by Kristen Selleck, MSW
National Training Director
With the growth of co-located child welfare domestic violence advocates across the country, (by one count approximately 25 states have some form of co-located child welfare domestic violence advocates), domestic violence advocates have more day to day direct contact with the child welfare system and opportunities to influence child welfare practice and even policy. As outsiders to the child welfare system, it’s often challenging to determine the best way to make a difference on an individual case or with a policy.
In our work with both child welfare systems and domestic violence advocates around the country, some approaches seem to increase the likelihood of success for advocates and other outsiders seeking to help shift child welfare around domestic violence from domestic violence destructive practices to domestic violence proficiency.
Here are some thoughts about effective and meaning practices to support and encourage child welfare domestic violence proficiency:
So how does all of this look in practice? Here’s an example: It would be easy to believe that child welfare doesn’t “get” the experience of domestic violence survivors or want to do well by supporting survivors; the real challenge is that this has not been articulated to them through a child welfare framework. Why should it matter to child welfare if a victim feels revictimized by a system? On the surface of it, honestly, it shouldn’t matter at all. Until one realizes that when a victim feels revictimized she becomes reluctant to disclose further risks posed by her perpetrator when talking to child welfare. Child welfare then has to make decisions about the safety of children with limited or incomplete information about how in danger those children really are. This has potentially horrific outcomes. So, not revictimizing a domestic violence victim IS a child welfare issue, if it’s articulated through the lens of assessing child safety.
Systems change can occur and advocates are in a unique and wonderful position to do this work. My hope is that advocates can find successful strategies to help support the child welfare system improve practices in their domestic violence cases.