By Kristen Selleck, MSW
National Training and Consultation Director
I recently facilitated a training attended by child welfare investigators, family preservation and other in-home service providers, domestic violence advocates, and day care providers who work with child welfare involved clients. The varied group of professionals in this training led me to think about the importance of including less conventional community partners in our domestic violence-child welfare collaborations.
Hearing the experiences and needs of daycare providers within this group led me to reflect upon the numerous professionals who have regular contact with children but are not regularly working with child welfare; these professionals can be allies in working toward the safety and well-being of children. Teachers, coaches, clergy members and religious educators, school administrators, doctors, nurses, daycare providers, therapists and counselors, bus drivers, guidance counselors, mentors, and others work with children on a daily basis; it is uncommon for many of these community partners to be involved in training together with child welfare staff to develop a shared language for the critical discussion about child safety and well-being. Vitally important in the day-to-day lives of children, these professionals provide and ensure children’s heath, routine, structure, social development, education or developmentally appropriate play. For a child exposed to a domestic violence perpetrator’s behavior, these things can assist a child in healing. However, in the child welfare and domestic violence fields, we rarely take the opportunity to collaborate with these other professionals who spend significant time with children on a regular basis.
Collaboration with others in children’s daily lives would require some cross training. Child welfare and domestic violence agencies could learn about the structure of different professionals’ capacities and obligations for their work with children. Additionally, child welfare and domestic violence professionals could educate these providers about indicators of exposure to domestic violence as well as ways to provide for the needs of children to have safety, stability and an opportunity to talk about their experiences.
In the recent training I facilitated, the presence of daycare providers working with child welfare involved children was beneficial to them and to the group as a whole. As the entire group learned about the Safe and Together model, the day care providers in the room were able to discuss with the group their observations about how children were impacted by domestic violence and begin to formulate ideas about how to improve their own responses to children; this information was useful to child welfare staff in thinking about how to gather information for their documentation about the children on their case loads.
As a result of this training, relationships were formed that hopefully will lead to improved collaboration, communication, and practice. By regularly communicating about the children (their needs, their behaviors, and their comments), child welfare and community providers can continue to monitor the behaviors of perpetrators of domestic violence as well as the impact of that battering on children. In addition, input from community providers can assist child welfare staff in learning about the strengths of non-offending parents through information about their actions to protect and provide for routine and stability for children. With more information, child welfare workers and management can make better educated decisions about their case plans and the needs of the children on their caseloads. This training opened my eyes about community partners I personally had not thought about engaging with through the Safe and Together model. Going forward in my work I know that I will be asking questions about the inclusion of child care providers and other unconventional partners in communities’ efforts to address the needs of families impacted by domestic violence perpetrators.