«HELPING CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: LAW ENFORCEMENT AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FINAL REPORT to The National Institute of Justice American ...»
• Trust between patrol officers and caseworkers is critical. This trust develops over time. The Chula Vista Police Department has worked with South Bay Community Services for years in connection with other programs (e.g., juvenile diversion). Problems with caseworkers have been solved easily because of this strong relationship. For example, when some caseworkers told victims that they did not have to talk to law enforcement, a call to South Bay Community Services rectified the situation immediately. Any problems with law enforcement telling victims inappropriate information are also easily handled with a phone call from South Bay Community Services. This formal process, coupled with informal procedures, promotes rapport and trust between officers and service providers.
• Clear expectations and adequate training are key in ensuring successful program delivery.
During the first year of the grant, the Family Violence Response Team staff turnover at South Bay Community Services occurred about every two months. In the second year of the project, several on-call staff members became full-time employees. Though this situation benefited the program overall, additional recruiting was required for part-time positions. As a result, a oneyear commitment was asked of all new staff, including part-time workers. Also, expectations are now more clearly articulated (e.g., calls will be received during the middle of the night).
Additional training and support are also provided now. That is, the program director accompanies each on-call worker to the scene once a quarter.
• The introduction of new services where none were previously offered sometimes results in large demand. Long waiting lists are discouraging to victims. Further, demand often occurs in waves. Expanding programs and clients without adequate staff can result in frustrated clients, staff, and program partners. Consequently, South Bay Community Services was careful not to over promise services or stretch their caseworkers too thin.
• Patience is critical when dealing with victims of domestic violence. Listening and understanding are key in engaging victims and children in services. Keeping the door open until victims and children are ready for services is a must.
CONCLUSION The approach to addressing the needs of children exposed to domestic violence in Chula Vista is promising. The Family Violence Response Team built upon existing relationships to increase the chances for successful implementation. Service providers were cognizant of the needs of law enforcement when designing the program. Others interested in implementing a similar program may want to include the incentives to law enforcement (e.g., provision of funding for officer time involved in program implementation) in program design.
OVERVIEW OF THE RESPONSEIn the fall of 1996, the Cuyahoga County Commissioners allocated funds to the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital to develop and recommend a prevention and intervention program targeted at children who witness violence. The Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital and various county agencies (Department of Child and Family Services, Mental Health Board, and Cuyahoga County Justice Affairs Department) spent the next several years planning and developing a program to address the needs of these children. In the spring of 1999, with multiple sources of funding, including continued assistance by the county commissioners, Cuyahoga County implemented the Children Who Witness Violence (CWWV) program. Three full-time staff work on the program: the coordinator, a trainer, and an administrative assistant. The program is under the auspices of the Justice Affairs Department in Cuyahoga County.
The core of the Children Who Witness Violence program is based on collaboration between police departments and the county crisis intervention services, Mental Health Services, Inc., a private non-profit service provider. The police make referrals to Mental Health Services, which provides immediate crisis intervention services for children exposed to violence and their parents. After providing crisis intervention services, Mental Health Services makes a referral for the child or family to receive on-going services, if needed, to one of twelve identified service providers who are participating in the program. The program also has an evaluation component conducted by a team of researchers from Kent State University.
The CWWV program is being piloted through the year 2000 in five sites in the county. These sites are Cleveland (Districts 1 and 4), Euclid, Lakewood and Maple Heights. Each community’s approach is tailored to their specific needs, but the core of the program is the same. There are four components to the pilot program: community awareness, training, early intervention, and evaluation.
IMPETUS AND PLANNING FOR THE CHILDREN WHO WITNESS VIOLENCEPROGRAM
In early 1996, the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital developed a concept paper on children exposed to violence and began discussion on this issue with the County Commissioners. The County Commissioners subsequently identified “threats to children,” which were defined as negative experiences children were having in the community, as one of three issues on which they wanted to focus. In May 1996, a set of policy issues was released, urging that when communities are intervening in children’s lives, intervention must be early and include close collaboration with human services.
In the fall of 1996, a $75,000 grant was awarded to the Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital to plan and develop a program for children exposed to violence. Planning the program was based on two principles, first, the program was to be a broad-based community effort including as many relevant agencies as possible, and second, the program would be guided by a Community Advisory Committee (CAC).
Visionaries of the program believed the county was ready for such a program. In December 1995, the Urban Child Institute had sponsored a conference on children who witness violence. The effects of exposure to violence were presented and a discussion ensued regarding the county’s efforts on this issue. Two projects affiliated with the Cleveland Police Department were identified as being relevant. The first was a project in which an officer, prosecutor and social worker responded to domestic violence calls. The second project provided cross training between the police and the Department of Children and Family Services. The successful functioning of these types of collaborative projects encouraged program visionaries that the county was ready for their multi-agency program.
