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«HELPING CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: LAW ENFORCEMENT AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FINAL REPORT to The National Institute of Justice American ...»

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Unfortunately, the five study communities were not typical of the nation. Our mail survey responses from 360 law enforcement departments documented that many departments have not recognized the problem of children exposed to domestic violence by establishing special procedures and policies for these vulnerable children. The responsibility to report that children are exposed to domestic violence, or to make referrals, is all too frequently left to the discretion of the individual officer rather than to an established protocol. Fortunately, we found some departments with innovative, proactive approaches that require officers to report when children are exposed to domestic violence. These reports typically trigger some type of response from a helping agency. Some departments have progressed further and instituted a cooperative approach with a helping agency to respond to these children very soon after a domestic violence incident to begin the assessment of the psychological distress inflicted on the child and the healing process.

xi Based on the literature, we know that children exposed to domestic violence frequently endure a wide variety of psychological and behavioral problems. Communities must embrace these findings or it is unlikely that law enforcement and helping agencies will initiate and sustain the kinds of programs needed to help these children. We recommend that communities initiate a task force to identify the needs of children exposed to domestic violence, services available in the community, and gaps in services. Further, a strategic planning process should be implemented to reach out to these vulnerable children. In each of the five study sites, there was a vision, a charismatic leader, and a plan for action.

RECOMMENDATION 2: LAW ENFORCEMENT SHOULD PLAY A PIVOTAL GATEKEEPER

FUNCTION IN REFERRING CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE TO

SERVICES Law enforcement officers are usually the first to respond to a domestic violence incident. They are in a unique position to investigate if children were exposed to the violence and to talk with parents about how exposure can damage the psychological well-being of children. In all of our five study sites, law enforcement officers were charged with the responsibility of informing parents about services for their children. How they approach parents with this information will critically impact the parent’s willingness to accept help for their children. Officers need to present available services in a positive light and be cognizant that many domestic violence victims are fearful of outside intervention. Their biggest fear is often that their children will be removed for failure to protect them. Officers can reassure them that services are not intended to remove their children (unless of course, the officer or child protective services assess that the children are not safe in the home), but to help them put their lives back together.

In addition to verbal and attitudinal clues officers use to reassure parents, it is helpful if they can leave a pamphlet that explains services in a non-judgmental, easy-to-read fashion with accompanying telephone numbers to call for help. Each of our five study programs provided officers with written materials to give parents. Domestic violence victims often cannot focus on the needs of their children while in a crisis state. However, by introducing the possibility of services during the crisis period, a seed may be planted in the victim’s mind. When things subside, written materials may present options and explain services. Community leaders and law enforcement command staff in all five of our study sites recognize the pivotal gatekeeper function officers assume in opening the doors to services.

RECOMMENDATION 3: PROACTIVE RESPONSES TO CHILDREN EXPOSED TO

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE REQUIRE SUBSTANTIAL COMMITMENT FROM THE

COMMUNITY AND SERVICE PROVIDERS

Initiating a program to reach out to children exposed to domestic violence is labor intensive. Crisis and follow-up services need to be identified and engaged. Sustaining the program takes substantial commitment and resolve. Each of the five study sites had a dedicated program director and staff to carry out their response to children exposed to domestic violence. The more comprehensive approaches studied functioned with the assistance of a considerable number of xii staff and were costly. Communities should anticipate and be realistic about what it will take to plan, implement, and sustain a viable approach to children exposed to domestic violence. They should also guard against promising crisis and long-term services they cannot deliver. We learned from each of the five study sites that law enforcement officers are willing to call crisis teams to the scene (or alert them by phone) only if they are assured, and practice reveals, that a prompt response will result. Otherwise, officers do not want to waste their time, and that of the families, waiting for help that never arrives. Further, law enforcement officers want to be assured that when they tell domestic violence victims that help is available for them and their children that the services are truly available and do not involve unduly protracted waiting lists. Service agencies need to fulfill the promises they make.

From the five study sites, we learned that providers are often faced with multiple challenges when trying to help children exposed to domestic violence. These children often suffer from overriding problems beyond living in a violent home, such as poverty, learning disabilities, social isolation, and so on. Service providers need to decide the breadth of services they can realistically deliver and be prepared for the myriad of problems faced by children in domestic violence homes.





RECOMMENDATION 4: COORDINATION OF EFFORTS AND RAPPORT BUILDING

BETWEEN LAW ENFORCEMENT AND SERVICE PROVIDERS SHOULD BE

IMPLEMENTED TO SERVE CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Police chiefs can require officers to refer parents to agencies to help children exposed to domestic violence. But if the relationship is to become a solid one, officers must come to see their interaction with helping agencies as a partnership that benefits these children. Among the five study sites, various techniques were used to build a partnership. Joint trainings/meetings of officers and service providers were held. Ride-alongs in which providers rode with patrol officers were common. Participation in mutual social events was encouraged. Feedback (without breaching confidentiality) to officers on how referred families and children were doing was provided. Thank you letters to officers who made referrals were sent, and for those who failed to make appropriate referrals, law enforcement command staff demanded to know why the referral was not made. Tangible benefits directly to the officers were provided when possible (e.g., completing repot to social services so officer did not have to file the paperwork).

All of these techniques helped establish mutual respect and understanding of each other’s roles.

