No matter where your children’s program is in its development, you can benefit from revisiting philosophical conversations and advancing policies and practices regarding children’s programming.
Providing children’s programming can bring up issues of personal beliefs and values for staff. It can also feel like a stretch of core principles and resources to consider and adequately respond to the needs of children, teens and families. Because of this, it is important for all programs to have ongoing conversations about their work with children. Time can be set aside in staff and board meetings, retreats, and supervision to talk about your work with children, teens and mothers.
Conversations may include:
- Exploring issues of ageism and adultism
- Staff feelings regarding working with children and teens
- Challenges that arise when embracing thoughtful children’s programming
- Staff values regarding parenting styles, cultural diversity, personal bias, and child abuse.
After engaging in foundational conversations, overarching program policies and missions statements may adjust to embrace more inclusive language. Children’s program and shelter policies may reflect best practices by shifting toward greater empowerment and support for mothers and children as well as a focus on strengthening their relationships.
Use these Questions to help guide these conversations.
What is our Program’s Philosophy?
After domestic violence programs have revisited core conversations, it is critical to reexamine and revise philosophical and mission statements and structural practices. Child and teen inclusive language may be inserted into program mission statements, philosophical doctrines, policy statements, and shelter intake information.
- Does our mission statement include a specific commitment to children and their needs?
- Does our program have a clear philosophical statement or policy about nonviolent treatment of children and teens?
- Does our program have a well articulated statement about provision of services to children and teens which includes survivor centered/empowerment model language?
- Is the safety of non-offending parents and children primary in our decisions?
- Does your program allocate sufficient resources to providing direct services to children and teens?
What are our Personal/Programmatic values?
Children and Teens:
- How do all staff members feel about working with children? Teens?
- Does our program consider children and teens direct recipients of our services?
- How do we see the needs of children as both separate and connected to their mothers’?
- How does our program feel about all staff building capacity in child advocacy, child development, and supporting parents?
- How well does our program apply our survivor centered/empowerment model in our work with children and teens?
- How does our program feel about information sharing, confidentiality and parental consent for children and teens?
- How do we respond to mothers requesting shelter for their teen boys? What are our feelings about teen boys in shelter?
- Do our guidelines provide enough autonomy and independence for older children?
- How do staff members feel about children missing their fathers and visitation with batterers?
- Does our program go beyond providing respite for mothers and focus on providing direct advocacy and support for children and teens?
- Have we explored conversations about ageism and adultism?
- What do we feel our role is regarding supporting parents in shelter?
- How do individual staff members feel about nonviolent discipline?
- Do we have a consistent message, common goal or overarching guideline about treatment of children and youth?
- Are all staff members comfortable providing parenting support to mothers?
- Does our program support mothers’ parenting power or take it away?
- Do we support mothers’ desire for their children to have safe and positive contact with fathers?
- What comes up for staff members regarding cultural values and practices related to discipline and parenting?
Child Abuse and Reporting:
- Do all staff understand their mandates regarding child abuse reporting?
- What programmatic challenges do we face given the overlap of child abuse and domestic violence?
- Do our child abuse reporting policies adequately pay attention to both child safety and parent empowerment?
- How does staff feel about situations where child abuse occurs in shelter?
- What are our program’s policies about working with undocumented survivors and their children?
- Are our services culturally relevant to immigrant and refugee families?