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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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The department has a policy that requires officers to investigate to determine if children were exposed to domestic violence every time officers respond to a domestic incident. They stated that “our department views children as a priority." Further, they explained that the child’s emotional and physical well-being, as well as their safety, are primary concerns for law enforcement personnel. Deputies are trained to understand the effects of domestic violence on children. Every time they are called to a domestic violence scene, officers personally contact each child on the scene to assure their well-being. They do not take the parents’ words in such matters. If children appear abused or neglected, Child Protective Services are advised. Deputies work diligently to calm the child, establish rapport and interview the child separate from the parents. Children are to be taught SAFE (Stay out of the fights; Ask for help; Find an adult who will listen; and Everyone knows it’s not your fault). Children are reassured that the situation is not their fault and that they will not be left alone. They received over $73,000 in Violence Against Women STOP funds last year to respond to domestic violence. Their approach to children is included in their larger domestic violence efforts funded by the grant.

• Case Example Two. Case example two comes from a police department in the Northeast.

The department’s policy requires officers to investigate whether children were exposed to domestic violence every time they respond to one of these cases. Upon responding to a domestic violence call, the officer separates all involved parties. He/she speaks with the children privately, out of the parents’ view. The officer also speaks with the non-offending parent. The officer makes an assessment on the impact of the violence to the children involved. If it is determined that the child’s safety is at risk, Child Protective Services are called to the scene. Often, an advocate from the Department’s Domestic Violence Unit is called to the scene as well. If there is no immediate risk to the child, the officer explains to the non-offending parent that Child Protective Services will be notified to follow-up with services for the family. In addition, the officers forward a copy of the incident report to the Domestic Violence Unit. A sergeant, detective, or victim advocate from the Unit follows up to ensure that the family receives all available services. The department receives no special funds targeted at children exposed to domestic violence.

• Case Example Three. Case example three reflects the approach of a police department in the West. In their state, there is a senate bill that requires officers to document when children are exposed to domestic violence. The violence the child was exposed to is recorded in the incident report and the report is sent to childrens’ services. Additionally, the department has a domestic violence specialist (police officer) who has contact with the schools for following up on how the children are doing in school. The respondent believes that the follow-up with the schools has benefited the children. It provides support to those who are having difficulty with schoolwork because of the trauma they have experienced. The result is “better adjusted children” according to the respondent.

• Case Example Four. Case example four emanates from a police department with 47 sworn officers in the Midwest. A special unit in the police department, consisting of an investigator and social worker, follows up with every family for which there was a domestic violence call. They attempt an in-person contact with the family a day or two following the incident.

Their goal is to stop intergenerational violence by teaching conflict resolution skills through individual and peer counseling to children exposed to domestic violence. Of the families they contact, about 60 percent follow through and obtain treatment for their children. The program is funded through a Violence Against Women STOP grant. They believe they are making a big difference in the lives of families because their “personnel care; this is not just a job to them — if it was, the parents would see through it and the program would fail."

CONCLUSIONS

The sampling plan was not intended to yield a representative picture of how law enforcement departments are responding to children exposed to domestic violence. It was skewed to capture as many innovative and comprehensive approaches as possible by purposively reaching out to departments likely to have such approaches. Therefore, the results do not reflect a national average. We uncovered many creative and comprehensive approaches and our data reflect that many departments are working with agencies in their community to help children exposed to domestic violence. To summarize, we found the following.

• Nearly three-quarters of the departments surveyed have a policy, protocol, and/or law that requires officers to investigate whether any children were exposed to domestic violence.

• About one-half of the departments have a box on the arrest, incident, or supplemental report that officers are required to check if children were exposed to domestic violence. In nine out of ten departments with a written policy or protocol, officers are required to write a narrative describing how the children were exposed to domestic violence (e.g., overheard it, witnessed, were used as a shield, tried to intervene to stop it).





• The most common type of outreach made by officers to help children exposed to domestic violence is to make a referral to child protective services or another service agency. Less commonly, the service provider accompanies the officer to the domestic violence scene to immediately begin intervention.

• There is follow-up to learn if children exposed to domestic violence are getting the help they need according to over three-quarters of those surveyed.

• Only 15 percent of the departments receive (or have received) funds to respond to children exposed to domestic violence. Most often, the funding for children exposed to domestic violence was included in a grant with a much broader focus on domestic violence. The remaining departments are reaching out to these children without any special funding.

–  –  –

SAMPLING Based on information learned from the mail survey, telephone interviews were conducted in 22 communities that have a coordinated approach between law enforcement and community programs for children exposed to domestic violence. These 22 communities were selected based on criteria such as whether the law enforcement agency had a policy or protocol regarding responding to children exposed to domestic violence and whether the law enforcement agency partnered with another agency to provide services to children.

