Methods: The study employed a two-phase exploratory sequential mixed methods research design. In Phase I, perceptions about the use and effectiveness of PIOs were gathered through a cross-sectional survey of child protection workers (n=69). After weighting responses, loglinear analysis evaluated the presence of statistically significant relationships between: service delivery area (SDA) and worker training, tenure, and job role. Service delivery areas produced the greatest effect. Based on these results, chi-square analyses were conducted to test the relationship between two SDAs and survey responses indicating that recent legislation increased respondent use of protective orders. In Phase II, a focus group and six individual interviews were conducted with child protection workers from two SDAs with disparate beliefs about the efficacy of PIOs.
Results: Almost sixty-five percent (64.7%) of respondents from South Vancouver Island reported increased/significant PIO use, whereas only 12.5% of respondents from Richmond/Vancouver reported the same. The odds that a respondent from South Vancouver Island applied for a PIO 6-10 times in past year was 2.15 times greater than for respondents from Vancouver/Richmond. Analysis of qualitative findings suggests that two distinct theoretical approaches underlie the use of PIOs: 1) a social learning approach and 2) a conflict theory approach. In the former, protective orders are viewed as a tool with which to shape the behavior of the offending/non-protective parent; in the latter, PIOs are regarded as punitive measures because they so restrict contact between non-protective and protective parent/children.
Implications: South Vancouver Island uses protective orders with a supervised access order clause whereas Vancouver/Richmond SDA implements PIOs as a “no access” order. PIOs used to prohibit contact between the child and the non-protective parent render PIOS strictly punitive. By incorporating contingencies that permit varying degrees of contact, workers in South Vancouver Island are able to adapt orders based on the details of a specific situation. Having a range of applications may promote investment and cooperation from protective and non-protective parents and support the growing social response to domestic violence.