Some DV program staff may be mandated reporters of suspected abuse or neglect – requirements vary by state and by professional licensure. Regardless, DV programs should have on-going conversations about whether a child’s exposure to abuse of his/her mother rises to the level of filing a report with CPS.
If it is necessary to file a report, talk to the mother first and suggest that the report be filed jointly. This can help to insure that her first face-to-face conversation with CPS can be scheduled to insure privacy and safety, and to allow her to tell her own story. Describe to CPS worries about the children, attempts of the mother to create safety and stability for them, and any observations of nurturing and effective parenting despite the violence. Additionally, describe how concerns about the mother herself (such as her substance abuse) are impacted by or related to coercion or violence of her partner. Identify whose behaviors you are most worried about – if the concern is abuse by mother’s partner, state that clearly. Finally, cue CPS to prepare for unique circumstances of survivors, such as a tribal affiliation, limited English proficiency or disabilities that require accommodation.
- Are advocates and clinicians in DV programs trained on statutory requirements for reporting child abuse/neglect?
- Are there organizational procedures in place to determine whether and when a report to CPS is needed?
- Can staff explain the basic CPS case process to a mother to help prepare her?
- Can the program provide an accessible, safe space, and child care if needed, for a private first meeting between CPS and a mother who is being battered?
- Do staff know local CPS staff who conduct intakes/screen reports of abuse or neglect (if intake is completed locally*)?
Strategies for working together:
- Ask for training by intake/screening staff of CPS
- Participate in development/review of intake policies and regulations to reframe “failure to protect” allegations
- Analyze racial equity in DV program reporting of families to CPS, and of CPS acceptance of reports