In 1990, Massachusetts became the first state to bring expertise about domestic violence into its child welfare agency. The state’s Department of Social Services sought to understand better the perspective of mothers so that caseworkers would begin to incorporate the women’s lives into their considerations about the children who were coming to their attention. In the first phase of the department’s effort, battered women’s advocates were recruited to consult on high risk cases. Within
a short time, the Department realized that cases of child maltreatment in which a mother was also victimized were much more prevalent than it had previously understood. To address this, the Department created an entire “domestic violence unit” so that advocates would be available in all of the child protection offices throughout the state.
This report details the process and results of creating these units and specialized positions.