«HELPING CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: LAW ENFORCEMENT AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FINAL REPORT to The National Institute of Justice American ...»
In 2000, the program staff and advisors plan to examine the pilot program results, and determine if the program is a reasonable endeavor in terms of goals and scope. If so, program implementers will begin focusing on the programmatic and costly challenge of expanding it countywide. The program is committed to evaluation and to answering the question of whether or not the children’s symptoms are decreasing as a result of receiving services. Eventually, program planners and implementers want to develop a “how to” manual for other communities who wish to implement this program.
PROGRAM CHALLENGESSome of the general program challenges mentioned by those involved with the program include the following.
• Keeping sight of the overall program and retaining the commitment to measure the longterm effects of the program. They stressed it was important not to lose sight of the program when dealing with all the details, such as filling out so many forms or attending numerous meetings, that a program of this magnitude requires. Also, it has been important, but time consuming, to document the planning and implementation process to enable program replication.
• Understanding who comprises the modern family. The term “family” has evolved and become more inclusive. Sometimes all the children are not in the house, and other times there are additional children, such as friends and extended family, who live in the home. It has been a challenge to determine who in or out of the home should receive services.
• Raising funds to sustain the program. Thus far, they have been able to raise enough funds for the pilot program. However, if they plan to expand the program countywide they need to raise substantially more. Ideally, the program needs a long-term funder.
• Address the issues of perpetration. Unfortunately, the CWWV program does not focus on the perpetrator. In one site, it is estimated that of the 79 families the program has served, 30 to 40 percent of the families have the perpetrator back in the home. It is critical to the success of the program that the issue of the perpetrator be addressed.
• MHS needs more resources for crisis response. They need more specialists to handle their heavy caseload. They accept calls that they are not mandated to (such as, if it is out of the pilot area) and do whatever they can to help children and families because they are committed to the program and the community. Officers have called them at times simply because they have felt uneasy about a situation. MHS is always willing to help and is gracious in carrying the extra burden. Additional funds would be helpful to their effort.
• The county needs more long-term services for children who are exposed to domestic violence. The needs assessment prior to program implementation revealed this fact early on.
Recent experience with service provider waiting lists and the shortage of treatment slots has proven this to be true.
• The domestic violence community has been somewhat skeptical about the CWWV program.
There is concern that this program may be taking away services and potential funding from the primary victim of domestic violence. In addition, there has been concern that the program may facilitate Department of Child and Family Services involvement and thereby increase the victim’s chances of losing her or his children to the department. The domestic violence community also shares the safety concern about the specialist going to the home, especially when the perpetrator may be there.
• Scheduling and coordinating with so many organizations and agencies has been a challenge. The sheer magnitude of this program is awesome. There are many key organizations and players in the program. Scheduling meetings is difficult and complicated with so many busy individuals.
LESSONS LEARNEDSeveral lessons gleaned from the CWWV program are useful for other communities.
• Political Support. It is key to have high level political leaders support the program. The Board of County Commissioners has made this issue a clear priority and backed it with funds. The Ohio Attorney General has publicly shown support. This outpouring of support is widely known by all program professionals, and they are encouraged by it.
• Program Leadership. A strong leader has been critical to the success of this program. The program coordinator has been able to help organizations and individuals from all over the county work together. Her background in program development as the past Director of Probation and Community Services has been beneficial. Her experience and familiarity with the agencies and organizations involved immediately made her an “insider” and fostered a level of trust that would not be as easily achieved by a stranger. The leadership style of the program coordinator has worked well for the program. She added structure into the program, but did it in a participatory way, allowing participants to help define the program. She is organized, a master at coordinating others, and possesses many of the skills necessary to make a program such as this work.
• Atmosphere of Collaboration and Understanding. A program with multiple agencies working together needs an atmosphere of understanding and collaboration. The agencies involved with the program are working closely together and have made an effort to build solid positive relationships.
• Case Manager Role. Questions have arisen as to whether or not the case manager position is a critical piece of the program. A case manager may be the best person to address long-term interests and keep families participating. Program data show that, of the clients who drop out of the program, many do so on the second and third visit.
• Changes in Policing. This program is an extension of the changes that are occurring in policing across the county. The police are on the front line directing resources to people. This program is another opportunity to bring services to the community. Police are often frustrated with the lack of community resources and want to know why more services like this program are not available. Police are always looking for another resource that can help them. Officers are receptive to a program if they believe it works and will help children.
• Commitment from community individuals and organizations. All agencies involved in the program go above and beyond in their commitment to this program. In particular, MHS was noted as being incredibly responsive and flexible. However, they have been bottlenecked with too many calls. How are these agencies handling this overload? They believe in the program and expend extra effort to sustain it. Everyone is concerned for the families and they try to keep focused on what is important. They try not to get bogged down in political and personal agendas.
