Building and sustaining successful collaborations between DV and the child welfare system requires that staff at various levels engage in dialogue about philosophical, legal, programmatic and concrete practice issues. Some conversations may be challenging – resulting from the voluntary nature of DV services versus the non-voluntary involvement of families with CPS and dependency courts; a “failure to protect” stance of CPS against mothers being battered; the differential effect of CPS on marginalized communities (and perhaps differential access for survivors from those communities to safety and DV services); and power and resource differentials between child welfare and DV programs. A skilled facilitator of these dialogues can be invaluable to a jurisdiction beginning or deepening their efforts to design effective, nuanced, coordinated approaches to domestic violence cases.
Successful collaboration requires DV programs and their child welfare partners to establish mutually respectful relationships, on-going communication and shared learning about opportunities and constraints within each system. Each agency should approach the collaboration knowing that changes may be needed not only in collaborative efforts, but within each agency’s own functioning. Looking not only for problems to be fixed, but also for successes to be replicated and built upon will help the collaborative partners to sustain hope and energy for the road ahead.
- Are there articulated, shared commitments to treating families with respect, honoring families’ cultures, and providing meaningful and trauma-informed supports and services to individuals and families?
- Can each system commit to addressing disparate treatment of individuals and families based on gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, sexual identity, and other identifiers?
- Are there shared definitions of key terms, like domestic violence?
- Are partners committed to listening to, striving for understanding, and responding the unique needs and experiences of diverse mothers who have been battered and their children who have been exposed to DV?
- Is there shared acknowledgement that ending men’s violence with partners and children requires multi-faceted approaches – engaging men as fathers, employing different accountability strategies based on assessed dangerousness, addressing institutional racism within the criminal justice system, providing opportunities for men to heal from childhood trauma, and more?
- Do partners share an understanding that not all children and youth exposed to DV are impacted equally, and is there a commitment to responding to each situation as circumstances require?
- How does each system define success? Who are their key partners in creating successes? What resources help them achieve success?
- Facilitated, structured cross-system dialogue involving staff at many levels
- Leadership development in all systems, at various levels, including judicial leadership
- Resource allocation to support the collaboration
- Training and technical assistance