Service System Responses

To work effectively with children and families affected by domestic violence, child clinicians must have a thorough working knowledge of the judicial, law enforcement, and child protection systems, as well as a strong relationship with the local domestic violence service agencies. Clinicians must recognize and appreciate the important role these agencies play in identifying domestic violence, stopping the violence, and promoting safety. Many of these systems have developed strong local collaborations.

The response of the child protection system to children and families affected by domestic violence has been the focus of controversy. At issue is whether child exposure to domestic violence constitutes child maltreatment and mandated reporting to Child Protective Services (CPS). State laws and policies governing mandatory reporting of children's exposure to domestic violence to CPS vary widely. The Child Welfare Information Gateway lists state-by-state CPS reporting requirements and a summary of each state's laws

Examples of integrated programs affiliated with the NCTSN that work with families affected by domestic violence include:

  • Child Witness to Violence Project, Boston Medical Center
    Provides trauma-focused, developmentally appropriate mental health services to young children and their families who have been affected by domestic and/or community violence. The project works with the Boston Police Department to train officers in child development principles and to enlist their support in referring children to services. The program is embedded in the Department of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, and works closely with pediatric providers to encourage routine inquiry about domestic violence in pediatric visits, linkage of victims with advocacy resources, and referrals of children who need counseling services.
  • Children Who Witness Violence Program
    Active in seven communities in and around Cleveland, Ohio, the program provides mental health services to children exposed to violence and their families; works to enhance community awareness of violence and its impact; and educates mental health providers on the impact of violence.
  • Children's Initiative, Greater Portland Trauma Assistance Network
    Led by the Community Counseling Center of Portland, Maine, this project provides a community-wide trauma-informed System of Care for children who have been exposed to violence. More than twenty-five agencies are involved with the Initiative including police, schools, mental health providers, domestic violence service agencies, violence intervention programs, and Child Protective Services. These organizations are committed to providing a full range of services including outreach, community education, assessment, training, and treatment for children who have been exposed to violence. For more information on the Children's Initiative, contact Rebecca Sargent-Brown: BROWNR11@commcc.org
  • Domestic Violence Home Visit Intervention Project, Yale Child Study Center
    Specialized component of the Child Development Community Policing Program (CDCP) in New Haven, Conn., that works to interrupt the intergenerational cycle of violence by increasing families' safety and security, by reducing children's repeat exposure to escalating episodes of violence, and by increasing families' access to supportive services in the community. A team—composed of police officers, domestic violence advocates, and clinicians—visits homes where domestic violence has been reported, and provides outreach and advocacy to the families and linkage to clinical services at the Childhood Violent Trauma Center. The CDCP works closely with other advocates, community services, and Child Protective Services. For a fact sheet on the Child Development Community Policing Program, click here.
  • Family Violence Program, Chadwick Center for Children & Families, Rady Children's Hospital
    Provides an array of services to domestic violence victims and their families in partnership with the San Diego Family Justice Center, including developing safety plans, accessing emergency housing, providing therapy, and coordinating with other service providers.
  • Project ERIN (Emergency Response Intervention Network), Children's Institute, Inc
    Pairs family violence specialists with police officers responding to domestic violence calls. Counselors give immediate support at the scene, and then follow up in the days and weeks after the incident to connect children and families with medical and therapeutic services, develop safety plans, and provide access to legal support. Project ERIN also links children and families with comprehensive domestic violence interventions offered at Children's Institute including group and individual treatment. For more information about the institute's services, contact the Child Trauma Treatment Center senior director, Dr. Leslie Anne Ross: lross@childrensinstitute.org.

For information about comprehensive collaborative approaches, see:

  • Family Justice Center Alliance
    Co-located collaborative programs that include law enforcement, domestic violence advocacy, medical providers, and other social service providers, with the goal of providing coordinated, comprehensive support for domestic violence survivors and their children.
  • Green Book Initiative
    Co-located collaborative programs that include law enforcement, domestic violence advocacy, medical providers, and other social service providers, with the goal of providing coordinated, comprehensive support for domestic violence survivors and their children.
  • Safe Start Initiative
    Federal initiative that supports communities to provide more coordinated and effective services to children 0 to 6 exposed to violence and their families. Provides links to resources and publications related to children's exposure to violence.