Domestic Abuse – Adopting a whole family approach

Domestic Abuse – Adopting a whole family approach

System and cultural changes can be challenging. We would like to share how the London Safe & Together partnership, with Waltham Forest as the lead borough, tackles domestic abuse by adopting the Safe & Together Model. The partnership has evolved in line with the ethos of Supporting Families programme. Families need to feel confident when accessing services and Lead Practitioner training is key to adopting a whole family approach.

The Safe & Together Model and Whole Family Working

‘Safe & Together’ is an internationally recognised model that was first developed in the United States (USA). The Model encourages cultural and systematic shifts in practice, including changing the language around working with survivors and perpetrators of domestic abuse. Lead practitioners are provided with a suite of tools and interventions to identify and highlight survivor strengths and recognising domestic abuse as a parenting choice of the perpetrator. As such, the model equips practitioners to deal with risk and take a strengths-based approach in engaging whole families where domestic abuse is a factor, including holding the perpetrator accountable for the impact of the abuse on family functioning.

The Model has three key principles:

  • Keeping children Safe & Together with their non-abusive parent, ensuring safety, healing from trauma, stability, and nurturance.
  • Partnering with the non-abusive parent as a default position ensuring efficient, effective, and child-centred practice.
  • Intervening with the perpetrator to reduce the risk and harm to the child through engagement, accountability, and criminal justice.

Using these principles, the Safe and Together model encourages practitioners to look at the whole family wellbeing and functioning within the context of the abuse. This fits with the revised Domestic Abuse Act 2021, under which children in the UK are recognised as victims of domestic abuse, rather than witnesses.

These principles also challenge the ‘failure to protect’ narrative, where the non-abusive parent is held accountable and responsible for the children’s safety and wellbeing in the context of domestic abuse. The model challenges the double standards in relation to parenting and gender, holding fathers to the same high expectations we hold mothers to.

By identifying, mapping, and addressing perpetrator patterns of behaviour, we can shift from this narrative and have an overall understanding of survivors’ responses to abusive behaviours. The feedback has been resoundingly positive. The model is transformative in the outcomes we see for families achieved through the skills and competencies utilised and increasing the confidence of lead practitioners in engaging perpetrators of abuse. The transformation starts at the beginning of the work, not at the end. It highlights an emphasis on early intervention and support for families.

London Metropolitan University Child and Women Abuse Studies Unity (CWASU) are the partnership evaluators and have undertaken a mid-term evaluation of the Safe and Together partnership. Their report highlighted that the referrals to the perpetrator behaviour change programme in Waltham Forest, (Rise) have almost doubled, with more perpetrators staying on the programme to completion. This is attributed directly to the implementation of the model and the increased practitioner skills in discussing the domestic abuse with the family.

Implementation and practice

The model was rolled out in consultation with implementation leads recruited via Respect and Local Authority S&T champions. Each participating borough has an implementation lead who uses the framework to support practitioners with their assessment, case planning and interview documentation. One to One and group sessions have helped embed the model. 130 consultations have been completed since November 2021.

While supporting practitioners the implementation leads have built solid working relationship with Senior management in different departments creating a cultural shift to promote S&T within the local authority.

The model is centred on delivering systems change. It provides a long-term approach, tackling language and culture that has been around for years within the social care sector and domestic abuse discourse. It provides more than a one-off training or intervention. It is shifting the way we support families creating a positive cultural change. It focusses on family wellbeing, survivor empowerment and appropriate safeguarding for children.

A whole agency approach supports the sustainability of the model as opposed to a one-off training approach. The implementation lead working alongside team managers and Senior leadership team has been integral to ensure success of delivery. The partnership avoids the ‘refer-out’ approach and instead practitioners are also able to liaise with specialist marketplace providers based on perpetrator’s characteristics, e.g. languages spoken, race, gender identity and sexuality.

Safe and Together provides tools to support the lead practitioners to map perpetrator patterns independently as well as collectively with the support of their managers, implementation lead and champions in the borough. Practitioners can identify and assess survivor and family strengths, recognise perpetrator behaviour, and effectively support family functioning.

Delivery of the behaviour change project has been supported by Supporting Families programme funding. This change project not only promotes identification of survivors, but funds targeted intervention allows opportunities for perpetrators to change their behaviour.

