«HELPING CHILDREN EXPOSED TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: LAW ENFORCEMENT AND COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS FINAL REPORT to The National Institute of Justice American ...»
Follow-up Response Follow-up response for victims not seen at the scene is dependent on the victim’s wishes. If the CD-CP counselor is not called to the scene because the victim refuses services, or the officer decides not to call, the officer (or a detective who follows up the next day) asks the victim if she wants services for her child. If she does, a CD-CP counselor contacts the victim within a day or two after the incident to offer services. The CD-CP program does not contact victims who have told the police that they do not want services for their child. They feel strongly that to do so is a violation of the family’s privacy. If the victim wants services, CD-CP calls them to discuss options. Services for children exposed to domestic violence include the provision of information on the effects on children exposed to domestic violence; clinical assessments of the children and the victim; and ongoing psychotherapy for children and the victim. The initial assessment is paid for with grant funds. On-going counseling is reimbursed through Medicaid, private insurance, or on a sliding fee basis. No child is turned away because the family is unable to pay for counseling.
Primary funding for services to children exposed to domestic violence is provided through a grant from the Violence Against Women’s Office supplemented by funds received from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Office of Victims of Crime.
Evaluation CD-CP has been monitoring the number of clients served, services provided, and client satisfaction. They are working with the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to collaborate with an outside evaluator to assess the effects of the program.
Sandy, Utah Overview Sandy, Utah is a residential community outside Salt Lake City with a population of 110,000. The Sandy Police Department responds to nearly 1,000 domestic violence calls each year. In Sandy, there are about 3.96 kids per household. Sandy, Utah’s Kids in Domestic Situations (KIDS) program began in 1993. When law enforcement responds to the scene, the officer determines if children are in need of immediate crisis intervention. If so, the victim advocate from the police department responds to the scene. Law enforcement officers recognized that children in domestic violence homes were having problems as they grew up. Some were getting into juvenile crime and others were becoming abusers as adults. They wanted to break this destructive cycle.
The Police Response
The domestic violence/child abuse statute, UCA 76-5-109.1, makes it a separate crime of child abuse when domestic violence occurs in the presence of children. If domestic violence occurs when children are present, the officer can charge child abuse. If the domestic violence was a felony, the child abuse charge is a felony; if the domestic violence was a misdemeanor, the child abuse charge is a misdemeanor. Officers are required to put the names and ages of the children in the incident report. The officer also notes the child’s behavior and affect in the incident report. The child abuse charge may enhance the perpetrator’s penalty; force him to pay for the child’s treatment; restrict his access to the child; and result in an Order of Protection whose violation may be criminal (if it is ordered in criminal court) or civil (if it is ordered in civil court).
The Kids in Domestic Situations (KIDS) Approach
All children exposed to domestic violence are given the opportunity for psychological evaluation and therapy. The police department worked with the prosecutor and the court to establish the KIDS approach. The chief judge agreed that, based on the assessment/evaluations of selected treatment providers, the court would order the perpetrator to enroll their children into court approved treatment programs. The perpetrator is ordered to pay for the children’s treatment. If the perpetrator cannot pay, the family may qualify for Crime Victims Reparations to pay for the therapy.
Deciding When to Call the Victim Advocate
It is the responsibility of the responding officer to decide if the children are upset enough to warrant a crisis call to a victim advocate. The advocate is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The advocate is asked to respond within 30 minutes, and they usually do meet that timeline.
The lieutenant in charge of the KIDS program estimated that the advocate goes out in about one in ten domestic violence cases.
The Role of the Victim Advocate at the Scene The Sandy, Utah Victim Advocate’s unit has a staff of two, supported by 20 volunteers. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The advocate's role on the scene is to provide emotional support and resource information to the domestic violence victim and the children. The advocate’s main role is to calm down the adult and child victims. They talk to them about available counseling services and explain that they may be eligible for Victims of Crime Act money to pay for the counseling. The advocate makes referrals to two mental health centers that offer individual and group counseling.
The Outreach Role of the Victim Advocate
If the victim advocate does not respond to the scene, someone from the program tries to make contact with the family later. Every day someone from the Victim Advocate’s office culls through domestic violence reports. They try to make contact with the victim within 72 hours. They attempt three phone calls and if unsuccessful, a letter is sent to the victim. The victim advocate believes that this delayed outreach cannot be compared with the immediate outreach at the scene. The quicker they make contact with victims, the more receptive victims are to talking with them and seeking services. If they reach the victim immediately at the scene, about 90 percent avail themselves of services. If they do not reach them until a day (or several days) later, about 50 to 60 percent seek help for themselves and their children.
It is the advocate’s responsibility to follow-up and monitor compliance with therapy orders. The advocate works to make sure children actually receive the treatment that is ordered (the judge cannot directly order the child to treatment, but can order the perpetrator to take the child to treatment). The quality of services at the mental health centers was described as good by the victim advocate and police lieutenant, but they are “swamped” and other programs are needed. Due to backlog, children may have to wait several weeks before being seen by a counselor. Both counseling centers operate on a sliding fee schedule and will see children for free if the family cannot afford to pay.
