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Child Welfare and Domestic Violence

It is amazing to me the children are removed from home, where the mothers have been victims of domestic violence. Also that the victim is often left to stay with the batterer. I am a case manager in a Prevention agency in the South Bronx. One of the families that I am working with the mother was physically, emotionally and verbally by her ex-boyfriend. Her ex-boyfriend also sexually molested her two oldest sons. This man put a gun to my client head and made her watch as he fondled her son private parts.

She informed that the she was a victim of domestic violence for almost a year, but when the incidents happen with her sons. She finally called the Police and ACS got involved and removed her children. The man was put in jail, but according to the client the Judge on the case felt sorry for the abuser, because of he had such a bad childhood. I wonder if the Judge thought about my client and her children and how this man disrupted their life and the scares that he left behind. Eventually this man went to jail for murder.

My client showed me threatening letter that he sent her from jail. She was moved to the Bronx by Victim Services. When the children were returned to the mother two years later with no services in place, only preventive services. This family was not connected to any mental health services, in order to help the family deal with the affect of the domestic violence and sexual abuse. These children had to go through the trauma of watching their mother being abused and being abused themselves.

These children also had to deal with the trauma of being removed from the mother and separate from their siblings. The two oldest boy went to Residential Treatment Centers in upstate New York and the other three children went into foster care homes. The fact that these children were removed from the mother failing to protect her children baffles me. How was this mother supposed to protect her children if she couldnt protect herself. Many would say she could have left him. My client reported that she tried to leave him once, but her found her.

It has been almost a year that I have been working with this family and trying to get them the services they need. During this time the client two oldest boys were removed from the home once again for sexually molesting their younger siblings. If this family were provided the proper services from the beginning this incident may have never happen. This women felt that the system had betrayed her, so it was hard for my as the prevention worker to get this client to trust me. As time went by the client realized that I was really trying to help her the client-worker relationship improved.

I believe that as provider we must look at the whole picture and try to provide these family with all the services they may need. This is the reason that I feel that there must be a change within all the agencies involves with victims of domestic violence and their children, charging a victims of domestic violence with failure to protect is blaming the victims, for the domestic abuse they have endured. In a report by The Failure to Protect Working Group it states ( 1999, 3) Domestic Violence advocates have long fought for recognition that domestic violence harms children and families.

It also states: Increasingly in New York City, abuse and neglect proceeding are brought against battered mothers whose children are removed from them where the only allegation is their childrens exposure to domestic violence. This approach has the unfortunate result of discouraging battered mothers from seeking the services they need to escape domestic violence and often cause further harm to children and families. Sometimes people that come in contact with victims of domestic violence, put the blame on the victim, by saying why didnt they leave. What people need to understand is that it is not easy.

Many man are the sole supporter of the family and the women leave she may be not be capable of supporting herself and her children. There are limited amounts of batterer women shelters. (Domestic Violence Information for Women, 2000, 1-2) According to this article women stay in domestic violence relationships for the following reasons: Fear: According to the FBI up to 40% of females homicides in any given year occur when the women decides to leave the abusive relationship. Her fears are not unfounded! Given this face, it is very important that the battered womans expression of fear not to be minimized.

Lack Of Resources: the major components of abuse is isolation, the battered women most often lacks a support system. Her family ties and friendships have been destroyed leaving her psychologically and financially dependent on the abusive partner. Lack Of Finances/Economic Realty: Economic dependence on the abuser is a very real reason for remaining in the relationship. Public assistance programs have been drastically reduced and those that remain provide inadequate benefits. Children: Being a single parent is strenuous experience under the best of circumstance, and for battered women, conditions are far from the best.

Often, the abuser may threaten to take the children away from her if she even attempts to leave. Feeling Of Guilt: The women believe that her husband is sick and/or needs her help; the idea of leaving can thus produce feelings of guilt. Promises: As is consistent with the cycle of violence, the abuser promises it will never happen again; the victim wants to believe this is true. Sex-Role Conditioning: Most women are still taught to be passive and dependent on men. Religious Beliefs And Values: Religious beliefs reinforce the commitment to marriage.