The process of implementing the model in the workplace has seen transformative insights from frontline staff.  There has been a shift in language around coercive control and perpetrator accountability. The lead practitioners consistently engage with different agents within the council to enhance collaborative working.

Practitioner Feedback

The input of practitioners is vital to the project and its evaluation. Below are quotes from practitioners who have undertook the training and consultations, and disclosed feedback to the implementation leads:

The response that I got from mum after the report for family court after our consult was incredible. She said she felt “overwhelmed with validation” and that this was the “first time someone else has seen his behaviours for what they are – I felt like I was going crazy until I saw your assessment.” She was so pleased. It had an immediate impact on her parenting when she went home and has since. Dad has made a formal complaint about me and has requested a new plan and new social worker. Don’t worry, I’ve mapped that out as part of his pattern too.” 

“I just had a useful conversation with the victim/survivor that we had a consultation on this morning, and I directly used some of your suggestions and it made for a productive and reflective discussion. I wanted to thank you for your excellent consultation and direction.”

“I spoke to my first perp! It was quite scary, but I found myself getting more confident as the call went on. It was through an interpreter which was good in hindsight as it gave me time to prepare my questions in real time. He was saying things like he is a good person and saying I could speak to his friends or colleagues, and I was able to challenge this and say thank you, but I don’t need character references, and would like to explore with you what makes a ‘good person’ resort to violence in the presence of their child. I’m going to be having more calls with him but feel so much more confident, thank you.”

“I’ve been a practitioner for over 15 years, I just have to tell you that I consider this training to be career-changing.”

“This is the best consultation I have ever had at work. I have been a social worker for eight years before moving to LBWF and you’re like an angel coming down to me and saying all the things I’ve always thought about DV practice. I feel so energised about doing this strengths (based) work with mum and showing the court all the things she’s doing despite his abuse”

Safe & Together Programme and London Partnership

The Safe & Together (S&T) partnership was set up in 2019 in London. This is the first time S&T has been implemented with the support of assigned implementation leads to provide heightened support to boroughs and it has transformed how practitioners engage with families with incident(s) of domestic abuse.

Waltham Forest is the lead borough, initially working with Hackney, and has expanded to four further boroughs: Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Hammersmith & Fulham.

Cross-borough working along with Respect (https://www.respect.uk.net) the evaluation team Child & Woman abuse studies unit (CWASU) at London Metropolitan University and the Safe & Together Institute have all been influential in driving this project forward. CWASU are evaluating the implementation of the model, staff confidence and thoroughness of safety planning for families.

The Safe & Together partnership is currently in Phase 2 of its roll out. Phase 1 focused on training, consultations, and specialised support in local authorities, initially starting with two boroughs. The initial phase allowed for the collection of data and time for appropriate evaluation via CWASU.

As well as the expansion to six boroughs, Phase 2 saw the introduction of the marketplace for perpetrator intervention services. This promoted more specialised support for vulnerable families, adults, and children, as well as multi-agency and cross-borough working.

Moving Forward 

A key objective within this partnership is to improve engagement with perpetrators at an earlier point to maximise the behaviour change opportunities and reduce harm via cross-borough and specialised borough-working. The partnership is monitoring the embedding of the model. There have been regular audits around the services provided, case file audits and continuous engagement and support given to staff. One key point to raise is that the principles of the model have been well received by staff in partner boroughs.

This is a great example of Waltham Forest Supporting Families team working with domestic abuse experts to ensure their workforce have the right skills to implement a whole family approach.

Guest blog post by Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. To find out more email vawg@walthamforest.gov.uk
Original post: https://supportingfamilies.blog.gov.uk/2023/01/17/domestic-abuse-adopting-a-whole-family-approach/

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Nicola Douglas

Nicola Douglas has eighteen years of experience in the field of domestic abuse. Her passion for the issue began when she was an undergraduate, volunteering in a homeless hostel and working with women made homeless as they fled abuse. She went on to work as a front-line practitioner in a range of settings, including refuge, outreach (as an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor – IDVA) and Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA). Nicola’s interest lies in systems change and she moved into strategic roles, successfully implementing programmes to improve domestic abuse outcomes within social care, police and the ambulance service. Nicola spent four years at Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse in the UK, with and alongside partners, to improve the way that systems respond to domestic abuse. This included leading a team of coordinators working in healthcare and child protection settings, as well as developing a health-based accreditation scheme. Most recently, Nicola completed her MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice, achieving a Distinction and award for best dissertation which focused on the impact of the Domestic Abuse Act on strategic partnerships in the UK.
Nicola joins the Safe & Together Institute as the European Training Delivery Specialist, working with the EU Lead.

