Growing Together is three year project to examine what domestic violence programs can do to enhance relationships between battered mothers and their children, especially those from under-represented communities or involved in the child welfare system. The project goals are:
- Foster resiliency in children exposed to domestic violence by strengthening relationships between adult victims of domestic violence and their minor children;
- Expand the capacity of programs to strengthen parent-child relationships by developing trauma-informed interventions and using culturally relevant methods;
- Develop the capacity of programs to provide stronger support for families engaged in child welfare system.
The project began with a series of focus groups for battered mothers and youth and an initial evaluation of the Child Witness to Violence Project (CWVP) at the Sojourner Family Peace Center (SFPC) in Milwaukee. CWVP is a sequence of parallel support and education groups for victims of domestic violence and their children. Mothers attend groups that explore the harmful effects that witnessing intimate partner violence has on their children. The program seeks to increase parent’s knowledge of the effects of abuse on their children and increase their capacity to support their children’s emotional well-being. Children’s groups are geared towards gaining a greater understanding of what is happening between the adults in their lives and learning strategies for keeping safe when violence occurs. The expectation is that educational services will help children develop coping skills to lessen the effects of witnessing domestic violence. CWVP staff will implement changes in their program based on the initial evaluation and then participate in a final evaluation in year three of the grant.
In fall of 2011, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence awarded three small two-year grants to culturally specific domestic violence programs to develop strategies for enhancing mother child relationships that are informed by both trauma and culture. The grant recipients are:
- Lac du Flambeau Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault Program, in partnership with Lac du Flambeau Indian Child Welfare, both of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians. Their project will develop ways to establish and maintain collaboration between DV advocates and child protective services in Lac du Flambeau tribe while enhancing culturally-specific service to families.
- Women’s Community of Wausau, Wisconsin for their Hispanic Advocate Program. In a series of support and education groups, this project will use popular media to facilitate understanding between immigrant battered mothers and their children when the acculturation of these children to American ways is interfering with mother-child relationships.
- Wise Women Gathering Place (WWGP), a community-based organization founded by Native American midwives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in partnership with the Oneida Nation Domestic Abuse Program. WWGP will adapt their Discovery Dating healthy relationships curriculum to create a new version (Discovery Dating Plus) designed to facilitate improvement in relationships between mothers and daughters who have lived with domestic violence.
WCADV is also gathering information from Wisconsin domestic violence programs regarding their use of evidence-based practice, trauma-informed care strategies and the success of efforts to collaborate with child protective services (CPS) or Indian Child Welfare (ICW). The project will conclude with a final evaluation of the SFPC Child Witness to Violence Project and the three grantee projects.