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Barriers and opportunities for collaboration between schools and child welfare: Addressing the needs of children exposed to domestic violence. Genevieve Gonzalez Erin Carter. Collaborating Agencies. Department of Family and Children Services, Santa Clara County

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Barriers and opportunities for collaboration between schools and child welfare: Addressing the needs of children exposed to domestic violence

Genevieve Gonzalez

Erin Carter

Collaborating Agencies

  • Department of Family and Children Services, Santa Clara County

  • San Jose State University School of Social Work

  • Santa Clara County Children’s Issue Committee on Family Violence

  • SJSU Faculty

  • SJSU Research Students

  • East Side Unified High School District


  • Educational success is an important factor in long term positive outcomes for children, particularly children who may have experienced problems related to family violence.

  • There has been much research done on being a direct victim of domestic violence.

  • There has been minimal research done on effects of being exposed to domestic or family violence.

Introduction Continued

  • Youth in dependency system have often witnessed and been exposed to numerous traumas including family violence prior to entering care.

  • Exposure to violence has devastating impacts on cognitive and emotional development in children.

  • Exposure to violence is linked to poor academic performance, high rates of mental health diagnoses, psychotropic medications, and higher rates of risk taking behaviors.

The Educational Rights Project

  • The Educational Rights Project (ERP) is a special program of the Santa Clara County Department of Children and Family Services (DFCS) designed to document and address the special needs of school age children who are involved in DFCS oversight or services.

  • Youth in the child welfare system face extensive educational deficits compared to the general population.

  • The ERP strives to meet the educational and emotional needs of these youth, and provides tutoring, mentors, and linkage and referral.

Educational Rights Project Continued.

  • In 2010, the ERP began collecting data on whether youth in their project were exposed to domestic violence. This was the first time this question was asked on the intake forms.

  • Exposure to domestic violence is an additional stressor that can impact education.

  • Some research has been done on effects of child abuse on education.

  • Very little data has been done on effects of exposure to domestic violence on education.

Present Study:

  • This mixed methods study examines the needs of these children, with a special focus on the needs of children who have been exposed to domestic violence.

  • This mixed methods research examines how the current living situation and exposure to domestic violence influences the academic performance.

Goals of the Project

  • This project hopes to examine and find correlates and relationships between exposure to domestic violence on education.

  • This project hopes to illustrate barriers to education for this population so that recommendations can be made with data to back them up.

  • This project hopes to illustrate ways collaboration can assist this population and the agencies working with and for these youth and their families.

Methods: Quantitative Component

  • The Educational Rights Project provided an excel data set that included the following information to be analyzed:

    • Demographic information on the ERP population

    • Occurrence of youth who were exposed to domestic violence

    • Educational markers such as test scores

    • Rates of mental health diagnoses

    • Rates of prescribing psychotropic medications

    • Number and types of out of home placements

    • Relationships among the above variables

Quantitative Component cont

  • Data from the ERP will be used for multiple analyses.

    • First, descriptive information about possible differences between children exposed to DV and those not exposed to DV will be explored.

    • One research question is: How do exposure to domestic violence, number of out of home placements, and time in care, relate to mental health diagnoses, and medication among school-aged children, while controlling for age, gender, and ethnicity?

    • A second research question is: How does the current living situation and exposure to domestic violence influence test scores of Santa Clara County youth identified by the DCFS, while controlling for gender, age, and ethnicity?

Methods: Qualitative Component

  • In-Depth Interviews

    • Experts across disciplines in education, child welfare, and policy related to children’s services were interviewed between December and April 2012 using a semi-structured interview guide.

    • Examples of Questions included:

    • “From your experience, what are some ways that exposure to domestic violence affects a child’s education?”

    • “What do you feel are the biggest challenges for school aged youth exposed to domestic violence?”

    • “What do you think is most useful when working with children exposed to domestic violence in terms of both direct services for children and interdisciplinary collaboration?”


  • De-identified data was provided by DFCS

  • SPSS was used to run statistical analyses

  • Consent forms were distributed to interviewees

  • Tape recorders were used during interviews


  • 127/414 youth in ERP were indicated as being exposed to domestic violence

  • The remainder of youth were not identified as being exposed; many were blank

  • No significant difference of mental health diagnosis, medication rates, academic scores, demographic data in relationship to an indication of DV

  • Data collection was very incomplete and inconsistent

  • Collaboration was hard, especially with working and obtaining the data

  • Multiple agencies were very interested in this study but were not able to add much help or feedback due to funding and lack of staff support or time

  • Much improvement is needed on the verbiage and collection of data on intake forms


  • Collaboration is very important in creating more effective services for families and children exposed to domestic violence.

  • The Children’s Issue Committee is currently working on passing resolutions for school districts to implement more services and training to address effects of domestic violence on school aged youth.


  • More data needs to be collected on youth and families who enter the voluntary family maintenance program

  • Forms need more in depth and complete answers with included definitions of variables and questions

  • Exposure to DV field needs more depth; currently it is a binary “yes or no” answer to the question: “Has the child been exposed to domestic violence.” This does not include any information with regard to frequency, duration, severity, or who is determining whether the youth has been exposed and what qualifies as domestic violence

  • Much more analysis needs to be conducted including adding a control and comparison group

Recommendations for Collaboration

  • More training is needed on effects of exposure to domestic violence.

  • Collaboration is crucial in making strides to assist these youth.

  • Individuals and agencies are interested in this topic and this data. Better data needs to be collected so more funding and services can be requested.

  • District liaisons for domestic violence are currently being suggested among Santa Clara County.

  • Interdisciplinary trainings must continue and increase to educate professionals about the effects of exposure to domestic violence.

  • Youth who are exposed to domestic violence should be recruited, encouraged, and empowered to speak up about their experiences and advocate for their needs.

  • Families and students need to be supported rather than criminalized. The reasons behind domestic violence need further examination so collaborative efforts can work at decreasing the root causes and teach prevention.

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