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Witnessing Domestic Violence as a Child Protection Issue What’s going on in other jurisdictions? Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW www.yoursocialworker.com.

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Presentation on theme: "Witnessing Domestic Violence as a Child Protection Issue What’s going on in other jurisdictions? Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW www.yoursocialworker.com."— Presentation transcript:

1 Witnessing Domestic Violence as a Child Protection Issue What’s going on in other jurisdictions? Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

2 2 Why Care?  Our ability to help is in part bound by the system in which we are a part.  To increase our effectiveness, we must learn about our system and work within whilst promoting change.

3 All States Recognize Domestic Violence  All jurisdictions in the United States have laws that define domestic or family violence. National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information State Statutes Series 2004 Children and Domestic Violence

4 But not necessarily as it related to children  Approximately 40 States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Territories Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico include children as a class of protected persons in some way within their definitions of domestic violence. National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information State Statutes Series 2004 Children and Domestic Violence

5 But not necessarily as it related to children National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information State Statutes Series 2004 Children and Domestic Violence Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Wyoming do not currently include children in their definitions of domestic violence.

6 And then there are the exceptions:  The most common exception, in seven States and Guam, is for acts of self-defense. Guam also exempts defense of others, and Delaware and Louisiana exempt acts committed in defense of a child. Three States (Georgia, Illinois, and Maryland) provide an exception for reasonable acts of discipline of a child. Verbal abuse or argument is exempted by Connecticut. National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information State Statutes Series 2004 Children and Domestic Violence

7 But, what about witnessing  Approximately 20 States and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation that specifically includes children who witness domestic violence as a class of persons in need of legal protection. National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information State Statutes Series 2004 Children and Domestic Violence Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

8 But, what about witnessing  If only 20 States and Puerto Rico have enacted legislation that specifically includes children who witness domestic violence as a class of persons in need of legal protection what does that say about the legislation of other States?  The legislation of other states regarding domestic violence and children is restricted to children as direct victims as in the case of physical or sexual abuse.  So, does witnessing count?

9 We can make it count… if we know the legislation…  The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is the Federal legislation that provides minimum guidelines States must incorporate in their statutory definitions of child abuse and neglect. This Act has been updates as: Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information 2003 Child Abuse and Neglect State Statute Series Statutes-at-a-Glance Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

10 Accordingly and as per the Act, The term “child abuse and neglect” means, at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm…

11 Then what happens to those definitions?  Based on CAPTA guidelines, each State and U.S. Territory provides its own definitions of child abuse and neglect. National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information 2003 Child Abuse and Neglect State Statute Series Statutes-at-a-Glance Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

12 Are definitions standardized?  The standard for what constitutes abuse varies among States. Many States define abuse in terms of “harm or threatened harm” to a child's health or welfare. A few States define abuse in terms of "serious harm or threat of serious harm." National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information 2003 Child Abuse and Neglect State Statute Series Statutes-at-a-Glance Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

13 Harm Defined as Categories of Maltreatment  Categories of Maltreatment Defined in Statute Include:  Physical abuse  Neglect  Sexual abuse  Sexual exploitation  Emotional/mental injury  Abandonment National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information 2003 Child Abuse and Neglect State Statute Series Statutes-at-a-Glance Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

14 Emotional/mental injury  All Sates and territories include emotional/mental injury as a category of maltreatment for the purpose of child abuse and neglect definitions…  All but THREE STATES…  California, Georgia, and Washington National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information 2003 Child Abuse and Neglect State Statute Series Statutes-at-a-Glance Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect

15 PTSD is Emotional Injury  Thinking constantly about the traumatic event.  Having nightmares.  Avoiding places, people, or activities that re-mind them of the event.  Losing interest in doing things that they liked before.  Feeling alone, empty, sad, anxious, or uncaring.  Becoming irritable, angry, and easily startled.

16 Anxiety and Depression are Emotional Injury Anxiety and Depression A feeling associated with fear or dread for an negatively anticipated outcome. A feeling associated with a of loss. The loss can be tangible or psychological.

17 Look For The Signs Missed school or poor school performance Changes in eating and/or sleeping habits Withdrawal from friends and/or activities once enjoyed Persistent sadness and hopelessness Indecision, lack of concentration or forgetfulness Poor self-esteem or guilt Overreaction to criticism / Anger and rage / Problems with authority Frequent physical complaints, such as headaches and stomachaches Lack of enthusiasm, low energy or motivation Drug and/or alcohol abuse Thoughts of death or suicide / Suicidal behaviour Developmental regression

18 Protecting Children Subject to Witnessing or Being Affected by Domestic Violence  Acquaint yourself with the legislation specific to your State  Advocate for specific clients with reference to the terms, language and definitions of State Legislation. Use the laws to your advantage.  Advocate for change by using changes in other jurisdictions to support the cause.

19 Who knows what?  survey of 1,300 persons identified as social workers, family therapists and supervised access center workers  This was not a rigorous investigation by any means, yet may yield interesting information…

20 Who knows what?  Is domestic violence and then specifically, child witnessing thereof, an issue in your work?  Is there legislation in your jurisdiction as it applies to child protection and children witnessing domestic violence?  Do you know the legislation in your jurisdiction as it applies to child protection and children witnessing domestic violence?  If yes, please briefly describe the legislation or law as it pertains to child protection and child witnessing domestic violence.

21 Survey Says!  46 responses for a response rate of 3.5%  100% of respondents identified child witnessing domestic violence as an issue in their work  78% said there was legislation regarding child protection and witnessing domestic violence. 11% were unsure  70% said they knew the legislation as it applied to child protection and witnessing domestic violence. 30% did not  63% described the legislation. 37% were unsure or unable or omitted descriptions.

22 Survey shows…  100% of respondents identified child witnessing of domestic violence, an issue in their work  However, the deeper the survey drilled with regard to knowledge of legislation the less the return.

23 Key Learning  Each jurisdiction has different legislation regarding child protection and child witnessing domestic violence as a child protection matter.  Worker effectiveness in protecting children subject to witnessing domestic violence may depend upon the worker’s knowledge of relevant legislation and use of language to couch concerns in a manner consistent with the legislation.  Legislation is relevant to child protection!

24 Final Thoughts  Legislation matters.  Knowledge of legislation is empowering.  This translates directly to ability to protect children.  Share learning, empower others.  Read reports – go to: Thank you for viewing!


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