The Safe & Together™ Model is an internationally recognized suite of tools and interventions designed to help child welfare professionals become domestic violence-informed.

The Safe & Together™ Model, developed by the Safe & Together Institute, is used globally. Safe & Together has partnered with Child Welfare & its community partners in Colorado, Florida, Oregon, Michigan, Iowa, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Ohio and the District of Columbia. The Safe & Together Institute works extensively with child welfare and children’s services, with the Ministry of Defense in the United Kingdom & Scotland, with Women’s Sector & domestic violence services. In Australia, the Safe & Together Institute staff consulted with elected officials and provided training and technical assistance to the women’s sector, addiction services, child welfare agencies and their community partners to increase their proficiency in domestic violence informed practice. 

From organizational assessments to Safe & Together Certified Trainers and Advocates, technical assistance, training and evaluations — our menu of options supports sustainability and integration with local initiatives, statutes and resources.

The mission of child welfare systems around the world is safety, well-being and permanency. These systems are intended to be the guardians of last resort, protecting children from intimate harm by their parents, other caretakers and trusted members of the community. The social workers in these systems attempt to protect children from some of the darkest betrayals of love and trust in our societies.

Policymakers and practitioners in child welfare systems know domestic violence perpetration is one of the most serious acts that a parent can take to harm a child. It is highly correlated with child death, serious injury, trauma and the breakdown of normal family functioning. Yet only a handful of countries and states around the world mention domestic violence in their child abuse and neglect statutes.

Many systems are ill-equipped to deal with the problem in a comprehensive, holistic, family-centered manner. Consistent policy and training are often non-existent. Workers are rarely supported in working through their biases and fears. The intersection of domestic violence and other key issues are often given no, or only, cursory consideration. Child welfare decisions about services and policy without meaningful data on domestic violence.

Adult domestic violence survivors, instead of being treated with compassion and support, consistent with their situation, are met with blame and a “failure to protect” mentality. Domestic violence perpetrators as parents are all but ignored by systems. Responses to these families are not always child-centered, which means child safety, stability, nurturance and healing from trauma would be the guiding principles of our interventions.

What is the result of all this? Children are being removed unnecessarily. Adult domestic violence survivors are fearful to reach out for assistance for fear of being blamed as mothers. Domestic violence perpetrators are able to take advantage of gaps in the system to increase their power over their partner and children.

The current “failure to protect” paradigm is not working. But Safe & Together works. By applying a perpetrator pattern-based approach, Safe & Together changes every aspect of child welfare domestic violence policy and practice.

Our work is grounded in the idea that latent in child welfare systems, is the potential to be a powerful ally to adults and children harmed by a domestic violence perpetrator’s behaviors. Systems are most effective when they say to the adult survivor, “We want to help you and your children be safer and healthier. Tell us what we can do to help.”

Systems help close the gap between our understanding of child abuse, neglect and domestic violence when they embrace the idea that domestic violence perpetration is a (negative) parenting choice. These simple and clear concepts form the foundation of our model.

The Safe & Together Institute’s model helps child welfare systems become domestic violence-informed. But the audience for this work is much larger than the child welfare system. It’s for anyone who is interested in the intersection of domestic violence and children. Our work touches upon issues relevant to the legal system, domestic violence advocates and children’s advocates. We tackle the intersections of substance abuse, mental health and domestic violence. We address how intersectionalities like race, class, gender, and sexual orientation increase vulnerability and power. Perhaps most importantly, we stress the importance of higher expectations of men as parents and giving mothers full credit for their protective efforts.

Our goal put simply, is for adult and child domestic violence survivors to feel like child welfare systems on their side. This idea is embedded in the name “Safe & Together,” which refers to the belief that children are often best served when we can work to keep them “Safe & Together” with the adult domestic violence survivor. At the same time, we recognize that many domestic violence perpetrators will remain in contact with their children and therefore it is critical, for the sake of the children, that we seek to encourage consistent, positive and meaningful change in perpetrators. We believe our approach also makes it more likely the child welfare system will be more responsive to the needs of families from diverse backgrounds such as including poor families, indigenous families in North America, Australia and New Zealand, and families of color in the United States.

Join our mission to create a global network of professionals, organizations and communities working together to create domestic violence-informed child welfare and child-serving systems.


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