DV survivors involved with child welfare benefit from having a knowledgeable and skilled advocate help them through the CPS process, asking questions to understand options and anticipate key decisions, leveraging other systems that impact family safety, supporting them to make informed choices, and assisting a worker to understand how CPS efforts are impacting safety and other needs of the mother and her children. Routine and on-going contact with CPS workers — such as participation in CPS case meetings or having DV advocates co-located with CPS staff – is especially helpful in transferring knowledge of DV to CPS staff, and in avoiding unnecessary removals of children from the care of their non-abusive parent — which can exacerbate a child’s trauma and interrupt a relationship that is critical to his/her well-being and resiliency.
Case-level collaborations require DV programs and their CPS partners to establish mutually respectful relationships, on-going communication and shared learning about opportunities and constraints within each system. Developing a shared commitment to talking explicitly about race, ethnicity, gender and other aspects of a survivor’s identity will deepen exploration of how individuals make meaning of their circumstances, and may result in more effective, individualized case plans.
- Do DV advocates and CPS use shared definitions, or understand how definitions and use of common words vary across systems (for example, domestic violence and assessment and safety planning)?
- Are there agreements or strategies in place to facilitate routine, case-specific conversations or consultations?
- Are mothers routinely assisted to develop safety plans, including related to CPS actions such as court proceedings? How are these plans conveyed to or planned with CPS workers?
- Do advocates help mothers reflect on parenting practices, and the impact of the abuse on the children and her parenting? How are mothers helped to talk with CPS workers about these issues?
Strategies for working together:
- Develop CPS practice protocols for DV cases, and DV agency protocols for CPS cases
- Secure resources to co-locate DV advocates with CPS staff
- Cross-training with CPS staff on DV dynamics, safety planning, dangerousness assessment, impact of exposure to DV on children/youth, trauma, parenting in the context of DV, teen dating violence, and CPS case planning
- Train CPS foster and adoptive parents, and staff of residential programs for children and youth, on DV and teen dating violence
- Train CPS staff to craft dependency court petitions that convey DV dynamics and differentiate between parenting issues of mothers who are battered and their partners
- Participate in case forums within CPS such as multi-disciplinary teams and family meetings