Kay Stevenson


Coming off of an employment history of managing several small businesses in Connecticut and enjoying the growth and expansion process, Kay is a founding employee of Safe & Together Institute, having started with David in 2006. Now overseeing finance, human resources and technology, Kay balances her commitment to the company’s growth with hobbies of gardening and novel writing.

Mandy Rousselle


Mandy joined the Safe and Together Institute in February 2022 as a bookkeeper. She studied Early Childhood Develop at the University of Maryland European Division in Germany. Prior to working for Safe & Together, Mandy did bookkeeping, customer service coaching, admin support, and managed a transportation charity in Canada for several years.

Janet Penza


Janet joined the Safe & Together Institute in 2022. She has a long history of supporting executives to achieve their goals.

Dani Upham, MS


Dani has been with the Safe & Together Institute since 2021. Dani has extensive experience in digital marketing, social media marketing, growth strategy, business development, and brand management. Dani has over 12 years of experience in the field of domestic violence in Michigan, Georgia, North Carolina & South Carolina. Work includes domestic violence advocacy, child advocacy, sexual assault advocacy, and forensic interview. Dani is a certified Digital Marketing Expert with two marketing degrees from Southern New Hampshire University. She is certified with the American Marketing Association, Google, and Facebook, and is an executive leader with the National Society of Leadership and Success.

Kim Jurgens


Kim started at Safe & Together Institute in November of 2021. She holds a Diploma in Business (Australia) and Hotel Management (South Africa). She began her working career in South Africa working for a leading hotel chain in Event Management, Food and Beverage. She has lived and worked in South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Oman and the USA and has worked in both the private sector on large-scale events globally – including Hong Kong, Malacca, Zambia, Mozambique, and the USA and then working in a project management capacity for the not-for-profit sector in Australia (Australian Institute of Management). As the Training Delivery Project Administrator, Kim provides logistic support to the UK, USA and AU client leads.  She maintains the training calendar, is a point of contact for clients and faculty alike and is responsible for client correspondence
once training dates have been confirmed. Kim has a strong commitment to her community and has volunteered in suicide prevention in Australia and animal welfare in both South Africa and the USA.

Dorothy Striker

Dorothy Striker has over 25 years of professional experience in the field of child welfare and domestic violence. In a career that has spanned frontline casework to policy and program development, Dorothy has been involved in major family violence and differential response initiatives. Her areas of expertise include individual and family assessment, structured decision making and risk assessment, CAPTA related policy, practice model development and quality assurance case reviews. Dorothy has also participated in various levels of all three of the federal Child and Family Services Reviews in Ohio. Certified Safe & Together™ Model Trainer since 2010, she has provided multi-day training and case consultations in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Casie Burke, MSEd, PC

Casie Burke, MSEd, PC, has been a trainer of the Safe & Together™ Model since 2012. She has experience training and working with child welfare agencies, as well as other community partners who support child welfare agencies (schools, domestic violence advocates, law enforcement, mental health/substance abuse counselors). She has over 10 years of experience working directly in child welfare, holding various positions including intake and assessment, visitation, parent education, and supervisor. Casie has provided consultation services within agencies surrounding the Safe & Together Model to staff, casework staff, and management. She participated in the National Quality Improvement Center on Child Welfare Involved Families Experiencing Domestic Violence Listening Tour, where she could voice the current state of conditions and challenges, and the potential direction for future research, investments and interventions. Casie is committed to providing training and support to professionals working with families and children surrounding the intersection of child welfare and domestic violence.