Xenia, Ohio Overview of the Response Xenia, Ohio has a population of approximately 30,000. It is located 12 miles east of Dayton. The Xenia Police Department domestic violence unit responds to children exposed to domestic violence. Its special outreach to these children began in May 1999. The team consists of a police detective and social worker. They attempt to respond to every domestic violence call in which children are exposed to domestic violence. If they are unable to respond to the scene, they personally visit each household the day after the domestic violence incident in cases where children were exposed to domestic violence.
The Police Response
The Xenia Police Department has 47 employees. Every officer undergoes 20 to 60 hours of domestic violence training. A detective and social worker from the specialized domestic violence team are called to the scene whenever children are exposed to domestic violence. If they are not available, they reach out to the family the next day to explain the effects of domestic violence on the children and the services available in the community. They estimate that 60 percent of the families they contact avail themselves of services for their children. Their goal is to stop the intergenerational spread of domestic violence; to teach children conflict resolution skills; and to provide counseling for the children. They believe they “can help, but cannot heal” the damage inflicted on children exposed to domestic violence.
Services Available to Children and Their Families
The local domestic violence shelter offers a “Smiles Program.” The Smiles Program provides group counseling for pre-adolescents, adolescents, and teens exposed to domestic violence. In addition, the shelter offers individual counseling for children and group and individual counseling for victims of domestic violence. It also assists victims in obtaining restraining orders. Children’s Hospital also counsels children exposed to domestic violence, using a select group of pediatric psychiatrists.
Funding and Impact of the Program
They received Violence Against Women Act STOP and United Way funds for their program, but plan to continue the program, after the STOP and United Way grants end, with departmental funds. They have received “so much positive feedback” that they will never discontinue the program. They believe their efforts are making a significant difference in the number of future batterers. The way law enforcement officers think about domestic violence has “changed entirely.” Officers now understand the impact of this type of violence on children. The law enforcement domestic violence unit is adding a second detective to the unit who will be specially selected. The person needs to be dynamic, compassionate, and have excellent “people skills,” as parents can immediately tell if the officer cares or is “faking it.” If the parent believes the officer merely sees it as his or her job, their outreach efforts are doomed to failure, according to the head of the Xenia Police Department’s domestic violence unit.
From interviews with 22 communities, we learned that there were many more innovative approaches to children exposed to domestic violence than we could visit (we proposed to visit five). Each program was innovative in its own way and varied on factors such as level of coordination between agencies, type of partnership and partner agency, community and geographic diversity, level of interest in participating in the study, and availability of outcome data. Using data from the mail and telephone surveys and with assistance from the advisory board, five sites were selected for case studies.
OVERVIEW Lakeland has a population of 75,000 living in a county located between Tampa and Orlando.
The Lakeland Police Department has 235 sworn officers. The Lakeland Police Department’s Domestic Abuse Response Team (DART) provides a specialized, intensive response to domestic violence and reaches out to children exposed to domestic violence. In response to Lakeland’s high domestic violence rate, the Lakeland Chief of Police implemented the Domestic Abuse Response Team in 1990. The program has received national recognition and has been featured on the TV show, “Save Our Street.” For children exposed to domestic violence, a strong partnership has been created between the Domestic Abuse Response Team and the school system to help children deal with the trauma associated with exposure to domestic violence.
Lakeland is fortunate to have many service agencies that provide counseling to children and families of domestic violence.
THE POLICE RESPONSE
Specialized Lakeland Police Domestic Abuse Response Team officers handle most of the domestic violence calls. There are four patrol squads, with a specialized officer attached to each squad. These officers work a 12-hour shift, and there is always a Domestic Abuse Response Team supervisor on duty. The officers receive 40 to 80 hours of additional domestic violence training beyond the basics given to patrol officers. All of the Domestic Abuse Response Team officers receive a one-hour inservice training each month. The preferred response is to dispatch the specialized officer to a domestic violence call. In the event that the specialized officer is not available, any patrol officer responds and follows the Domestic Abuse Response Team protocol.
When the police officer responds to a domestic violence call, he, or she, first stabilizes the scene.
The officer also completes the Domestic Abuse Response Team paperwork that contains a checklist to remind officers of the actions to be taken in domestic violence cases, including informing the victim of services for her and her children and encouraging the victim to sign a Parental Consent Form. This Form is the key to services (discussed below).
Officers are mandated to call the Domestic Abuse Response Team advocate every time children are exposed to domestic violence, but they may “forget” or the victim may refuse services (refusals happen in about 30% of the cases according to officers interviewed). The Domestic Abuse Response Team Project Coordinator, or her full-time advocate, reviews all police reports of domestic violence the day after the incident. If the officer failed to call in an appropriate case, a Domestic Abuse Response Team advocate calls the victim to explain available services. The officer’s sergeant is notified of the breach in procedure and the officer is reminded of the departmental policy to call a Domestic Abuse Response Team advocate. This back-up system ensures that no victims or children are overlooked.
THE DOMESTIC ABUSE RESPONSE TEAM ADVOCATES
The only two paid staff members are the Coordinator of the Domestic Abuse Response Team program and a full-time advocate. Besides the paid advocate, all of the program advocates are trained volunteers. About 40 volunteer advocates work with the program. All volunteers receive 16 hours of training led by the Domestic Abuse Response Team coordinator. In addition, advocates are encouraged to receive the law enforcement 40-hour domestic violence crisis training, as well as attend periodic updated training sessions. These trainings are viewed as “perks” by advocates, according to the program coordinator, and as a mechanism to thank advocates for their commitment.