The value of Multi-Disciplinary Teams reviewing serious domestic violence cases involving children: One Connecticut’s team’s experience
by David Mandel, MA, LPC
In the past three decades, Connecticut, like other states, has struggled to respond effectively to the rise of reported child abuse and neglect cases. To help adequately address the myriad needs of victims and their families, as well as to increase successful investigation and prosecution of offenders, communities around Connecticut began to form multidisciplinary teams in the hopes of enhancing a coordinated response to reports of child abuse and neglect.
Connecticut currently has 15 Multidisciplinary Teams around the state that meet to provide consultation and comprehensive assessment in child abuse and neglect cases. Teams meet regularly to discuss cases, promote coordination between agencies, identify service gaps and enhance professional skills and knowledge of individual team members. Team members include representatives from DCF, law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, medicine, mental health, Family Relations, and juvenile and adult probation, among others.
Most teams prioritize sexual abuse and severe physical abuse cases for review, although some teams will also discuss severe neglect cases on occasion. Current research suggests that domestic violence is often present in homes when a child is critically injured or killed and that domestic violence perpetrators are also at increased risk of being physically and sexually abusive to children in the home. In response to this data, the Middlesex County Multidisciplinary Team (MDT) made a commitment in 2004 to regularly include domestic violence cases for review.
In order to gather qualitative data about the integration of domestic violence cases into the MDT practice, David Mandel, the Statewide Service Administrator for DCF’s Domestic Violence Consultation Initiative distributed a survey to Middlesex MDT members. Completed in the fall 2009, the survey polled team members about their perceptions regarding the value of the team’s commitment to reviewing domestic violence cases where children were involved.
Highlights from the survey include:
- 100% of respondents indicated that their agency has benefitted from the teaming of serious domestic violence cases.
- 100% of respondents indicated that increased skills and awareness regarding domestic violence positively impacted how they handled sexual and physical abuse cases.
- Over 81% of respondents identified that they felt that teaming domestic violence cases resulted in increased safety for families.
- Teaming of domestic violence cases at MDT has helped identify service gaps and provide solutions. Due to the inclusion of domestic violence cases being discussed at MDT, team members were able to identify those children in homes, where domestic violence is present, who needed specific supports and services.