Beth Ann Morhardt

With over 20 years of experience in the domestic violence field, Beth Ann Morhardt has worked with both child and adult victims/survivors in many roles including Child Advocate, Children’s Community Educator, Adult Advocate, Shelter Services Director and Associate Director. After years of working in direct services Ms. Morhardt transitioned into a consultant role, serving as the Domestic Violence Consultant to Connecticut’s Department of Children & Families. In that role, she was able to build and maintain solid collaborations rooted in mutual respect, which resulted in the growth and development of Domestic Violence-Informed practice and skills to better support victims/survivors of domestic violence and their children. Within this role, working directly with perpetrators of coercive control became a focal point and passion within her work. Since 2016 Beth Ann has been a key member of the Faculty with the Safe & Together Institute, where she traveled throughout the US and internationally, collaborating with child protection workers and other community services professionals to increase their proficiency in Domestic Violence-Informed Case Practice. Currently, she works as the Associate Director at a domestic and family violence agency, overseeing shelter, housing, counseling, education and court advocacy services, while also serving as faculty with Safe & Together Institute. Inspired by the current social climate, Ms. Morhardt has returned to a more independent and multi-purposed career with a broader focus on social & racial justice & personal healing.

Beth Ann Morhardt

With over 20 years of experience in the domestic violence field, Beth Ann Morhardt has worked with both child and adult victims/survivors in many roles including Child Advocate, Children’s Community Educator, Adult Advocate, Shelter Services Director and Associate Director. After years of working in direct services Ms. Morhardt transitioned into a consultant role, serving as the Domestic Violence Consultant to Connecticut’s Department of Children & Families. In that role, she was able to build and maintain solid collaborations rooted in mutual respect, which resulted in the growth and development of Domestic Violence-Informed practice and skills to better support victims/survivors of domestic violence and their children. Within this role, working directly with perpetrators of coercive control became a focal point and passion within her work. Since 2016 Beth Ann has been a key member of the Faculty with the Safe & Together Institute, where she traveled throughout the US and internationally, collaborating with child protection workers and other community services professionals to increase their proficiency in Domestic Violence-Informed Case Practice. Currently, she works as the Associate Director at a domestic and family violence agency, overseeing shelter, housing, counseling, education and court advocacy services, while also serving as faculty with Safe & Together Institute. Inspired by the current social climate, Ms. Morhardt has returned to a more independent and multi-purposed career with a broader focus on social & racial justice & personal healing.

Danielle Martin, MSW

Danielle Martin has more than 20 years of experience working with children and families within child welfare, early childhood development and domestic violence settings. Her work with at-risk children and families has involved direct service provision, management and administration. She initiated her career in the field of domestic violence creating new programming, advocating for additional services and creating improved collaboration at a local level. She served on the Governor’s Task Force in Michigan for the prevention of child sexual abuse as a departmental representative. She has trained the Safe & Together™ Model in Michigan and beyond since 2015. Danielle has a Master’s degree in Social Work with an emphasis on child welfare. Danielle’s focus has been on the provision of trauma-informed care for families and children experiencing child welfare intervention. She has worked closely with community partners to integrate trauma information and practices into schools, mental health, child welfare and residential communities. Danielle has received the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services “best practice award” for her leadership in the development of local child trauma assessment programming.

Sarah L. Heuser

Sarah Heuser, MS, has nearly 25 years of experience working in the domestic and sexual violence field. Her roots are in direct service work with survivors in grassroots service agencies focused on crisis intervention, counseling-advocacy, outreach, support and program development. She also has substantial experience in training, prevention and awareness efforts and has worked with a broad spectrum of groups ranging from high school and college students to athletes, DV advocates, child welfare, law enforcement and the judiciary. Sarah has also served on multiple task forces and workgroups in Michigan to address policy issues. A substantial focus of Sarah’s work has been on the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare. Sarah was a strong early advocate for integrating the Safe & Together™ Model to Michigan and became a certified trainer for the Safe & Together Institute in 2015. Sarah has trained on the Model across the US and in Scotland.

Lisa Fleischer, MSW, LSW

Lisa began her career in child welfare in 2003. She has served in the role of caseworker and supervisor, working long-term with families as well as supervising an Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)/Alternative Response (AR) Unit. Lisa has also been training on the Safe & Together™ Model since 2010.

Lisa previously worked as a Social Worker in an emergency room at a local hospital and a Community Instructor at the Ohio State University College of Social Work. She has a Master of Social Work and is a licensed Social Worker.

Lórien Castelle

Lórien Castelle has been an activist and advocate for social justice focusing on ending gender-based violence for over two decades. She has had the honor of working with several national organizations across the United States including work as a trainer for the National Center on Domestic Violence, a prevention consultant to the National Resource Center on Domestics Violence, a trainer and consultant for Major League Baseball (MLB) and currently for the Safe & Together Institute.

