The Safe and Together model suite of tools and interventions share some key characteristics.
Perpetrator pattern based, child centered, survivor strengths approach to domestic violence
The model is specifically designed to focus on promoting the best interest of children including safety, permanency and well-being. The model uses a perpetrator pattern v. an adult relationship based definition of domestic violence, which strengthens the ability to understand how the perpetrator is creating harm or the risk of harm to children. This perpetrator pattern based aspect of the model is strongly reinforced by the gender responsive aspect of the model ensures that fathers who are perpetrators will be held to the same standard of parenting expectations as mothers. Setting high standards for fathers helps children because it guarantees a more comprehensive assessment of risk, safety and protective factors and increases the effectiveness of the system in engaging men to become better fathers. As it relates to domestic violence survivors, the model keys assessment and partnership specifically to the safety and well being of children. Versus generic strengths, the model looks for specific actions the adult survivor has taken to promote the safety and well being of the children.
The model’s fact based approach has a number of benefits for policy and practice:
- Behavioral focus: The model uses behaviors as the focal point for assessment and intervention. By mapping the behaviors of both the perpetrator and the survivor, practitioners have starting point for all their work with the family. Working in parallel process, we also focus on the behavior of the practitioner and the system by asking focus on the “how” not just the “what.” Moving the conversation from “Did you screen for domestic violence?” to “How did you screen for domestic violence?” becomes the starting point for practice transformation.
- Gender/sexual orientation neutral: With its clear focus on patterns of coercive control and actions taken to harm the children, the model offers an clear and powerful assessment methodology that focuses on behaviors that harmful to children versus gender. This fact based, pattern approach helps workers sort out the risk and safety issues for children when more than one caregiver is arrested or have been violent. The model provides the same clear and powerful lens in cases involving same sex couples.
- Leads to case plans with measurable goals: From clear behavioral assessment of the perpetrators’ pattern and the adult survivors’ protective capacities, the model encourages case planning that focuses on what each parent has responsibility for and can change to determine a behaviorally defined case plan. Services, when necessary, are then identified to support the achievement of those behavior change goals.
Based on the research and field experience, the model incorporates differences in gender related to patterns of coercive control and parenting roles, expectations and services. The model also assumes that fathers matter. Their presence or absence, positive or negative behaviors impact the family and that families benefit when systems improve their capacity to assess and engage fathers to support their positive involvement in families.
- The model focuses on the strengths of practitioner, particularly the child welfare worker, and also that of the domestic violence survivor, as key to successful interventions and outcomes.
Integrative and interdisciplinary
- Integrates safety and trauma: Systems need to be both trauma and domestic violence informed. Using domestic violence perpetrator behavior as the organizing framework, our model is inclusive of safety and trauma issues for the practitioner and family members.
- Promotes systems change and cross systems dialog: The model’s assumptions, principles and critical components provides a framework for working in multi-disciplinary settings and information sharing.
- Multi-disciplinary: the model integrates multi-fields including domestic violence, criminal justice, trauma and mental health, substance abuse and cultural competency.
In the child welfare system, services have become the “sine qua non” of the child welfare intervention. Driven by the common interpretation that “reasonable efforts” means offering the family services to address its issues, child welfare equates interventions with a referral to and completion of services. With the advancement of differential response in many jurisdictions, child welfare is recognizing that one type of intervention does not work for every family. The model approaches adult survivors, children and perpetrators from a “beyond services” perspective. The “Beyond Services” quality of the model has multiple aspects:
- Often case planning occurs at the level of the identification of issues, e.g. substance abuse, which then triggers a referral. Often the assessment of the issue and associated documentation is not more detailed. Because of the complexity and danger associated with domestic violence as an issue impact child safety and well being, this approach is not adequate. In the Safe and Together model, the quality of the intervention with the family starts with mapping the perpetrator’s pattern of behavior. The ability to map the perpetrator’s pattern goes deeper than “The family has history of domestic violence.”
- The understanding of that perpetrator’s particular behavior patterns provides a framework for a broad understanding of intervention and accountability that goes beyond a referral to treatment. This means that “reasonable efforts” to maintain children in the home includes communication and coordination with criminal court and/or adult probation. It may mean setting specific expectations for supporting children’s therapy, paying bills for children’s basic needs or other specific behavioral expectations. It also means that the work of the social worker doesn’t stop with the referral to services but includes meaningful communication with the service provider including sharing information regarding the perpetrator’s patterns and case plan goals and independent assessment of change.
- For adult survivors, the “Beyond Services” aspect of the model respects the fact that some domestic violence survivors are not “broken” meaning that as victims of abusive behavior they may not have any pathologies of their own. And parallel to the pathway with perpetrators, good work with survivors is not led by the services but is driven by a good assessment of protective capacity.
- Finally, children, when the parents are addressed appropriately, may not need services at all.
“Removal is an option of last resort” approach
The model respects that there are situation where the domestic violence perpetrator is so dangerous or has done so much harm to children, the adult survivor has done everything a “reasonable person” can do promote their safety and well being and outside systems have made their best effort to intervene with the perpetrator that removal might be the decision that’s in the child’s best interest, at least in the short term.