Many faiths hold that the husband is head of the family and it is a wifes duty to be submissive to him. This may be powerful reason for staying in a destructive relationship. Societal Acceptance/ Reinforcement Of Violence To Women/Wives: Many people turn a deaf ear to marital violence and believe what goes on behind closed doors is a private manner. Love of Spouse: Most people enter a relationship for love, and the emotion does not simply disappear easily or in the face of difficulty.

Battered Womens Syndrome: The dynamics of domestic violence which contribute to Battered Womans Syndrome include: 1. e traumatic effects of victimization 3. self[destructive behaviors as a coping response to violence, such as drug/alcohol abuse and minimization/denial The battered women, having been systematically abused by her partner perceives that there is now way out of the relationship. The choice to leave or stay should not be placed on the women. I believed that if a women is a victim of domestic violence knew that if she called the cops on her batterer and he put in jail and if she knew her children will not be removed by ACS, more reports of domestic violence would be made and more victim and children would be safe.

Victims of Domestic violence and their children needs to have services in place that would help them go on after the abuse. All of the agency involved with victim of domestic violence should, link a system that keeps victim and their children safe. (Carter & Schechter, 1997, 1) For the past several years, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, with support from the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation has worked with children welfare agencies and domestic violence programs to develop innovative policies, practice and collaborative service delivery systems to ensure greater safety for women and children in their homes.

It has been proven that it takes a collaborated effect of all in involved to ensure the safety of the victim and their children. As provider we must look at the whole picture. One can not assume because a mother did not leave the abuser that she is neglectful. It is difficult for any parent to leave a relationship when there are children involved even in the case of divorce. We must understand that domestic violence is an issue involving control. The abusers have a need to control the people in their lives.

Many abuser have low self esteem, many have been abuses themselves or witness the abuse of their mothers. Abusers need to be held accountable for the abuse they have inflicted on the member of his family. Domestic violence is a three fold problem and as provider we must deal with all people involved. It has been proven that there is a correlation between child abuse and domestic violence (Carter & Schechter, 1997, 2) Child abuse and domestic violence often occur in the same family and are linked in a number of important ways that have serious consequences for the safety of children.

First, domestic violence often directly results in physical injury and/or psychological harm to children. Second, even when domestic violence does not result direct physical injury to the child, it can interfere with both the mothers and the fathers parenting to such a degree that the children may be neglected, Third, while an intervention into child abuse may be initially effective, the impact of that intervention will soon be sabotaged, if domestic violence is also present, and if the perpetrator is not held accountable for stopping the violence and the adult victim is not protected.

It is important to look at the effect of domestic violence has on children. According to an article written about children (Burt, 1999, 1) From the time children are conceived, they become intimately, connected with and affected by domestic violence directed at their mothers. Violence tends to increase during pregnancy, which in turn contributes to an increased rate of miscarriage. Infants often develop an intense fear of adults, lose their appetite and scream incessantly.

Unfortunately, these behaviors create more strain for families that are already over-stressed. According to the same article these are the behaviors that are children that live in a home where there is domestic violence. Acting out- Some children may respond with internalized symptoms such a regression and social isolation. Other may develop externalized negative behaviors that included nightmares, hyperactivity, aggression and delinquency .

Research about children of various ages has found that 50-70 per cent of children exposed to domestic violence suffer from Post Traumatic Disorder. Other reaction to domestic violence includes Anger, Shame, The perfectionist these children believe that they can make thing better between his parents if only he is good enough.. According to the research it was not until the 1980s that researchers began to investigate the effect domestic violence had on children.

Fantuzzo & Mohr, 1999, 26) included studies that compared children exposed to domestic violence with children from nonviolent homes with respect to one or more aspects of child functioning, including: (1) externalizing behaviors (such as aggressive behavior and conduct problems); (2) internalizing behaviors (such as depression, anxiety and low self esteem); (3) intellectual and academic functioning: (4) social development (social competencies with peers and adults, for example; and (5) physical health and development.

