Child Deprivation Domestic Violence and Visitation Lauren Litton NCJFCJ.org Vicky O. Kimbrell Georgia Legal Services Program www.GLSP.org
Ways in Which Co-Occurrence May Become Evident • Domestic violence was the underlying factor that brought the family to the system’s attention and led to the abuse or neglect of the child. • The children were abused or neglected in an unrelated manner and during the course of interviews or pendency of the court case the fact that domestic violence is occurring in the home has come to the attention of a professional involved in the case. • The biological parents of the abused or neglected child are not together but there is a history of domestic violence between them and the court case either reestablishes contact or provides further access for the battering parent to the child and abused parent.
Battering Tactics • Telling the children that they cannot be a family because of the victim • Showing up unexpectedly to see the children or picking them up without informing the other parent • Calling the victim constantly under the guise of talking to or about the children • Showering the children with gifts during visits • Undermining the victim parent’s rules for the children • Stalking • Keeping the children longer than agreed upon or abducting them
Tactics, continued • Asking children what the victimized parent is doing and who she is seeing • Criticizing, assaulting, or threatening the victim’s new partner • Threatening to take custody away or make a false child protection report if she does not agree to reconcile • Telling the children that the victimized parent is an alcoholic, addict, or mentally ill • Keeping court cases active by frequent filings • Physically abusing the children and ordering them not to tell their mother • Changing visitation plans without notice
When a battered parent is protected from abuse, she then is better able to protect her abused child. Even if the abusive relationship dissolves, frequently victims want their children to have a relationship with their fathersif it can be done in a way that does not compromise their own safety or the safety of their children.
Safety Planning Separate Case Plans Oversight Batterer Accountability Tailoring Services Community Resources Collaboration and Coordination Assessment Confidentiality Things That Can Be Done
The design of the family time must include procedures that meet the safety needs of both the child and the victimized parent.
Considerations in Designing Visitation/Exchanges • Type of contact; consistency of orders • If supervised, who is ready to take on • Scheduling • Staggered arrival/departure times • Security/access to help • Confidentiality • Separate orders for each • Separate considerations for each child
“The battered mother has to worry that if she leaves, the abuser will take her children, and if she doesn’t, that the government will.” Jill Zuccardy, attorney in Nicholson v. Williams
Why doesn’t she just leave? • FEAR - #1 reason • Safety • Lack of money • Threats to children • Promises • Lack of enforcement • Frequency/Severity of abuse • Her childhood • Isolation • Beliefs about marriage and/or men
The Child Endangerment Statute - Cruelty to Children • O.C.G.A. Sec. 16-5-70 • Second Degree - Such person, who is the primary aggressor, intentionally allows a child under the age of 18 to witness the commission of a . . .family violence battery • Such person, who is the primary aggressor, having knowledge that a child under l8 is present and sees or hears the act, commits family violence battery.
The most important determinant of family reunification is • … Consistent and frequent Visitation
Legal Requirements before Removal in Georgia • Continuation in the home contrary to the welfare of the child • Reasonable efforts by DFCS to prevent or eliminate the need for the removal - 15-11-58 • Such findings shall be made at every subsequent review • Relative Resource placement • Child’s health and safety is paramount - 15-11-58(a)(1) • Parents have right to zealous and competent representation. Indigent parents have right to appointed counsel
Principles for an Effective and Humane CPS System - Greenbook • Safety, well-being and stability for children and families • Children in care of non-offending parent • Community service system with many points of entry • Differential response to families
Principle I: Courts, lawyers, child protective agencies, domestic violence agencies must intervene to create safety, enhance well-being, and provide stability for children and their families. • Domestic violence perpetrators do not victimize only adults. • Where women are abused, their children are also often maltreated. • Services must be provided for the parent-victim to protect children. Erom: Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence & Child Maltreatment Cases – National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges - Greenbook
Principle II: To ensure stability and permanency for children, courts and communities must try to keep children in the care of their non-offending parent. • Historically, mothers have been held responsible for batterer’s violence – failure to protect; • Shortsighted to remove children from care of their battered mothers rather than remove the batterer; • Link the safety of the children to safety of the mother; • Communities must develop a broad range of services and interventions for family violence –Natl. Assn. Of Public Child Welfare Administrators (1999) Guidelines for a Model System.
