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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 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

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

What do kids need to heal grow
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 cont1
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
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
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
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
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
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
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

Victim advocacy with children exposed to domestic violence


Thank you!