«HELPING CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: LAW ENFORCEMENT AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FINAL REPORT to The National Institute of Justice American ...»
The general goals of this workgroup are to raise awareness in the pilot communities and to decrease the amount of violence children are witnessing. They plan to do this by promoting the program to service providers and parents in the pilot communities. Heightening awareness of the program will help encourage other communities to consider the program. Their goal is to eventually expand the community awareness campaign countywide. At the time of the site visit, a public relations firm had just been hired to assist this workgroup in achieving their goals.
Evaluation Workgroup This workgroup provides oversight on the evaluation component of the program and works closely with the evaluators at Kent State University.
Funding Workgroup This workgroup is faced with one of the most difficult challenges to sustaining the overall program: keeping the program funded. The CWWV program is very elaborate and comprehensive. Such a program is costly to maintain and major efforts need to be expended on raising funds.
SITE PLANNING PROCESS
With the five sites selected, the site planning process was scheduled to begin. A leader was needed to organize the planning for the communities. In October 1998, six months after the sites were chosen, a coordinator was hired by the county to move the program into the implementation phase. She met with the leaders in each community and outlined the parameters of the program.
To the extent possible, each site gathered data to learn how many children and families they would be responding to. One site did a small study by monitoring the number of cases in which children were present during domestic violence calls. They found that approximately 50 percent of the time children were present.
Sites were free to make decisions regarding tailoring their program based on certain community aspects (e.g., age of target population, type of violence (domestic only or all), geographic area within site, etc.). A working group in each site defined their specific approach. This customization gave each site ownership of their approach. Three sites targeted children 18 years of age and younger and offered the program to their entire community, while two sites targeted children under 13 years of age and provided the programs to a strategic region in their precinct.
Many issues were raised during the planning process. Some of the most important issues and questions included the following.
• Mental Health Caseworker Safety. Caseworker safety was a foremost concern to program planners. They tackled questions such as: How can a caseworker's safety be maximized?
Should an officer stay on the scene with the caseworker or return to the scene with the caseworker? Should two caseworkers go to the scene?
• Officer Buy-in. To achieve officer buy-in to the program, it was critical that the Chiefs in each site strongly support the program. The officers were well trained and given the opportunity to provide their input on the program. Lastly, it was suggested that a follow-up letter be sent to the referring officer to inform the officer that the referred child was receiving services. The feedback to the officer would likely be encouraging since it demonstrated the positive effect their actions had on the child.
• Assessing Trauma. It was discussed if it is feasible for a mental health professional to adequately assess the impact of the trauma immediately after it occurs. Some mental health professionals reasoned that six to 12 months are needed to assess this, thus suggesting that mental health professionals might be more helpful at a later time. Other professionals believed that the parents may be more open to services for their children within the 24 hour period following the crisis. If so, a swift response after the trauma occurs is indicated.
Mental Health Services, Inc.
As the sites were planning their customized approaches, the county was simultaneously selecting the mental health organization to provide crisis intervention services for the program 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mental Health Services (MHS), Inc., a local crisis agency, had expressed interest in participating in the program. MHS is a 24-hour response organization that provides psychiatric crises services for adults, adolescents, and children. In addition, MHS offers an array of services to homeless persons. MHS staff is experienced in working with law enforcement and the Department of Children and Family Services. Several of the organizations involved with the CWWV program had previous positive experiences working with MHS. An administrator from MHS began attending the community working group meetings with the program coordinator. The staff visited other children exposed to violence programs such as the Yale-New Haven CD-CP project, the Boston project, and one in Framingham, Massachusetts. MHS submitted a bid to provide the crisis intervention services for the CWWV pilot program. The MHS contract was approved in December 1998.
MHS began providing services to the program on March 31, 1999. Projections based on local domestic violence incidence data were made on the expected number of calls for service in each pilot community. Based on these projections, MHS planned to respond to approximately two families per day from the five sites. These projections have proven to be accurate.
As was discussed during the planning process, MHS was immediately faced with the question “how do they provide services while ensuring the safety of their workers?” They revised their original plan of using one worker per family to sending at least two specialists to each house, one to work with the parent and the other to work with the child(ren). The same two specialists work with the family during the entire crisis intervention period.
Currently, there are six specialists who provide services to the program. Three specialists are solely devoted to crisis response. The fourth specialist is a case manager responsible for Medicaid enrollment and transitioning the family into follow-up services. The fifth specialist provides inhome trauma services for 30 to 90 days following the incident. The sixth specialist monitors therapy, assists the case manager in the transfer of cases to on-going service providers, and is the intermediary who transfers data between the on-going service providers and the evaluators.
Primarily, two senior workers share the late calls (midnight to 7 am) which are roughly one half of all calls. As the program continues, questions have surfaced regarding the costs and benefits of reaching the family in the middle of the night. Responding at such a late hour is very grueling for the specialists. Often the families do not wish to see them in the middle of the night and at times, do not even allow them entrance into their home.
Once the sites were selected and the coordinator was hired, the implementation was accomplished in six months. The dates for program implementation were staggered by site for late March and April. Some police officers, however, began calling MHS even before the site implementation date.