While working as the Director of Prevention for the New York State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, she was responsible for promoting best practices for preventing and responding to domestic violence and coordinating diverse stakeholders to design and implement community, regional and state-level initiatives. She also worked with the Pennsylvanian Coalition Against Domestic Violence to launch a statewide prevention initiative in Pennsylvania.

Ms. Castelle brings a wealth of experience with coaching, support and training to both domestic violence programs and allies. She has specialized experience with community organizing, organizational development and prevention strategies. In addition, Ms. Castelle has served on numerous national, statewide and regional committees and is a much sought-after trainer, meeting facilitator and keynote speaker.

Rhonda Dagg BSc, BSW

Rhonda Dagg has over 20 years of experience working in the child welfare field in a variety of roles including front line worker, supervisor and business analyst. In her current role as a CFS Program and Leading Practice Specialist, Rhonda is a passionate advocate for families affected by domestic violence and a strong supporter of staff who work with these families. She is also the media consultant for federally funded systems change project created to reduce gender-based violence and improve outcomes for children and families.

Rhonda has utilized the Safe & Together™ Model in her work since 2014, writing policies, coaching and mentoring staff and trains internationally for the S&T Institute.  In her personal time, she also creates educational material and videos for the community on gender-based violence and prevention.

Kristi Burre, MA

Kristi Burre began her professional career over 22 years ago in local and state government, community partnerships, and system transformation. Most recently, she served as the Director of Children’s Initiatives for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, focusing on child well-being and driving improvements with communication and coordination across all state agencies providing services to children and families. In this role, she prioritized system enhancements and advancing policy with early childhood education, early intervention and prevention services, maternal and infant health, child physical and mental health, and children services. Kristi has vast experience collaborating with local, state, federal, and private sector partners to align efforts and investments to have the largest possible impact on improving outcomes for children, families, and communities.

Kristi has worked extensively in the child protection and foster care system in the capacities of caseworker, supervisor, manager, and director. In addition to her public service work, she has held various roles teaching, training, and coaching for the last 22 years, to include roles as a social and behavioral sciences adjunct instructor at Columbus State Community College, and a trainer and executive coach with the Ohio Child Welfare Training Program.

Kristi has been a Safe & Together Institute Senior Faculty and certified trainer since 2011 and is committed to guiding child and family serving agencies to become more domestic violence informed. She has trained professionals in North America, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom from various disciplines, to include child protection, domestic violence advocacy, law enforcement, education, behavioral health, juvenile justice, health care, and the legal community. She also coaches and mentors professionals from across the world involved with the trainer certification program and observes training sessions for evaluation, feedback, and approval for certification.

Additional leadership roles have included chairing the Ohio Governor’s Children Services Transformation Advisory Council and Eliminating Racial Disparities in Infant Mortality Task Force. Kristi has also held leadership positions and appointments for many other state and local entities committed to protecting children and strengthening families, including the Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Mental Health Board, Ohio Children’s Trust Fund Regional Prevention Council, Ohio Intimate Partner Violence Collaborative, and Ohio Early Childhood Advisory Council. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology, criminology and psychology from Capital University and a master’s degree in sociology from Ohio University.

Ashley Bowers, MSW, LSW

Ashley Bowers, MSW/LSW, has been a Trainer with the Safe & Together Institute since 2012. She facilitates training and consultation services around the Safe & Together™ Model for child welfare professionals. Ashley is a licensed social worker who has worked throughout the child welfare field for over eleven years. She has worked as a Child Welfare Intake Supervisor in both intake and ongoing departments. In addition to training on the Safe & Together Model, Ashley has utilized the Safe & Together Model directly with families as a child welfare professional, coaching and consulting on cases with domestic violence. She continues to be committed to the safety and wellbeing of children and families through practice changes through the Safe & Together Model.

Kari Akins

Kari Akins is the Assistant Deputy Director of the Office of Families and Children at the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services responsible for state level administration and oversight of child and adult protective services.  Prior to this position, Kari was appointed to the Office of Children Services Transformation leading children services and foster care efforts in Ohio. With 20 years’ experience in the child welfare system, Kari has served in multiple capacities including screening, intake and assessment for direct service, and community response and outreach at an administrative level. In addition, Kari’s work has emphasized community collaboration and education regarding child maltreatment and trauma, the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare practice, and coaching/supervision in child welfare. In 2010, Kari began her work with the Safe & Together™ Model as part of a pilot county in a statewide rollout of the Model, allowing her to be at the forefront of this practice in her state. Kari has served as an advocate on numerous local and state-level workgroups to address best practice policy around Intimate Partner Violence while providing education and training at the state and national level as Faculty for the Safe & Together Institute.

