Methods: A web-based anonymous survey was sent to all domestic violence shelter programs in a mid-western state. The inclusion criteria were current DV advocates who were employed full or part-time within shelter settings, resulting in 142 participant responses in the analysis. The survey questions utilized Likert scales to assess what factors domestic violence advocates consider when deciding to report to CPS. The survey included questions concerning the DV advocates’ holistic consideration of a family’s circumstances (e. g. potential impact of reporting, family’s context) and the DV agency’s perceived relationship with CPS. Also included were 10 case scenarios of a child’s exposure to DV with varying severity and the advocate’s likelihood of reporting in each scenario. Finally, the survey asked about demographics of the survey respondents, including: Race, years of experience, level of education, supervisor status.
Results: A multivariate regression was used to determine the relationship between how internal decision-making factors and the agency's relationship with CPS affect the overall likelihood of reporting, while controlling for survey respondent demographics. The regression model was significant (R2=.14, F=3.61, df=6, p<.01). The higher a DVA rated on the internal decision-making scale the less likely they were to report CAN in the case scenarios (β=-.253, p<.01). Having a better organizational relationship with CPS was associated with an increased likelihood of reporting (β=.252, p<.01).
Implications: These findings suggest that DV advocates are less likely to report a child’s exposure to DV when they consider the holistic impact of reporting CAN on the family. Yet, DV advocates are more likely to report if they perceive a good working relationship with CPS. Therefore, further collaboration with CPS when serving vulnerable families may play a key factor in the ethical decision-making for reporting CAN in DV cases. Maintaining trust and fostering collaboration between DV advocacy services and CPS may increase the likelihood of reporting CAN, which in turn can help keep children safe. This may be achieved by advocating policies that can be ethically congruent across practice domains, participating in cross training on an ongoing basis and continued research on best practices when addressing the co-occurrence of DV and CAN.