respect her, feel supported in having strong relationship

    Adapted from Lundy Bancroft.

Principles for Supportive Response

  • Use a developmental, child-centered, strengths-based perspective

  • View child in context of family, culture & community

  • Respect & support the role of the mother as primary caregiver

  • Services should be voluntary & conducted in a spirit of collaboration

  • Create a predictable environment that offers safety, structure & nurturance

Children & DV Agencies

  • At first, children were “invisible victims”

  • Scarce resources had to be used for survival & “the basics”

  • Premise that helping the mother will help the child  Often true, but sometimes not

  • Desire to respect women’s autonomy

  • Services more often serve kids in shelter, not those in the community

Children & DV Agencies, cont.

  • 50% of shelter residents are children & 80% of adults are accompanied by a child

  • Advocates noticed children’s suffering & unmet needs

  • Most DV agencies now have some type of children’s program:

    • In 1980, 43% had some type of children’s service, mostly child care

    • By 1997, 72.4% offered children’s services

Barriers to Working with Children

  • Relocations due to safety or financial concerns  Inability to contact, lack of follow through

  • Concrete obstacles  Transportation, scheduling, child care, payment

  • Violence-related stress of parents

  • Children with severe difficulties may be inappropriate for a group

  • Lack of specialized services

Potential Parent Dynamics

  • Inaccurate perception of child’s needs

  • Trauma avoidance (not want to think or talk about it)

  • Concerns re. confidentiality

  • May seek help for child first

  • Abuser may interfere with child’s therapy  To prevent disclosures, keep children more easily manipulated & intimidated

Overcoming Barriers

  • Flexibility in scheduling, sliding scale for fees, transportation assistance

  • Clear and repeated marketing about programs, so parents understand target population, content & goals

  • Assist parents in assessing whether their children need services

  • Address parents’ feelings about effects of DV on their children

Questions for Parents

  • What concerns, if any, do you have about your children spending time with their father?

  • Has your partner ever threatened to take the kids away or interfere with custody/visitation?

  • Has your partner ever threatened to or actually hurt your children?

  • Where are the children during DV incidents? How do they react?

  • Do you have any concerns about how your children are doing? Have you seen any significant changes in your child?

Assessing Child-Related Needs

  • Child care, early childhood education, evaluation re. special needs

  • Trauma-focused therapy

  • Respite care  A well-deserved break!

  • After school / recreational programs

  • Financial resources, inc. child support

  • Health issues

    • Preventive care, dental care, insurance

Supporting Women’s Parenting

  • Primary caregiver should be involved throughout intervention process

  • Can work with mothers to:

    • Talk with their children about DV

    • Safety plan for the family

    • Understand children’s trauma & impact of DV on parent-child relationship

    • Help their children cope

    • Access community resources

Questions for Kids

  • Arguments & disagreements happen in all families. What happens in your family when adults disagree?

  • What do you do when your parents fight?

  • Do you ever see/hear fighting, or people in your family hurting each other?

  • Are you ever afraid that your mom or dad will get hurt, or that you will get hurt?

  • What was the worst fight you ever saw?

  • Does anyone at home hit or hurt you, or touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable?

Important Messages for Kids

  • “It’s not your fault”

  • “Violence and abuse are adults’ responsibility, not kids’”

  • “We will do everything we can to keep you safe”

  • “I believe you”

  • “No one deserves to be abused”

  • “This is a safe place to talk”

Safety Planning with Children

  • Ages 3 and up; on their own, or w/ parent

  • Main goal is empowerment

    • Validating kids’ experiences & the ways they’ve protected themselves

    • Information  Increased sense of control, decreased anxiety

  • Can incorporate psychoed re. DV

  • Meet with parent first to gather info: Child’s needs & abilities, risks from abuser, mother’s safety plan, safe people & places

Safety Planning, cont.

  • Plan should be simple, realistic & age-appropriate

  • Assist child in identifying:

    • Particular dangers & fears

    • Corresponding safety strategies

  • Ask child to ID safe people/places inside & outside home, combine with parent’s list

  • Discuss possible scenarios and how to utilize safety plan

Safety Planning, cont.

  • Child can draw a picture of safe space, decorate safety plan, share it w/ parent

  • Role play 

    • Calling 911

    • Using safety strategies

  • Important message: There’s no such thing as a “foolproof” safety plan. If someone gets hurt, it’s the abuser’s responsibility, not the child’s.

DV Agency Supports for Kids

  • Separate intake process & shelter orientation for children

  • Pamphlets, books & videos for parents and children about DV

  • Recreational activities for kids, for moms & kids together

  • Partnerships with health care providers, developmental specialists, mental health providers, legal services

  • Tutoring & educational support

DV Agency Supports, cont.

  • Parenting classes and/or support groups for mothers

  • Therapeutic child care

  • Designating a child advocate

  • Development of standards for staff who work with children

  • Training & support for all staff

  • Evaluation of programs for children

Collaboration with Child Welfare

  • Historic barriers  Mistrust; different priorities, mandates & funding

  • Advocates have a lot to offer:

    • Understanding of DV & families’ needs

    • Expanding repertoire of service & safety options

    • Focusing attention on offender accountability

  • Work to develop shared mission & guiding principles for practice

Models for Collaboration

  • DV consultants located in CPS for case consultation, accompaniment on home visits & immediate service provision

  • Cross-training & shadowing

  • Development of protocols for screening, referrals, reporting & information-sharing

  • DV advocates in Family Court

  • Joint representation on DV Coalitions, child & adult fatality review teams

Mandatory Reporting & DV

  • Law varies by state  Advise parent up front of restrictions on confidentiality

  • If a report must be made, offer the option of client making the call with your support

  • Educate clients about the role of CPS & their response

  • Advocate for the family with CPS

In the Community…

  • Community education/outreach on children’s issues

  • DV prevention work

  • Participating in/creating a children’s committee as part of DV Coalition

  • Support BPs in incorporating material on children & parenting into their curricula

  • Assist supervised visitation programs in being safe & responsive to DV


Thank you!

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