Fantuzzo & Mohr, 26,27) To date research on the effects of children exposure to domestic violence indicates that this exposure has an adverse impact across a range of child functioning, produces different effects at different ages, increases the risk for child abuse, and is associated with other risk factor, such as poverty and parental substance abuse. Research has proven that children that are witness of domestic violence development problems that are associated with the abuse. We must look into the roles of mental health providers and what they can do to help stop the cycle of abuse.

Groves, 1999, 122) empirical research has demonstrated that exposure to domestic violence deleteriously affects childrens social, emotional, and cognitive development. Given the negative repercussions of childrens exposure to domestic violence, there exists a need for programs that can intervene in these childrens lives to improve their potential for healthy psychological adjustment. As described in this article the goals of the mental health provider are as follows:(Groves, 1999, 125) A first goal of therapeutic intervention is promoting open discussion of the childrens experiences.

Second therapists seek to help children understand and cope with their emotional responses to the violence while promoting their emotional responses to the violence, while promoting their acquisition of positive behavior patterns. Strategies include assisting children with understanding why their parents fight and helping them to realize that the fighting is not their fault, and that they are not responsible for managing it. Third, mental healths interventions seek to reduce the symptoms the children are experiencing in response to the violence.

Most approaches strive to help the child and the nonabusing parent to link the problematic symptoms to the exposure to violence and to teach specific strategies for managing and decreasing symptoms. Finally, therapists work to help the family create a sage, stable and nurturing environment for the child, because children cannot begin to recover from the effects of exposure to violence so long as the exposure continues. We must also look at the law enforcement and courts standpoint as far as child witnessing and domestic violence is concern.

Lemon, 1999, 68) Through law enforcement and courts have become increasingly aware of domestic violence as a major problem, they still tend to see it as primarily affecting adults and have been slower to see its potential negative impact on children exposed to it. This view is changing, largely due to recent studies showing that exposure to domestic violence can be very harmful to children and that large numbers of children are involved in domestic violence cases.

As provider we must also educate ourselves on how the court decides visitation and custody in cases that involve domestic violence (Lemon, 1999, 69) four key issues related to children exposed to domestic violence; child custody and visitation, restraining order, failure to protect a child from harm; and termination of parental rights. Child custody and visitation is an area that must be looked at closely by the Judge deciding on this ruling.

In advocating for victims of domestic violence in the courts we must keep in mind that often the batterer use the children to get back at the victim and this can put the victim and her child in danger (Saunders, PH. D. , 1998, 10) Daniel G. Saunders, PH. D from the University of Michigan School of Social Work writes: The current enthusiasm for joint child custody and liberal visitation need to be tempered drastically in cases involving domestic violence for the following reasons: Men who batter their intimate partners have a high potential for physically and emotionally abusing their children.

Child custody evaluations often place battered women at a disadvantage because living in an abusive relationship may produce traumatic effects that give the false impression that they are unfit parents Battered womens attempts to protect themselves and their children can also give the false appearance that unfit parents. Men who batter are likely to have chronic behavioral and emotional problems that may not be easily detected. Many states are responding to these concerns by enacting laws the require domestic violence to be considered in child custody determinations an sometimes presume that the abuser should not have joint or sole custody.

Other statutes address concerns over visitation mediation, child abduction and child abandonment. He also stated in this brief more research is needed in the field, our current practice wisdom and social science research indicate that: Men who batter should rarely have sole or joint custody of their children Divorce separation and /or treatment of the abuser do not guarantee that the abuse of the women ands children will stop Visitation needs to be supervised in many cases or restricted in other ways. Battered women need to be allowed exceptions from mandated mediation

Batter women should be allowed to relocate with their children at a safe distance from their ex-partners and not be labeled uncooperative if they do no wish to co parent. I also believe that in cases involving domestic violence and visitation between the batterer and his children should be supervised. Time and time again you hear of children being abducted by a parent. (Sheeran & Hampton, M. A, 1999, 13) Alarmingly, the dangers that perpetrators pose to their victims and children do not cease when the relationship ends, Rather, separation increases risk and creates a new set to threats their emotional and physical well-being.