Alison Simari

Alison joined the Safe & Together Institute in August 2021 as an Administrative Assistant for the Trainer Certification Program. Prior to this, she provided almost a decade of support to the Certified Trainer community at the Center for Nonviolent Communication in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Alison thrives in an environment where she can support the work of those positively impacting the world for the greater good. She is thrilled to be part of Safe & Together’s mission to be an agent of systemic change in the domestic violence field.

Minh-Chau Truong

Minh-Chau has been with the Safe & Together Institute since June of 2021 as the Virtual Academy Customer Experience Specialist. Her time with eLearning in the non-profit sector, with patients experiencing chronic pain and illness, and 15 years of customer service, back her lifelong goal of helping individuals pursue personal sustainability. Her goal at the Institute is to make the online learning process as easy as possible so that learners can focus on what matters most: maintaining themselves and peace at home.

Colleen Jameson

Colleen has 20 years of experience working at the intersection of mental health, domestic violence, and education. She has worked as an educator and advocate in DV shelters, teen safe houses, residential programs for at-risk youth, and programs for adults with disabilities. For the past 10 years, Colleen has worked in rural Mississippi with children and families impacted by mental health. She serves on the inaugural Board of the domestic violence shelter in Oxford, Mississippi. In 2010, she authored a curriculum that was awarded an Iowa Women’s Foundation grant for implementation state-wide. Colleen is passionate about making tools that equip individuals to be agents of positive change in the systems where they work and live.

Lindberg Chambliss

Lindberg joined Safe & Together Institute in June 2021 as Events Logistics Administrator. His  professional career includes over fifteen years of experience in live music event coordination and marketing, artist management, and tour logistics. As an activist with a focus on equity for youth and equity through education, he volunteers with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, and participates in projects that advocate for systemic and equitable policy change in K-12 education. Lindberg is passionate about social justice, personal growth, love, art, and adventure.

Jacob Linzenbold

Jacob Linzenbold has been with the Safe & Together Institute Staff since March, 2021 and currently holds the title of Resource Development, Events & Evaluation Administrator. He works across the organization with each department to ensure that each team is on the same page and best serving survivors and advocates. Jacob graduated from Penn State University and has been involved with several start up companies, giving him the skill set necessary to help with the different aspects of the organization. Jacob excels in providing mentorship and advice to prospective business founders and enjoys teaching students. In his spare time, he enjoys going on adventures and exploring nature with his fiancé and their dog.

Dana Schmersal, MSW – Resource Development Specialist

Dana Schmersal has been involved in child and family policy and programs for nine years, most recently managing Safe & Together trainings for child welfare staff across the state of Ohio. She has worked directly with families impacted by the juvenile justice system, provided training for child support staff working with families impacted by domestic violence, advocated for women’s reproductive rights, and served as communications director for a state and federal child advocacy organization and taught as an adjunct professor for the Interdisciplinary Child Welfare Institute at Capital University Law School. Currently, she is a member of the Institute’s Resource Development Team and coordinates the certified trainer mentoring program. She has completed both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in social work as well as a B.A. in criminal justice and has made advocacy for vulnerable populations and improvements in community and system responses the focus of her macro practice.

Peju Thompson

Peju Thompson has been with Safe & Together Institute since July 2020 providing international accounting support for Safe & Together Institute’s business overseas.  Peju holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rutgers University and a Master of Science Degree in Accounting from Fairleigh Dickinson University.  Prior to working for Safe & Together, Peju was a staff accountant for both a mid-size CPA firm and in city-government. In addition to her diverse professional experience, she enjoys working with people and endeavors to always positively impact others.

