Abstract: Collaboration at the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Child Welfare: The Views of Stakeholders from Multiple Systems (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Collaboration at the Intersection of Domestic Violence and Child Welfare: The Views of Stakeholders from Multiple Systems

Thursday, January 17, 2019: 3:45 PM
Union Square 15 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Becci Akin, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Juliana Carlson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Aaron Conrad, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Jennifer Rose, MSW, Consultant, Futures Without Violence, North Hampton, MA
Shellie Taggart, BS, Project Director, Quality Improvement Center on Child Welfare Involved Children and Families Experiencing Domestic Violence, Futures Without Violence, Boston, MA
Lonna Davis, MSW, Director of Children & Youth Program, Futures Without Violence, Boston, MA
Andrew Zinn, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Background and Purpose: Domestic violence (DV) in child welfare (CW) presents a compelling justification for collaboration because these two systems share many clients yet have fundamental differences in definitions of problem, client population, purpose, and goals.  This study was part of the national and federally-funded Quality Improvement Center on Domestic Violence in Child Welfare (QIC-DVCW), which seeks to develop, implement, and evaluate a collaborative model and just policies to improve the lives of families experiencing DV and involved in the CW system. While many challenges of collaboration have been identified, more studies are necessary to rigorously define and investigate collaboration in DV and CW systems. As the initial step in a five-year effort, this study sought to explore how national and local stakeholders of multiple systems view collaboration in context of helping families experiencing DV and involved with CW.

Methods: Fourteen focus groups were held with stakeholders across the U.S., including parents with lived experience of DV and CW involvement, Native American tribal representatives, judges, CW workers and administrators, co-located DV advocates, DV administrators, and service providers of people who use violence. Participants shared perspectives on a broad range of topics relevant to the intersection of CW and DV, including collaboration. Focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim, and imported into Dedoose.com. Using inductive and deductive strategies, data were analyzed to examine perspectives on collaboration. Trustworthiness and rigor were supported through multiple reads of the data, iterative coding, team-based coding review, auditing, and peer debriefing.

Results: Our analysis identified five broad themes. First, parents’ comments frequently revealed gaps, fragmentation, and a general lack of coordination or responsiveness. Second, the need for shared language, shared understandings, and trust was prominent. Participants described strategies for building relationships and effective communication between CW and DV, including cross-systems routine meetings, training/education, and opportunities for troubleshooting. Third, leadership at multiple levels and in formal and informal practices was discussed as critically important to CW-DV collaboration. Fourth, scalability emerged as a theme that represented the dynamic and multi-layered dimensions of collaboration. That is, participants indicated that collaboration was more than cross-system meetings and, although rarely accomplished, required ongoing adaptations in micro, mezzo, and macro levels.  Finally, tensions of collaboration were reported, including issues related to cultural bias and a scarcity of policies and funding that could promote authentic and sustainable collaboration between CW and DV.

Conclusions and Implications: This study expands the current knowledge by providing a comprehensive view on collaboration in CW and DV from a broad view of multiple stakeholders. Parents’ responses verified the need for collaboration between CW and DV as well as other community providers. Findings also suggest that many jurisdictions have attempted collaboration; however, successfully sustaining collaboration has been challenging and uncommon. Overall, study themes point to developing collaboration with inclusive strategies and considering practices at the case, organizational, and policy levels. Implications will be discussed for continued efforts toward developing, implementing, and sustaining systemic and collaborative approaches in CW and DV.