Principle III: Responsibility for Family Violence Must be Placed Where it Belongs – On the Abuser • Criminal Responsibility • Civil Responsibility • Financial / Economic Responsibility • Batterer Intervention Programs • Parenting Training • Supervised Visitation • Drug/Alcohol Abuse Intervention – Not excuses, not causes of abuse.
DV ToolKit - Tools to Effectively Intervene in DV Cases Where Children are at Risk • Do’s and Don’ts • Caseplans • TPOs • DV Shelters • Separation from Batterers • Evaluations • Counseling • Visitation
Do Educate Victims on Separation resources -Places, shelters Financial resources, Child Support Public Benefits TANF, Food Stamps Medicaid, Peachcare SSI/SSD Public/Subsidized Hsg. PUP funds Victims Compensation Don’t Make Victim Responsible for Separation Mandate Separation without safety planning - More women are killed leaving than staying. 75% of homicides during separation Separation from Batterer
Do Offer Services Relevant to the Safety Needs of the Victim and Children Don’t Order evaluations because “everybody” gets them - parenting classes won’t keep anyone safe Drug testing, mental health - being beaten is not a mental condition Evaluations
Make each party responsible only for the actions they can control. “Ms. Jones will not participate in domestic violence.” – From CPS caseplan. If he knows where and when her classes/evaluations/tests/services are scheduled, she’s in danger - and the case plan put her there. FVIPS are never appropriate for victims Joint Case Plans Put Victims & Their Children in Danger
Do Advise Client of Options Refer Client to Legal Services, Private Attys,Legal Advocate, Vic Asstc, SAAGs Realistically explain benefits and risks of TPOs Don’t Mandate TPOs TPOs can Anger Batterer Mutual TPOs Uses your authority to control victim Victim has more information than you upon which to make decisions Temporary Protective Orders
Economic Abuse • Court cannot use lack of economic resources as a basis for taking children from parents. • Court has held that “by harm, the court means either physical harm or significant, long-term emotional harm; we do not mean merely social or economic disadvantages.” Clark v. Wade,273 Ga. 587 (2001)
2007 New Child Support Guidelines • Child support as an economic weapons • New child support complexities • Best interest of the child standard • Downward deviation allowed when parents attempting to establish safe homeplace for the child in state custody
What can lead to economic abuse? • Lack of child support in TPOs • Lack of property awards in TPOs • Injuries requiring medical attention • Debts - Credit abuse • Lack of Enforcement
Custody and Batterers • Batterers are twice as likely to seek sole physical custody for their children than are non-violent fathers. • When batterers do press for custody, they are awarded it at the same rate of non-batterers, 50% of the time.
Forced Joint Custody Forcing joint physical custody on unwilling parents results in high levels of parental conflict and re-litigation, leaving children with two tense and angry parents.
Standards on Awarding Custody when FV - OCGA 19-9-1 (a)(2) – “In a proceeding awarding custody/visitation when family violence is found:” • Court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and parent who is the victim of family violence; • Court shall consider the perpetrator’s history of harming another; • If one parent is absent or relocates because of family violence such shall not be deemed abandonment of the child; • Court can order supervised visitation.
Court shall consider as primary the safety and well-being of the child and parent who is the victim of family violence; Court shall consider the perpetrator’s history of harming another; If one parent is absent or relocates because of family violence such shall not be deemed abandonment of the child; Court can order supervised visitation. Visitation Centers Alternatives Visitation- OCGA 19-9-1 (a)(2) – in a proceeding awarding custody/visitation when family violence is found:
Safety Planning • With the Adult • With the Children • Shelter Advocates - Experts in this area • Are Advocates on Case Panels in your community?
How Can We Hold the Batterer Accountable for the Violence - Not the Victim? Separate Caseplans for Perpetrators
Batterer Case Plans • Perpetrator will: • Commit no acts of violence; • Commit no intimidating acts, threats or verbal abuse • Remove all weapons • Comply with all court orders • Attend and comply with all Batterer Intervention program recommendations • Not use physical violence against children
Batterer case plans • Acknowledge past abuse • Comply with substance abuse recommendations • Comply with mental health recommendations • Pay child support as ordered
“The total length of separations of mothers and children [that NY CPS] has caused is measured in years. The suffering and trauma it has caused cannot be measured.”Judge J. Weinstein, Findings of Fact, Nicholson v. Williams