Leah K. Vejzović, LMSW

Leah has been working as a social worker in the fields of child welfare and domestic violence victim advocacy since 2007. She has experience as a child welfare services provider, a domestic and sexual assault victim advocate, a therapist specializing in work with adult and child survivors and perpetrators, a men’s behavior change program facilitator and as the coordinator of domestic violence training and response for the Department of Human Services in her home state of Iowa. Leah also had the opportunity to sit on local and statewide boards related to domestic and sexual violence prevention and services and continues to be a part of the Iowa Domestic Abuse Death Review team. Leah first became connected to the Safe & Together Institute during her tenure as state coordinator when she helped facilitate implementation of the Safe & Together Model across the state. She now serves as a Resource Development Specialist for the Institute, developing training and resources. Having worked in both direct service with families and in systems change, Leah is passionate about equipping professionals with the tools they need to do effective work with families and to engage in larger agency and systems change.

Ingryd Flores

Ingryd began at Safe & Together Institute in June of 2019. Ingryd holds a degree in Social Behavioral Science. She expanded her educational background to include a Bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in History from the University of California, Irvine. She fluently speaks, writes and reads Spanish.

Ingryd’s career began when she worked for the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), a national leadership program that assists and trains Latino elected and appointed officials on issues important to the Latino population. Here she became inspired to help motivate the Latino community to become naturalized US citizens and engage in civic life. Ingryd simultaneously went to school and also earned a Paralegal diploma.  She then served as a Criminal and Immigration Law Paralegal where she was responsible for researching case law for deportation, domestic violence, child and family cases.

Ingryd believes education gives knowledge and knowledge is important for building informed opinions. She strongly believes educators can make a strong impact on a student’s life. For this reason, she teaches as a Per Diem Substitute Teacher where she encourages a positive learning environment and develops students’ ability and aspiration to learn.

As the Technology and Trainer Certification Program Administrator, Ingryd provides high-level technology assistance and utilizes superior tact and diplomacy when coordinating and changing event registrations, or pre-and post-event evaluations.  It is important to her to address our learners and participants in the right manner as well as stay connected with them until navigating the online courses becomes comfortable and events are finalized.

Shelly Napoletano Flynn, MSW

Shelly Napoletano Flynn, MSW began at Safe & Together Institute in July 2018 as the Trainer Certification Program Manager overseeing the Institute’s Certified Trainer Expansion. Shelly’s professional career includes over twenty years of experience in the field of child welfare with a dual focus on direct practice with children and families and systems-level social work practice. With the focus on children birth through age eight and their families, her career included direct service, case management and administration which included intersections with statutory child protection, juvenile and family courts, mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, and local crisis response teams.

Shelly’s experience in systems-level practice involved projects such as the evaluation and development of a community’s local capacity to holistically serve its at-risk population of children and families. Additionally, she evaluated and reported on the state-wide supervision practices of Connecticut Certified School Social Workers. As a result of this research, Shelly served on the State of Connecticut Department of Education’s Task Force to develop and implement properly aligned and discipline-specific evaluation standards for school-based social workers in the State of Connecticut. Additionally, her work in systems practice led to the honor of being invited to present on local capacity development of a Birth through Age Eight Children and Family Initiative to the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in Washington DC.

Anna Mitchell, Safe & Together United Kingdom Lead

Anna Mitchell’s interest in women’s issues began when she studied a degree in Geography with Gender Studies at Edinburgh University in 1996. After working in various women’s organisations she went on to gain her Social Work Masters and began to think about the importance of engaging with men who abuse in order to increase the safety of women and children. She worked as a Women’s Service Worker with the Caledonian System; an integrated approach to addressing domestic abuse combining a court-ordered programme for men, aimed at changing their behaviour, with support services for women and children. Anna co-authored the Caledonian System Women’s Service Manual and was seconded to the Equality Unit in the Scottish Government as a Professional Advisor to support the roll-out of this innovative system across Scotland. Since 2012, she has been employed as Domestic Abuse Lead Officer for Edinburgh’s Public Protection Partnership with the remit to help coordinate domestic abuse services across the council, police, health and the voluntary sector. Anna has completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Public Services Leadership and led a number of initiatives in Edinburgh to improve systemic responses, not only to adult and child victims but to domestic abuse perpetrators; including the development of auditing tools, improvement plans, service pathways, policies and training. In her current role, she is representing the Safe & Together Institute in the UK and is supporting the development and implementation of the Model across Great Britain.

