Stories from the 2010 Florida Dependency Summit

By Kristen Selleck, MSW

National Training and Consultation Director

I attended the 2010 Florida Dependency Summit and, along with David Mandel and Bridget Reilly, met with various leadership staff from DCF and other agencies that’ve been trained in the Safe and Together model. There were excellent stories from these sites about their implementation, the changes in practice and case outcomes.

Workers and managers alike shared stories about the success for families of the implementation of the Safe and Together model. There were stories about how workers had begun intervening with domestic violence perpetrators to reduce the risk to children. There were stories about children who did not have to be removed from their mothers’ care because of assessing survivors’ strengths. In addition, managers talked about how their workers trained in Safe and Together advocated for maintaining children in the care of domestic violence survivors when other staff (not trained in the model) suggested removal. There were stories about how the assessment skills learned in the Safe and Together training helped DCF maintain the safety of children in cases that had the potential to end tragically.

Here are some of those stories:

  • Several managers discussed their strategies for implementing the Safe and Together model. In Jacksonville, FL, they’ve brought in David Mandel &Associates for additional training for their staff and they do monthly meetings of staff trained in the Safe and Together model to discuss cases and the adherence to the model.
  • In Monroe County, the community based care providers began reviewing all case plans and safety plans to ensure that the language of these documents was in line with the principles of the Safe and Together model. They found that many case plans asked domestic violence survivors to end their partner’s abuse (over which survivors have no control) and made changes to how staff writes these plans to avoid putting the responsibility on survivors to end their partner’s abusive behaviors.
  • One attorney discussed a situation in which they reopened a case that was about to end in the termination of parental rights of a mother. When examining the case it was clear that the mother was a survivor of domestic violence and she’d been alienated from the children by her batterer’s family. By reexamining the case through the Safe and Together lens, DCF was able to reopen the case and establish visitation between the children and their mother to support the healing nature of that relationship and their bond for the sake of the children.
  • One manager discussed a tragic case in which historically DCF would have been very “hard” on the domestic violence survivor. Instead, however, a supervisor trained in Safe and Together partnered with the client and was able to learn important assessment information, safety planning information and information that will shape the case plan to protect the child in the future.
  • And finally, a manager and an attorney discussed a case in which the Safe and Together training and the direct case consultation by Bridget Reilly led to the attorney returning to court and amending the case plan to put in interventions for the batterer who was not biologically related to the child in the home. These interventions were a unique approach that can work to protect the child in the future and to support the domestic violence survivor in caring for her child.

There were many success stories that we heard while at the Summit. The entire experience was, honestly, inspiring for me. To hear the stories of good practice and to think how many children have already been kept safe and their well-being accounted for is more than exciting, it’s heartwarming. It was encouraging and informative for me to also hear the creative and innovative ways in which Safe and Together Florida sites have strategized to maintain the momentum of the Safe and Together training as well as find ways to monitor the implementation and ongoing practice.  It supports my confidence that our collective work is really benefiting families and maintaining the safety and well-being of children every day.

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