Abstract: Beyond Liaisons: Addressing the Needs of CPS-Involved Domestic Violence Survivors (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Beyond Liaisons: Addressing the Needs of CPS-Involved Domestic Violence Survivors

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Anna Wasim, LMSW, Senior Research Coordinator, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Maggy McGiffert, MA, Senior Research Associate, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, TX
Leila Wood, PhD, MSSW, Associate Professor, University of Texas Medical Branch, TX
Monica Faulkner, PhD, LMSW, Research Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX
Background and Purpose: Domestic violence (DV) and child maltreatment are intrinsically linked, yet we continue to serve families through separate, conflicting systems. Approximately half of youth who witness DV also experience child maltreatment. Likewise, DV occurs in at least a third of substantiated child protection cases. Parents experiencing DV report child protection systems (CPS) are largely ineffective at helping their families. DV agencies have attempted to meet some of the needs of families through parenting programs, children’s services, and CPS liaisons. However, gaps in service provision remain. This qualitative study examines the needs and effectiveness of services for families experiencing both DV and CPS involvement.

Methods: As part of a statewide needs assessment of services for children witnessing DV semi-structured interviews and focus groups were conducted with DV service providers (n=50) and survivor parents (n=21). Of those interviewed, 43 service providers and 16 parents discussed CPS. Interviews and focus groups were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis. Collaborative team coding resulted in four themes related to service strengths and improvements for families experiencing DV who are involved with CPS.

Results: Our analysis identified themes about emerging and promising DV services for survivor parents involved with CPS. 1. Participants appreciated that some DV agencies have moved beyond providing a “laundry list” of services for either the parent or child. They noted that services such as family counseling prioritize autonomy and intergenerational work. 2. Participants also noted the importance of education about their rights in the CPS system. Such education equips survivors with tools to navigate that system. 3. On a macro-level, services providers articulated the importance of their role as subject matter experts to offer sustained systems change, rather than acting in a case-specific liaison role. Service providers actively work to imbed DV knowledge into the system through trainings, community collaborations/work groups, case consultations, and attending family meetings with CPS. Underlying motivations of offering these services included wanting to prevent intergenerational trauma with relational, safety-focused approaches, and an awareness that women, and especially women of color, are treated differently within the system. 4. Participants highlighted that additional support is needed to: further bridge gaps in communication with CPS; facilitate safer visitation and custody arrangements; and restore their autonomy and authority as the parents of their children, especially in cases involving child removals. While service providers in this study identified improved collaborations with CPS in their communities, they expressed frustration with the “black and white” thinking that could sometimes overlook the nuances of abuse and the needs of survivors.

Conclusion and Implications: This study sought to address the added value of imbedding CPS-focused services in DV agencies. Findings suggest that DV agencies can support the multifaceted needs of survivors and their families in navigating their involvement with the child welfare system. To address this, DV service providers have developed creative methods of providing unique service and program models specific to CPS-involved families experiencing DV. More program development and evaluation of innovative responses should be supported by policy and funding priorities.