Ruth Reymundo Mandel, Communications and E-Learning Manager

Ruth has been in training and implementation since 1995. Her career began as a middle school teacher in post-revolutionary Nicaragua. As a teacher in a developing, post-war country she became dedicated to issues surrounding social justice and violence. She later transitioned to higher education and worked at the Bryman School and at The Art Institute of Phoenix as an Assistant Director of Admissions. Her responsibilities included vetting prospective students and identifying barriers to enrollment and to matriculation.

After taking a break to raise her three children, she began working as a trainer and technical support for a national professional line nutritional company and an international professional line herbal company which trained medical professionals in alternative therapies.

In her role, she trained doctors and medical professionals in clinical application and was an ongoing support for successful implementation through patient outcomes. She developed systems for practice management, patient support, managed, created and promoted cyclical education events for clinical success. She developed training strategies to respond to a variety of real-time field challenges.

Ruth also worked as a professional business coach specializing in systems and practice management. Her dedication to understanding root challenges, institutional, structural and personal impediments that keep people from applying their skills and knowledge in a targeted and successful way helped many of her clients increase their business success.

Aside from her professional accomplishments, Ruth is a published poet, writer and public speaker. Ruth has worked with clients using various energy medicine and body-centric coaching techniques for trauma recovery. Drawing on her childhood experiences growing up in an abusive, religious cult and as a survivor, she is a fierce advocate for those who have experienced abuse. She is dedicated to helping survivors and allies understand behavioral coping mechanisms arising out of trauma and mitigating societal and personal judgments surrounding common human responses to violence and harm. This transformative approach helps those who have experienced violence and their allies better understand how to support, nurture and nourish survivors in a common-sense manner and without blame.

Brittany DiBella, MSW, DVS

Brittany DiBella has been with the Safe & Together Institute since 2015. Brittany has extensive experience developing curricula, e-learning content, and resources, as well as with providing consultation and training facilitation on the Safe & Together™ Model for a wide range of family-serving professionals. Brittany has over 10 years of experience in the field of domestic violence work including research and evaluation of New Jersey’s co-located advocate program; educating advocates, child welfare professionals and social work students on issues related to violence against women and children; direct-practice experience with survivors of trauma and interpersonal violence and work with adolescents impacted by violence. Brittany also served on New Jersey’s Child Fatality Review Board in 2017, is certified in Violence Against Women & Children from Rutgers University School of Social Work and is certified in New Jersey as a Domestic Violence Specialist.

Heidi Rankin, MPA – Associate Director

Heidi has over 30 years of experience in the sexual and domestic violence fields and social justice. She has worked in crisis counseling, program and policy development and advocacy in both the United States and Canada. Heidi received a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in domestic violence from the University of Colorado at Denver, the only program of its kind in the country. In her current role as Associate Director and North American Lead, she helps agencies navigate plans for systems change and supports efforts to build capacity through training and collaboration.  Heidi also oversees the Institute training staff, faculty and mentors, manages training for Certified Trainers and presents nationally and internationally.

David Mandel, MA, LPC – Executive Director

With over almost 30 years’ experience in the domestic violence field, David’s international training and consulting focuses on improving systems’ responses to domestic violence when children are involved. Through years of work with child welfare systems, David has developed the Safe & Together™ Model to improve case practice and cross-system collaboration in domestic violence cases involving children. He has also identified how a perpetrator pattern-based approach can improve our ability to help families and promote the development of domestic violence-informed child welfare systems.

David and the Safe & Together Institute’s staff and faculty have consulted to United States’ child welfare systems in a number of states including New York, Louisiana, New Jersey, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, New Mexico, the District of Columbia, Vermont, Oregon and Ohio.  In the last five years, their work has expanded outside the United States with research, training and consultation in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and other countries. The Safe & Together Institute works closely with domestic violence advocates, in the United States and abroad, to help them more effectively work with child protection systems and better advocate for child welfare-involved adult and child domestic violence survivors.  David has written and published online courses which has launched a new Safe & Together Model Certified Trainer initiative that will increase the Institute’s ability to support sustainable implementation of domestic violence-informed practice in the US and abroad.

David has written or co-written journal articles on batterer’s perceptions of their children’s exposure to domestic violence, domestic violence case reading tools, and the intersection of domestic violence and child welfare practice. His chapter on “Batterers and the Lives of Their Children” was published in the Praeger Series Violence Against Women in Families and Relationships.