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Institutional Response to the Co-occurrence of IPV and Child Exposure. Dr. Emily Rothman, ScD. NAME OF CLASS DATE CLASS #. Mass Department of Social Services (DSS).

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institutional response to the co occurrence of ipv and child exposure

Institutional Response to the Co-occurrence of IPV and Child Exposure

Dr. Emily Rothman, ScD.


mass department of social services dss
Mass Department of Social Services (DSS)
  • One of the first child welfare agencies to recognize that the safety of children living in homes where there is IPV and the safety of their battered mothers cannot be separated.
  • Protocol developed in 1992 to serve as a guide to assist in investigation, risk assessment, and service planning.
dss continued
DSS, continued
  • Pioneered the placement of experienced domestic violence advocates as full time staff in local DSS offices in 1990
  • Started with AWAKE, an advocacy program at Boston Children’s Hospital
    • Worked to prevent placement of children in DV cases by helping mothers
mass approach to coordinating services family life center
Mass. approach to coordinating services: Family Life Center
  • Statewide, multi-disciplinary assessment and intensive family based services model
  • Families referred to FLC workers are multi-problem
  • FLC case workers had reduced case loads (4 instead of 20)
from the perspective of dss
From the perspective of DSS…
  • DSS looks out for the best interest of the child
    • Interest in keeping the child safe
  • If a woman is unable to protect herself from domestic violence, the DSS worker asks, “How will she be able to care for and protect this child?”
from the perspective of dss1
From the perspective of DSS…
  • DV shelters are blindly loyal to women, unconcerned with children
    • Even women who expose their children to serious harm
    • Ignore and minimize the abuse perpetrated by women
    • Underestimate the harm to children of repeated exposure to IPV
from the perspective of the ipv movement and dv shelters
From the perspective of the IPV movement and DV shelters…
  • DSS blames women for the violence men perpetrate against their children
  • DSS holds men and women to different, gender biased standards of care for children
  • CPS re-victimized women by removing their children
children caught in the crossfire
Children caught in the crossfire

Both responses, if not understood, complicate the institutional response to IPV

is the system set up to handle repeated exposure to violence
Is the system set up to handle repeated exposure to violence?


Started in 1992, counsels over 100 children and their families each year

Main goals:

  • (1) identifying and helping children age 8 or under who witness acts of significant violence to heal from trauma by providing developmentally appropriate counseling for them and for their families, and
  • (2) enhancing the capacity of the network of caregivers of young children to identify and intervene on behalf of children who are exposed to violence.
how does the cwvp project work
How does the CWVP project work?

Not a mandated program, any child can receive an intake

All services are free and confidential


✓ Parent must leave the domestic violence relationship before the child can receive services

✓ The child must be 8 years old or younger

✓ The child must have witnessed an act of significant violence

✓ If the child’s primary reason for referral does not meet the criteria for their program they will help to refer the child to other programs.

screening techniques
Screening techniques
  • “Ages and Stages”
    • Developmental screening measure
  • Also looking for signs of :
    • PTSD
    • Behavioral problems
    • Response to social cues
    • Speech patterns
challenges cwvp faces
Challenges CWVP Faces
  • During divorce and custody battles, abusive parent may find out that the child is in therapy
    • Creates a safety issue for abused parent and child
  • There is sometimes a waiting list to get services
    • Especially during the summer when the program is short staffed (lack of social work and counseling interns)
trainings provided by cwvp
Trainings Provided by CWVP
  • Awareness and education on how violence impacts children
  • Provided to school teachers and daycare centers
    • Mr. Rodger’s Neighborhood Safe-Haven
  • Trainings provided to law enforcement focus on sensitivity

Defending Childhood is an initiative of Attorney General Eric Holder that strives to harness resources from across the Department of Justice to:

  • Prevent children’s exposure to violence;
  • Mitigate the negative impact of children’s exposure to violence when it does occur, and;
  • Develop knowledge and spread awareness about children’s exposure to violence.
defending childhood
Defending Childhood
  • US Department of Justice recently released the first phase of $5.5 million dollars in grants to 8 communities focused on preventing and reducing the impact of childhood exposure to violence.
  • Phase I Planning grants to 8 communities
  • Phase II Implementation grants to 4 of the 8 communities
8 demonstration sites
8 demonstration sites
  • City of Boston ($160,000)
  • City of Portland, Maine ($160,000)
  • Chippewa Cree Tribe, Mont. ($153,210)
  • City of Grand Forks, N.D. ($159,967)
  • Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, Ohio ($157,873)
  • Multnomah County Department of Human Services, Ore. ($159,349)
  • Rosebud Sioux Tribe, S.D. ($159,534)
  • Shelby County, Tenn. ($159,099). 
national survey of children s exposure to violence
National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence
  • 60% of American Children exposed to violence, crime, abuse in homes, schools, and communities
  • Almost 1 in 10 children saw one family member assault another family member, more than 25% had been exposed to family violence during their life
recommendations for the future
Recommendations for the future?
  • Given what you’ve learned in class, your readings, and professional experiences, what recommendations would you make to improve the institutional response to children who witness intimate partner violence?