No matter where your parent and child programming is in terms of development you can benefit from revisiting philosophical conversations and advancing policies and practices that center the voices and needs of families.
Just as it is important for children to have a solid foundation from which to grow, it is critical that programs and services for parent and child survivors have a solid footing within their organizations. Programs for child survivors of family violence have historically been patched together with a combination of private, local, state and federal funding sources – often operating in silos from the rest of the services offered within organizations. As a result, many programs are not sustainable, and often end when the funding runs out. Given the temporary nature of many programs, many organizations don’t have the opportunity for staff discussions regarding philosophical underpinnings, structure, or thoughtful policy creation for their work with children and families.
Programs that take time to examine or reexamine their missions, philosophies, core values and staffing structures through the lens of child advocacy, family support, and the science of resilience will create more effective programs with consistent staffing and better outcomes. Visible support from the entire organization including leadership and ongoing engagement will create solid infrastructures from which to build and institutionalize programs for parent and child survivors of family violence.
Providing services for parent and child survivors 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 child survivors. Time can be set aside in staff and board meetings, retreats, and supervision to talk about your work with parent and child survivors.
As an organization that serves parent and child survivors, it is important that your mission and organizational values are current, accurate, and reflective of the tireless work you do to end trauma and violence. It is also essential that your staff, board, and stakeholders are aware of and support these commitments and use them in their decision-making and operations.
A mission statement is a clear and concise definition of your organization’s single most important purpose. This purpose is what guides you. It’s what sets you apart from other organizations. It’s what every project, initiative, and team goal should work toward. It’s helpful to periodically review your mission statement to ensure it is still reflective of the work your organization is committed to and prioritizes. Use this Mission and Core Values Toolkit with staff, executive teams, board members, and even stakeholders to examine your current mission, revise it or to create a new one entirely that more accurately reflects your commitment to intentionally supporting parent and child survivors.
As we do our work, what do we value most?
Organizational values are beliefs held so strongly that they drive people’s behavior and dictate how people interact with and treat each other. Core values guide the way the organization operates, makes decisions, and treats its employees, volunteers, and clients.
Questions to help in the development and review of core values:
What are core values and what do they mean to you?
What is important about the work we do with children, teens, and parents?
Does your program believe that the safety of parent and child survivors are inextricably linked and is that safety primary in our decisions?
What is unique about our organization? Unlike other similar organizations, ___ is the only organization that offers ___ (e.g. shelter, children’s program) services that result in ___ (e.g. saving lives, safe place).
What do we like about the values and culture of our organization and co-workers?
What values guide our work and decision making on a day-to-day basis?
Does your program operationalize an anti-oppression framework and apply an equity lens in all decision making?
Are we intentionally implementing strategies and structures to address vicarious, secondary, and historical trauma among staff?
Note: You may survey your organization’s staff anonymously to gather information for the above questions.
Use this Mission and Core Values Toolkit with staff, executive teams, board members, and even stakeholders to examine and update your current core values to ensure they are representative of the diverse perspectives within your organization. Below are some questions to help guide your conversations about your core 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 the parent survivors?
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 child and teen survivors?
Do we solicit feedback from the families we work with?
How does our program feel about information sharing, confidentiality, and parental consent for children and teens?
How do we respond to parent survivors requesting shelter for their teen boys? What about transgender or gender non-conforming children/teens? What are our feelings about teen boys or transgendered youth in shelter?
Do our guidelines provide enough autonomy and independence for older children?
How do staff members feel about children missing the parent who used violence and visitation with a parent using violence?
Does our program go beyond providing respite for parent survivors 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 parent survivors?
How do individual staff members feel about nonviolent/positive 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?
Does our program support an adult survivor’s parenting power or take it away?
Do we support parents’ desire for their children to have safe and positive contact with the parent who used violence?
What comes up for staff members regarding cultural values and practices related to discipline and parenting?
Does our program support regular reflection and intentional work on identifying personal bias and dominant cultural norms within our policies, services and direct work with survivors?
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 addressing personal bias and takes into account both child safety and parent support?
Are we utilizing trauma-informed reporting processes in partnership with parents?
How does staff feel about situations where child abuse occurs?
What are our program’s policies about working with undocumented survivors and their children?
Are our services culturally and linguistically relevant to immigrant and refugee families?
Connecting & Aligning Organizational Core Values, Mission & Programs
Are my mission and values working together?
It is important that your organization’s mission and its core values operate harmoniously in all your programs, policies, and practices and that your organization’s decisionmaking is not at odds with your values. Use this Mission and Core Values Toolkit with staff, executive teams, board members, and even stakeholders to help consider how your mission and values complement each other and support your work.
An organization’s guiding principles should inform and guide decisions and choices and reflect your organization’s core values. They are needed to provide clear guideposts, allow for different—but not conflicting interpretations—and distill collective insights from years of experience. The Guiding Principles to Improve Outcomes for Children, Youth, and Parents Impacted by Family Violence (Guiding Principles) build on previous discussion papers to improve outcomes for children experiencing domestic violence. The Guiding Principles are designed to inform program development, intervention, and evaluation in programs that serve children, youth, and parents overcoming domestic violence as well as those who use violence. They include key considerations on Partnership, Equity, Storytelling, Centering Lived Expertise, Healing, Accountability, and Safety. These Guiding Principles promote a culture of equity, safety, empowerment, healing and accountability in serving domestic violence impacted children and their families. Use the Guiding Principles document with staff, executive teams, board members, and even stakeholders to help consider how adopting these Principles or developing your own could support and guide your practice and policy.
Portions of this content adapted and updated from the work of Amy Torchia.