The pilot will continue through the year 2000. During the pilot stage, a decision will be made regarding expanding the program to additional sites. Implementers hope in January 2001 to plan for three months and then bring three more sites into the program.
THE POLICE RESPONSEEach community embraced the core program elements while tailoring an approach to meet their specific needs. The primary variations in approaches are found in how the police were trained, how they handle the call, and how they enlist the services of the program.
Training of Police All departments received training on the effects of witnessing domestic violence on children and their role in the program. The coordinator of the CWWV program and several other professionals conducted the training. Each department decided the specifics of their training (i.e., when and where it would be). A local community college assisted in making training videos. In addition, a packet of information was prepared for each officer. Some departments only trained officers, while another also invited interested community members. Training time varied by department and ranged from four ten-minute sessions during roll call (one session with a live trainer, the other three sessions on video) to a single three-hour session. The three-hour session, which was the longest and most in-depth training, was taught by two trainers. Learning aids, such as a demonstration 911 tape and a video describing the effects of children witnessing domestic violence, were used. The other departments used condensed versions of the three-hour training.
Overall, key professionals viewed the training as a success. In a three-month period, 522 officers were trained. Initial frequent questions by officers were regarding the capability of the crisis responders to respond in a timely manner and whether or not the program can really make a difference. Although some officers were skeptical about “another new program,” many officers indicated that they were glad the program was in place.
Some of the departments continue to have a Crisis Intervention Specialist attend roll call every six weeks to give the officers follow-up training and reiterate the importance of the project. Training “keeps the program alive” and thus there is a large emphasis on retraining. The program also sends referring officers follow-up information about what happened to cases they referred (without breaking confidentiality rules) and holiday cards.
Enforcement by Policy and Protocol Each law enforcement department drafted their own program procedures with review by the site working group. Participation and procedures were formalized by written memo, policies, or procedures. Regardless of the method of formalization, each department mandates that the officer talk to the parent about the effects of violence on children and ask the parent if he or she would be willing to talk to someone about the effect on his or her children. The officer must indicate in the report if children were exposed to violence. All departments have a primary focus on children who witness domestic violence, but each department also accepts cases of exposure to other types of violence or traumatic events. Each site has instituted a formal procedure whereby a lieutenant, or person in authority, reviews the police reports to make sure Mental Health Services was contacted in every appropriate case.
Contacting Mental Health Services
Officers in all departments give the victim a pamphlet about services available for their child. The pamphlet in bold letters inquires, “Have You Forgotten Someone?” The pamphlet explains how exposure to violence causes emotional and physical immediate and long-term damage to children, signs of emotional harm to look for, and prevention strategies. The pamphlet also introduces the program, the services it offers, and gives the 24-hour hotline number.
In addition to giving the parent the pamphlet, the officer verbally explains the program. At that stage, the parent is given several options. The parent can refuse services, the parent can accept services, but not at that time (e.g., if it is late at night, they might just want to get the children in bed and talk to someone in the morning), or the parent can accept the services at that time.
If the parent is interested in services at any time (immediately or in the future), the officer or dispatcher immediately contacts Mental Health Services. The officer may call from either the victim’s home or from the department. If the family does not have a phone, or the officer does not have time to make the call from the home, the call is made from the department. If the parent does not accept services, some departments still contact the program to make a referral.
In these cases, the specialists will call the family the next day to offer services again. Many of the victims who declined the services immediately after the incident have used the information provided by the officer to contact the program at a later date.
Most departments have the officer contact the Mental Health Services, Inc. hotline and make the referral directly. One department, however, has the officer relay the information to the dispatcher who makes the referral. This method alleviates the officer from having to make referrals. Spending too much time making multiple referrals was a common complaint heard during interviews with the four departments participating in the pilot project.
At the Scene
After the hotline has been contacted and a specialist arrives at the scene, officers will occasionally remain at the scene. The presence of an officer ensures the safety of the worker, victim, and children. One department, however, does not have the officer remain at the scene if the perpetrator has been arrested. If the perpetrator is at large, the officer may bring the victim and children to the police department.
Follow-up for Police
If the children are served by the specialists, the officer who responded to the scene receives a letter thanking him or her for making a referral to the program. It gives the name of the child and indicates that they are in the program. It encourages the officer to contact the program if he or she is interested in additional information. One Chief interviewed found this follow-up particularly rewarding since the officers learn about the impact of their referrals on the program.
Perceptions of the Chiefs and Commanders The Chiefs and the commander interviewed from the pilot sites are clearly committed to the program. Several common themes surfaced from interviews with them.
• The program is “simple.” The involvement and role of the law enforcement agencies in the program is clear and easy to understand.
• The existence of the program places increased focus on children. The program acts as a tool to remind officers about the children in the home. One Chief mentioned that he tells his officers they are on the “front line” for these children and that the program is “good mental health for them.”
• MHS can offer something that law enforcement can not. Many officers do not have the time or the training to work with traumatized children. MHS specialists can fulfill a role that they are not trained to do.