THE LAW ENFORCEMENT SURVEY

In each community, the initial telephone contact was made with the law enforcement contact who completed the survey. The central themes of the open-ended questions on the telephone interview included the following.

• How does your department respond to children exposed to domestic violence?

• What laws, if any, mandate how you respond to children exposed to domestic violence?

• Is your approach mandated by policy or protocol? Describe.

• What special training do officers receive on children exposed to domestic violence?

• What information about children exposed to domestic violence is in the incident, arrest, or supplemental report?

• How does your approach affect what happens at the scene? When do officers call a helping agency to the scene? What helping agency is called? During what hours are helping agencies available to come to the scene? What is their role at the scene? Do officers have any pamphlets, cards, or other materials to hand out to parents that explains what the helping agency/agencies do or how to contact them?

• How does your approach affect what happens to the perpetrator? Under what circumstances would the perpetrator be arrested on enhanced charges of child abuse or children exposed to domestic violence offenses? What added leverage, if any, does that enhancement give your officer?

• How does your approach affect what happens to the child? Who decides who is called in to help the child at the scene? Who decides what referrals are made to help children exposed to domestic violence?

• Under what circumstances and why would child protective services be notified? How and when are they notified? What response does the notification trigger with child protective services?

• Does your department receive funds to respond to children exposed to domestic violence? If yes, what funds are received and what are they used for?

• Is your department’s response to children exposed to domestic violence being evaluated or do you have any data to document how it is working? If yes, what is it?

• How well is your department’s response to children exposed to domestic violence working?

Where are the gaps in your department’s or your community’s response to children exposed to domestic violence?

• Would your department be willing to be included in a case study?

HELPING AGENCY SURVEY

The law enforcement survey respondent was asked to identify agencies that the department is collaborating with to help children exposed to domestic violence. Contacts in identified agencies were interviewed. Respondents were asked the following questions.

• When do you go to the scene and/or when are referrals made in cases in which children are exposed to domestic violence?

• What type of services do you provide to children exposed to domestic violence?

• Is someone from your agency available 24 hours, seven days a week or only during certain hours to respond to children exposed to domestic violence?

• Do you believe that the police are calling you to the scene and/or making referrals as often as they should, too often, or not often enough in cases in which children are exposed to domestic violence?

• In your community, how adequate are the number, and quality, of services for children exposed to domestic violence? Where are the gaps?

• Would you recommend your community's approach to children exposed to domestic violence to other communities? What works well, what needs improvement, how effective is your approach?

• Would your agency be willing to be included in a case study?

TELEPHONE SURVEY DESCRIPTIONS

Of the 22 communities with which follow-up telephone interviews were conducted, five promising candidates were identified for inclusion in the five case studies: Chula Vista, CA; Cuyahoga County, OH; Hartford, CT; Lakeland, FL; and Salisbury, MA. The descriptions of these five approaches can be found in Chapters 5 through 9. Six additional communities however, had

approaches that were worthy of an “honorable mention” write up. These communities include:

Austin, TX; Chesterfield, VA; Colorado Springs, CO; New Haven, CT; Sandy, Utah; and Xenia, OH. This chapter contains brief descriptions of these approaches.

Austin, Texas Overview of Response The Austin Police Department is a member of the countywide Family Violence Protection Team and contributes five Victim Service counselors and one Victim Service supervisor to the Family Violence Protection Team. All family violence assaults are automatically assigned to a Victim Service counselor to provide follow-up services. The Family Violence Protection Team has a relationship with several local helping agencies that assist victims of domestic violence and their children, including Safe Place, which offers short-term services to adults and children and the Austin Child Guidance Center, which offers long-term services to children.

Police Response

The Austin Police Department has approximately 1,150 officers and covers a jurisdiction of approximately 650,000 residents. From mid-1984 to 1985, departmental changes encouraged officers to respond more thoroughly to family disturbances. When responding to a domestic violence incident, the officer must identify if children are living in the home. If so, the officer adds the name(s) and age(s) of the child or children to the incident report. In all domestic violence cases, the patrol officer leaves a Victim Service and/or Family Violence Protection Team pamphlet with the victim. Twenty-four hours a day, officers have the option to call Family Violence Protection Team detectives or counselors to a crime scene. Rarely, however does the Family Violence Protection Team respond directly to the scene. If an arrest is not made or the case is a felony, then the domestic violence incident is automatically assigned to the Austin Police Department family violence detectives for investigation. All family violence (partner or other family members) assaults are automatically assigned to a Victim Service counselor to provide follow-up services.

Also, if an officer or counselor suspect’s child abuse, s/he will report it to the Department of Protective and Regulatory Services, Child Protective Services.

Family Violence Protection Team



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