Further, officers were able to rely on service providers responding quickly when summoned to the scene, thereby allowing them to return to service without undue delay. That is not to say there were not bumps in the road and occasional flare-ups, but open communication smoothed over tense situations and enabled the partnership to grow.

RECOMMENDATION 5: RESOURCES SHOULD BE DEDICATED TO EFFECTIVELY SERVE

CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Crisis and follow-up services cost money, as do brochures and pamphlets explaining available services. In all five study sites, resources were garnered to help these children. Some sites creatively incorporated the service of volunteers while others found money to pay a cadre of mental health professionals. Federal, state, county, and foundation/charitable funds were used in

–  –  –

RECOMMENDATION 6: EVALUATION IS NEDED TO DETERMINE “BEST PRACTICES”

TO SERVE CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Little is known about what types of services best improve the plight of children exposed to domestic violence. In each of the five study sites, a variety of approaches were used: group/peer counseling, play/art/sand therapy, in-home counseling, anger management classes, safety planning exercises, and so on. Which approaches work best for children with different problems has not been empirically tested. Nor do we know how long services need to be maintained to effect long-term positive changes in these children. Until such research is done, providers are making service decisions based on best guesses gleaned from general psychological and child development principles. Evaluation is needed to learn how best to help children of different ages exposed to domestic violence who display multiple and diverse symptoms and profiles.

xivTABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER 1 - EXPOSURE TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: ITS IMPACT ON CHILDREN

Overview

The Prevalence of Domestic Violence and The Children Exposed to It

The Impact on Children Who Witness Violence

Immediate Effects

Short-term Effects

Long-term Effects

Community Policing and Children

Why Establish a Partnership for Children

Exposed to Domestic Violence?

CHAPTER 2 - RESEARCH DESIGN

Research Objectives

Research Methods

The National Mail Survey

Telephone Survey

Advisory Panel Meeting

Case Studies

Interviews with Agency Representatives

Additional Research Activities

CHAPTER 3 - MAIL SURVEY RESULTS

Survey Questions

Sampling Plan

Response Rate

Survey Results

Policy and Laws Regarding Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Nature of Response to Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Funding Sources and Model Approaches

Conclusions

CHAPTER 4 - TELEPHONE SURVEY FINDINGS

Sampling

The Law Enforcement Survey

Helping Agency Survey

Telephone Survey Descriptions

Austin, Texas

Overview of Response

Police Response

Family Violence Protection Team

Agencies

School Services

Chesterfield, Virginia

Overview of the Response

The Police Response

The REACT Program and Response

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Overview of the Response

The Police Response

Follow-up Services

Funding

New Haven, Connecticut

Overview

The Police Response

Follow-up Response

Funding

Evaluation

Sandy, Utah

Overview

The Police Response

The Kids in Domestic Situations (KIDS) Approach

Deciding When to Call the Victim Advocate

The Role of the Victim Advocate at the Scene

The Outreach Role of the Victim Advocate

Monitoring Compliance

Xenia, Ohio

Overview of the Response

The Police Response

Services Available to Children and Their Families

Funding and Impact of the Program

Conclusion

CHAPTER 5 - LAKELAND, FLORIDA

xiii Overview

The Police Response

The Domestic Abuse Response Team Advocates

The Role of the Department of Children and Families

Follow-up Services with Schools and Other Service Providers

Funding

Evaluation

Challenges for the Domestic Abuse Response Team

Conclusion

CHAPTER 6 - SALISBURY, MASSACHUSETTS

The Community

Overview of Salisbury’s Response

The Police Response

The Women’s Crisis Center

The Rapid Response Team

The Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) Follow-up Response

The Children of Violence Empowerment (COVE) Project

Department of Social Services

The School’s Response

Lessons Learned

Challenges Ahead

Conclusion

CHAPTER 7 - HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT

Overview of Hartford’s Response

Impetus and Planning for the Violence Intervention Project

The Police Response

Follow-up with Officers

The Officer’s Perspective

The Operation of the Violence Intervention Project

The Violence Intervention Project Response

Follow-up with Families and Services

xiv Funding

The Involvement of Department of Children and Families in Cases in Which Children are Exposed to Domestic Violence

Lessons Learned

Improvements for the Violence Intervention Project

Conclusion

CHAPTER 8 - CHULA VISTA, CALIFORNIA

Overview of the Response

Impetus for the Program

The Police Response

The Family Violence Response Team Crisis Response

Follow-up Services Provided by South Bay Community Services

Support Groups for Children

The Family Violence Response Team Staffing

Role of Child Protective Services

Lessons Learned

Conclusion

CHAPTER 9 - CUYAHOGA COUNTY, OHIO Overview of the response

Impetus and Planning for the Children Who Witness Violence Program

Executive Work Team

Intervention Services Workgroup

The Training Workgroup

The Community Site Planning Workgroup

Community Awareness Workgroup

Evaluation Workgroup

Funding Workgroup

Site Planning Process

Mental Health Services, Inc

Program implementation

The Police Response

Training of Police

Enforcement by Policy and Protocol

Contacting Mental Health Services

At the Scene

xv Follow-up for Police

Perceptions of the Chiefs and Commanders

Perceptions of the Line Officers

Focus Group #1

Focus Group #2

Focus Group #3

Focus Group #4

The Crisis Response

The 24-hour Hotline and Subsequent Phone Calls

The Team

The First Visit

The Second and Third Visit

Case Example

The Timeframe

The Referral and Transition

On-going Services for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence

Department of Child and Family Services



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