The County Commissioner overseeing the planning and development of the CWWV program assisted in creating the CAC. Three co-chairs were selected, the county commissioner overseeing the program, the Safety Director of Cleveland (who is now the Department of Children and Families Director) and a leader in the faith community, an African American reverend. About 50 individuals were selected to be on the CAC, representing law enforcement agencies, the courts, schools, service providers, community and faith organizations, local and state government, and local foundations. By March of 1997, the CAC was meeting quarterly.
The CAC strongly believed their program should be founded on scientific research. They sought guidance from national experts (including Mark Singer and Joy Osofsky) and programs across the country (including the Boston Child Witness to Violence Project and the Yale-New Haven Child Development-Community Policing program) to learn more about best practices. It became clear that outcome data regarding children exposed to violence is sparse. The CAC became committed to building an evaluation component into their program.
A community needs assessment was conducted. The assessment results indicated that while there were adequate mental heath services, there was a gap in crisis services available. They learned that a program was needed to respond early and quickly (for fear that parental receptivity would decrease with elapsed time) and that support and involvement by law enforcement was critical to the program. The program took a developmental approach and focused on attending to family needs in addition to the children’s needs. They wanted to involve as many relevant organizations as possible. They reasoned that dealing with the issue of violence and domestic violence usually involves multiple agencies, thus a solution was needed that incorporated a community-wide approach. They also felt that it was critical to provide long-term services as a follow-up to crisis intervention services.
The CAC began to put their program plans into action. They started raising additional funds. Most money for the program flows through the Cuyahoga County Justice Affairs Department, but when appropriate, grants go directly to participating agencies. Victims of Crime Act, additional county, and foundation funding were secured. The State Attorney General held a meeting with leaders of the 66 law enforcement municipalities in the county. A press conference followed. Communities were encouraged to submit a letter of interest to become a program pilot site. Vital to a site’s selection was documented support from both the Mayor’s Office and the law enforcement department. Interested sites needed to commit to having one contact person for the program, contributing in kind donations, and agreeing to hold local meetings. Many communities were reluctant to express their interest in becoming a site for fear that they would be acknowledging that they had a violence problem. Five communities responded, and despite their original plan to have four communities in the pilot, the CAC accepted all five applicants in March 1998. The sites for the pilot were Cleveland District 1 and 4, Euclid, Lakewood, and Maple Heights.
Seven workgroups were eventually developed to divide CAC functions. The workgroups spent time identifying several important issues.
• The age of the target population. They felt it was critical that they reach out to very young children.
• Training issues. They knew there was a scarcity of follow-up services in the mental health community and that these services needed to be developed. They decided that the program should offer monthly training to the service providers.
• Whether they would respond only to the children or also the parent’s and whole family’s issues. It was decided a very important component of the program would be linking the family with services.
Brief descriptions of the seven workgroups follow.
Executive Work Team This work team has been meeting since the initial planning phase and it is their task to ensure the integration of all program activities. Representation from all of the other workgroups is included.
The group includes key individuals from Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, Cuyahoga County Justice Affairs Department, Department of Child and Family Services, and Children’s Mental Health Board. The team meets monthly (or more frequently as needed) to manage the dayto-day research, planning, and implementation of the CWWV program. They also discuss what information will be presented to the CAC. The team is seen as key to the success of the program.
Intervention Services Workgroup
This workgroup focuses on the service agencies in the program. The group responds to many issues critical to the success of the program. One challenge has been motivating agencies to participate in program planning when funding had not yet been obtained for on-going services.
Most agencies have used their existing staff for the program. This component of the program needs refinement and continued attention.
Included in discussion were the types of services the children in the program should receive. The workgroup decided that they needed to focus on a new service, an in-home model of treatment, for children exposed to violence. The model would fill the gap for many families who historically will not take advantage of long-term services if they are not family friendly (i.e., convenient and easy to access). The domestic violence community was concerned because the perpetrator might be present and this type of model implies the victim should be in the home, which is not always the safest option for the victim. However, the program was committed to serving families in the home as well as outside it. The group implemented a three-pronged approach to develop the model.
They continued to refine the model, set up monthly case review meetings (to discuss different interventions and cases), and started offering training with continuing education credits. The program is currently working with eight agencies that provide in-home trauma services.
The Training Workgroup
This workgroup developed the basics of the police training that included an introduction to the program, information on the impact of witnessing violence on children, and specific details on how the program will operate. Each law enforcement department customized their training as to who was to be trained, the amount of time allocated for the training, when it should be held, and the content details. This group has also been involved with trainings for the service providers.
Trainings for the service providers have included a specialized trainer with a curriculum on children who witness violence and a session on the impact of domestic violence where experts present assessment studies. Monthly three-hour trainings are conducted on topics such as trauma, the evaluation, and cognitive therapy approaches and intervention models for children exposed to violence. Agencies select staff who are working with children in the program to attend the trainings which usually consist of 35 to 40 people.
The Community Site Planning Workgroup
This workgroup includes the law enforcement agencies, Mental Health Services, the evaluators, and training representatives. They met every two months for half a day to plan the program in the pilot sites. This group continues to meet even though the sites are in full operation.
Community Awareness Workgroup