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Victim Advocacy with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Kathryn Ford, LMSW Center for Court Innovation 520 8 th Ave., 18 th Floor New York, NY 10018.

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Presentation on theme: "Victim Advocacy with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Kathryn Ford, LMSW Center for Court Innovation 520 8 th Ave., 18 th Floor New York, NY 10018."— Presentation transcript:

1 Victim Advocacy with Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Kathryn Ford, LMSW Center for Court Innovation 520 8 th Ave., 18 th Floor New York, NY 10018 (646) 386-4181

2 What Do Kids Need to Heal & Grow? Sense of safety, structure, limits & predictability Not feeling responsible for adults, clear message about responsibility for DV Good boundaries around adult info Strong bond to primary caregiver: Feel she can protect them, respect her, feel supported in having strong relationship Adapted from Lundy Bancroft.

3 Principles for Supportive Response Use a developmental, child-centered, strengths-based perspective View child in context of family, culture & community Respect & support the role of the mother as primary caregiver Services should be voluntary & conducted in a spirit of collaboration Create a predictable environment that offers safety, structure & nurturance

4 Children & DV Agencies At first, children were invisible victims Scarce resources had to be used for survival & the basics Premise that helping the mother will help the child Often true, but sometimes not Desire to respect womens autonomy Services more often serve kids in shelter, not those in the community

5 Children & DV Agencies, cont. 50% of shelter residents are children & 80% of adults are accompanied by a child Advocates noticed childrens suffering & unmet needs Most DV agencies now have some type of childrens program: In 1980, 43% had some type of childrens service, mostly child care By 1997, 72.4% offered childrens services

6 Barriers to Working with Children Relocations due to safety or financial concerns Inability to contact, lack of follow through Concrete obstacles Transportation, scheduling, child care, payment Violence-related stress of parents Children with severe difficulties may be inappropriate for a group Lack of specialized services

7 Potential Parent Dynamics Inaccurate perception of childs needs Trauma avoidance (not want to think or talk about it) Concerns re. confidentiality May seek help for child first Abuser may interfere with childs therapy To prevent disclosures, keep children more easily manipulated & intimidated

8 Overcoming Barriers Flexibility in scheduling, sliding scale for fees, transportation assistance Clear and repeated marketing about programs, so parents understand target population, content & goals Assist parents in assessing whether their children need services Address parents feelings about effects of DV on their children

9 Questions for Parents What concerns, if any, do you have about your children spending time with their father? Has your partner ever threatened to take the kids away or interfere with custody/visitation? Has your partner ever threatened to or actually hurt your children? Where are the children during DV incidents? How do they react? Do you have any concerns about how your children are doing? Have you seen any significant changes in your child?

10 Assessing Child-Related Needs Child care, early childhood education, evaluation re. special needs Trauma-focused therapy Respite care A well-deserved break! After school / recreational programs Financial resources, inc. child support Health issues Preventive care, dental care, insurance

11 Supporting Womens Parenting Primary caregiver should be involved throughout intervention process Can work with mothers to: Talk with their children about DV Safety plan for the family Understand childrens trauma & impact of DV on parent-child relationship Help their children cope Access community resources

12 Questions for Kids Arguments & disagreements happen in all families. What happens in your family when adults disagree? What do you do when your parents fight? Do you ever see/hear fighting, or people in your family hurting each other? Are you ever afraid that your mom or dad will get hurt, or that you will get hurt? What was the worst fight you ever saw? Does anyone at home hit or hurt you, or touch you in a way that makes you uncomfortable?

13 Important Messages for Kids Its not your fault Violence and abuse are adults responsibility, not kids We will do everything we can to keep you safe I believe you No one deserves to be abused This is a safe place to talk

14 Safety Planning with Children Ages 3 and up; on their own, or w/ parent Main goal is empowerment Validating kids experiences & the ways theyve protected themselves Information Increased sense of control, decreased anxiety Can incorporate psychoed re. DV Meet with parent first to gather info: Childs needs & abilities, risks from abuser, mothers safety plan, safe people & places

15 Safety Planning, cont. Plan should be simple, realistic & age- appropriate Assist child in identifying: Particular dangers & fears Corresponding safety strategies Ask child to ID safe people/places inside & outside home, combine with parents list Discuss possible scenarios and how to utilize safety plan

16 Safety Planning, cont. Child can draw a picture of safe space, decorate safety plan, share it w/ parent Role play Calling 911 Using safety strategies Important message: Theres no such thing as a foolproof safety plan. If someone gets hurt, its the abusers responsibility, not the childs.

17 DV Agency Supports for Kids Separate intake process & shelter orientation for children Pamphlets, books & videos for parents and children about DV Recreational activities for kids, for moms & kids together Partnerships with health care providers, developmental specialists, mental health providers, legal services Tutoring & educational support

18 DV Agency Supports, cont. Parenting classes and/or support groups for mothers Therapeutic child care Designating a child advocate Development of standards for staff who work with children Training & support for all staff Evaluation of programs for children

19 Collaboration with Child Welfare Historic barriers Mistrust; different priorities, mandates & funding Advocates have a lot to offer: Understanding of DV & families needs Expanding repertoire of service & safety options Focusing attention on offender accountability Work to develop shared mission & guiding principles for practice

20 Models for Collaboration DV consultants located in CPS for case consultation, accompaniment on home visits & immediate service provision Cross-training & shadowing Development of protocols for screening, referrals, reporting & information-sharing DV advocates in Family Court Joint representation on DV Coalitions, child & adult fatality review teams

21 Mandatory Reporting & DV Law varies by state Advise parent up front of restrictions on confidentiality If a report must be made, offer the option of client making the call with your support Educate clients about the role of CPS & their response Advocate for the family with CPS

22 In the Community… Community education/outreach on childrens issues DV prevention work Participating in/creating a childrens committee as part of DV Coalition Support BPs in incorporating material on children & parenting into their curricula Assist supervised visitation programs in being safe & responsive to DV


24 Questions? Thank you!

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