• Need for Mentoring Programs. The community needs stronger mentoring programs for children. Children need positive role models in their lives. The composition of families has dramatically changed and parents often hold multiple jobs. There are long waiting lists for mentoring programs with an especially high demand for mentors and families that are willing to work with families experiencing domestic violence issues. MHS is exploring the idea with the Girl Scouts of America of starting a Girl Scout troop specifically for girls in families who have experienced domestic violence. This group would focus on exposing girls to positive experiences and people. More programs of this sort are needed.
• Pilot Approach. The pilot approach has been very important to the success of the program.
Program planners and implementers have learned a great deal about how to carry the program forward and what changes should be made. They are now posing the following questions.
Could this program be carried out effectively in a less expensive way? Does the crisis intervention have to be within 30 minutes? Could it be just as effective if it occurred within 24 hours? These are questions program implementers will wrestle with as the program continues.
• Evaluate Your Program. Key players indicated it was helpful that the program was being evaluated. Knowing that the program would be evaluated encouraged them to do a good job and gave the program greater credibility. The evaluation is not a test, but rather an opportunity to gather baseline data. Even if the evaluation does not yield desirable outcomes, it gives the program valuable information to determine how to improve the program.
• Funding. The program has been successful in fundraising because there are so many sources combined together to support the program. How to fund it countywide will be a big challenge. They need to infuse large amounts of money into the program. In order to do so, they will have to promote the program to funders.
The CWWV program is a model well worth studying for communities considering a very comprehensive program for responding to children who are exposed to domestic violence. While its size and complexity may be overwhelming to some communities, it may be possible to replicate selected components of the program.
SUMMARY OF FEATURES AMONG THE FIVE CASE STUDIESEach of the five sites implemented a unique approach to children exposed to domestic violence.
Major features of each of the approaches are presented in the matrix below. A discussion of their advantages and disadvantages follows.
SUMMARY OF MAJOR COMPONENTS OF EACH CASE STUDY SITE
THE IMMEDIATE RESPONSEThe use of volunteers as first responders is less expensive than using salaried counselors. It is a promising mechanism for engaging the community in these cases and has potential for increasing public awareness of problems suffered by children who are exposed to domestic violence.
However, it is not without cost. It takes time to recruit, train, and supervise volunteers.
Professionals with extensive training in crisis intervention may be in a better position than volunteers to identify the myriad needs of the families they see. Consistency among responders may also be greater when employing professionals. On the other hand, the costs are considerable to pay staff to respond on a 24 hour, seven-day a week basis.
There was disagreement among those we interviewed as to the need for an immediate on-scene response. Some thought a phone call was a better, less obtrusive way to respond. Others thought a follow-up visit the next day was preferable than trying to reach out in the middle of the night.
Most, however, felt that the immediate response presented the best opportunity for persuading victims and their children to seek services.
Safety of the responders was also an issue in the sites. In Lakeland, it was perceived as unsafe for volunteers to go to the house unless they happen to be on a ride-along with officers. In Salisbury, advocates met the victim at the police department because they were concerned for the safety of their workers. In Hartford, Chula Vista, and Cleveland, advocates went to the house but all advocates received safety training and were intensely trained to assess their safety and act accordingly. In addition, police officers remain on the scene in these three sites to protect the safety of counselors.
FOLLOW-UP TO ENSURE POLICE OFFICERS MAKE APPROPRIATE REFERRALS
All of the sites had formal procedures to review police reports each morning to make sure officers made referrals whenever children were exposed to domestic violence. It is to their credit that they recognized the need to constantly check to make sure no children fell through the cracks.
INVOLVEMENT OF SCHOOLS
Lakeland and Salisbury providers worked closed with schools to help children exposed to domestic violence. Some might consider this an invasion of the children’s privacy. In Lakeland, they requested parents sign a parental release form to allow the program to tell school officials that children were exposed to domestic violence so that school counselors could reach out to the child.
In Salisbury, the outreach to schools was done informally. In the remaining three sites, confidentiality issues precluded their notifying school officials. Ultimately, the wisdom of involving schools in individual cases depends on how one weighs the need to help children versus the need to protect their privacy.
PROVISION OF SERVICESAll programs provided short-term follow-up with victims and their children. Two of the programs referred clients out for long-term counseling services while the remaining three provided such services themselves. The later is more expensive and may create long waiting periods. The former spreads clients out to a number of different agencies and has the potential for raising awareness about the needs of children exposed to domestic violence. But it may alienate families by leaving the impression that they are shuttled from one agency to another. Further, they may perceive that their original counselor is abandoning them when they are sent to someone else for services.
All of the five sites implemented proactive responses to help children exposed to domestic violence. Compared, their approaches have advantages and disadvantages. Together, they should be commended for their leadership in providing crisis and long-term services to these vulnerable children and their families. Each can serve as a model for other places interested in replicating their approach.
RECOMMENDATIONSOur research included mail and telephone surveys with law enforcement departments and service providers, as well as site visits to five sites with innovative approaches to children exposed to domestic violence. Study sites were Lakeland, FL; Salisbury, MA; Hartford, CT; Chula Vista, CA;
and Cuyahoga County, OH. We draw six recommendations from our findings.