It has been proven that victim is at risk for continuing abuse from that batterers during unsupervised visitation, in some instances battered women have been killed. (Sheeran & Hampton, M. A, 14) Many battered women report threats against their lives during visitation and exchanges and some, in fact are killed in those contexts. The Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities in New York found that of 57 deaths studied. , custody disputes were at the root of three homicides, two of which were committed in connection with exchange of the children.

Victim and their children need to be protected by the courts when it comes to deciding if the batterers should have visitation or custody of their children. (Sheeran & Hampton, M. A, 14, 15) The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges recommends that states adopt a rebuttable presumption that it is not in the best interest of a child and is detrimental to a child to be placed in sole or jo8ing custody with a perpetrator of family violence.

The rebuttable presumption makes it harder for abusive parents to gain custody and raises the safety and well-being of victim-parents and children about other best interest standards generally applied to child custody determinations. By December 1998, 14 states gave additional weight to the issue of domestic violence by enacting legislation based in some part on the rebuttalble presumption found in the Model Code on Domestic and Family Violence. This Model Code sets forth conditions for awarding visitation in cases involving domestic violence stating:

A court may award visitation by a parent who committed domestic or family violence only if the court finds that adequate provision for the safety of the child and the parent who is a victim of domestic or family violence can be made Included within this section of the Model Code courts are now able to decide where batterers can pick up their children, supervised visitation, having batterer attend batterers program, have the batterer pay for supervision and (Sheeran & Hampton, M. A, 1999, 16) to post a bond for the return of the child and no overnight visitation.

Also keeping the child and victims address confidential. Batterer should also be mandated by the courts to attend batterer programs, although in studies done about men who attend battering problems have not always stop the batterer from battering, There have been cases where it has help batterer to understand how his behavior has put his family in danger and the psychologically affects of his behavior.

Georgia Commission on Family Violence recommended the following protocol for batterers classes. (Georgia Commission on Family Violence, 2000, preface) Participation in a batterers program does not insure safety for victims. Not all batterers are appropriate candidates for batterers counseling/education programs. (Garrity, 1994, 2) We must understand that battering is not an illness that can be treated; in the use of the work treat or treatment in batterer programs implies individual pathology, and implies cure.

We know that there is never a way to gauge a mans dangerousness or potential for continued battering, no matter what program he participates in or how compliant he seems to be in seems in the program. In order for batterers program to work the batterer must acknowledge that he has a problem. According to the National Crime Prevention Council fact sheet batterers must accept the fact that their violent behavior will destroy their family. They must understand they are breaking the law when they physically hurt someone.

They must take responsibility for your actions and get help. As you can see from the research use in this paper that there is a need for all agencies to work together in order to ensure the safety of victims and their children. Removing children from the victim is not a solution for the series of problems cause by domestic violence. The first step in collaborating the efforts of domestic violence agency and child welfare agency in order to protect the victim and her children.

Steps have been taken to combine the efforts of these two agencies. (Aron & Olson, 1997, 1) Agencies are reexamining their policies and procedures for training, investigation, assessment ,case management, and other activities in light of this new thinking. (Aron & Olson, 2) Changes to child welfare agency practice around domestic violence will also benefit form collaborative policy development with police, civil and criminal courts, corrections (probation and parole), the schools and local clinic and hospital.

The implementation of ASFA may intensify the risks of unintended harmful effects of state welfare laws on children and heighten the importance of state law innovations. In all cases involving domestic violence we must offer services to all involved. As provider we must ensure that every member of a family that has domestic violence issue receive services. As citizens we must report cases of domestic violence to the police so that the appropriate action can be taken against batterers. Victims should be referred to domestic violence agencies and if child welfare become involved.

These two agencies must work together and advocate for the client in court or with any other agency that become involved to try to make the victim and her children safe. Politicians need to pass laws that will help victims and their children and not pull family apart. In domestic violence case the issue of failing to protect must be investigation thoroughly to make certain that children are not removed from the home inappropriately and if children have to be removed so should the victim, because the she can not protect herself against her batterer. As you can see we all have a role in ending the cycle of abuse.

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