When domestic violence shelters and programs began in the 70s, the limited resources were dedicated to providing the most basic services: emergency shelter for families and legal, transitional, and emotional support for adult survivors. Children and youth benefited indirectly by their mothers’ receiving these services and supports.
When mothers identified that their children needed personalized advocacy and funding became available, children’s programs began to develop. DV Agencies hired children’s advocates and programs were created – often in isolation and without much structural support.
Today, there is a wide spectrum of programs for children and youth who experience domestic violence. Small, often rural DV programs with limited resources may not have formal children’s programs while some larger programs have entire children’s departments with advocates, teachers and clinicians who provide support, education and mental health counseling to families. Programs often differ in focus: some providing primarily prevention education, others support groups and counseling for children, others respite and child care for mothers.
As funding becomes more consistent and we move into a new age of providing services, we are in a unique position to both learn from our past and proactively create our future. There are clear best practices that have emerged, guided by our experience and the research literature, that now inform effective programming for children, youth and families.
The Program Readiness section of this website was developed in partnership with Amy Torchia, Consultant, Children’s Advocacy/Domestic and Sexual Violence; firstname.lastname@example.org; (802) 249-7633.