Practice with Mothers, Children & Youth

mom with 2 kids picDV programs and shelter policies are also reflecting a shift toward greater empowerment and support for mothers** and children. Support groups and individual advocacy are incorporating trauma informed insights and evidenced based models for supporting children’s healing and supporting parents. Programs are creating predictable and safe spaces for children to express feelings and feel heard and understood.  Programs are considering the needs of teens as different from both small children and adults and are focusing resources to meet their needs as a unique population of service users.

Use these Questions to revisit your program practice.

With Children and Teens:

  • Does our program support children’s healing by:
    • Supporting strong bonds between children, mothers, and siblings?
    • Providing a sense of safety for children?
    • Supporting environments that are structured and predictable?
    • Connecting children and families with their communities and support systems?
    • Creating safe spaces for children and teens to express their feelings, be heard and understood?
    • Allowing for children to not feel responsible for the care of adults?
    • Providing access to counseling and support groups?
    • Supporting decisions regarding contact with noncustodial parent if safe and doesn’t interfere with healing?
  • Do we create programs for teens which consider their individual needs and concerns
  • Do we allow for teen autonomy, protected space, and privileges?
  • Do we have clear practices about sharing children and teen’s information, and parental consent for services that allow children and teens the most confidentiality possible?

With Mothers:

  • Does our program empower mothers to care for their children without unnecessary rules and unnatural structures?
  • Are staff available to support parents and children in informal ways (e.g., casual conversations, providing recreation)?
  • Does our program support parents in reclaiming and redefining their parenting and family culture while offering resources and support?
  • Are staff prepared to support mothers who want their children to visit their fathers, provide information on impacts, options and safety?
  • Are all staff able to provide information about the impact that batterers have on children and ways to support children’s healing?
  • Are all staff able to  talk with mothers about the impact that batterers have had on their parenting, the stressors related to parenting in shelter and beyond, and brainstorm parenting supports?

**Regarding the use of gendered pronouns throughout this website–we acknowledge that both women and men can be victims of domestic violence, but research suggests that women are more often victims and suffer more serious injury and death than men1,2,3. Both men and women can be violent in same-sex couples, and a man can be abused by a female partner. However, the majority of domestic violence situations involve a man being abusive with a female partner and for this reason, we use female pro-nouns to reference victims of domestic violence and male pro-nouns when referencing the abuser.1,2,3  We also acknowledge that it is essential to do work with men and fathers who use violence in order to break the cycle of violence, and be responsive to the wishes of many women, mothers and children who want their loved ones to get help and for the violence to stop. Learn more about working with men who use violence or Parenting by men who use violence.


1Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Female Victims of Violence, 2009,”  U.S. Department of Justice, 2010 .

2Catalano, Shannan. 2007. “Intimate Partner Violence in the United States”. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

3 Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.,  table 4.1, p.38.