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Excerpts from the upcoming book “Creating Domestic Violence-Informed Child Welfare Systems” by David Mandel

David Mandel is currently working on a book “Creating Domestic Violence-Informed Child Welfare Systems”(working title). The book will contain more on the Continuum of Domestic Violence Practice, further defining the range of practice from “domestic violence destructive” to “domestic violence proficient.” It will also describe in detail how a perpetrator pattern-based approach is critical to supporting the safety and well being of children and families impacted by domestic violence perpetrators’ behavior.  The book will also highlight the importance of gender responsive practice, high standards for father as parents and understanding domestic violence perpetration as a parenting choice.

The following are excerpts from the work in progress:

“Without the domestic violence perpetrator’s behaviors, there can be no real narrative of abuse, neglect and impact, only jargon, platitudes and euphemisms that substitute for accurate assessment.”

“(If we want to promote the safety and well-being of children) we need to move away from the “gender double standard-driven, “blame the mother,” failure to protect paradigm which labels the mother as the perpetrator of child abuse or neglect because she continues to be a domestic violence survivor.”

“To some, it may seem paradoxical to expect a focus on the perpetrator’s behavior to create such potential for a positive response to the ‘cardinal’ question (of how child welfare can better help adult and child domestic violence survivors). At its core, every bit of work to shift to a perpetrator pattern–based approach is about helping child welfare systems to become better allies and supports to adult and child survivors, and through becoming better allies achieve its core mission of child safety and well being. Domestic violence-informed child welfare systems, by definition, are systems that put the positive experience of the adult and the child survivor at the center of their focus. Without the focus on their safety and well-being, which should be measurable and apparent to them, these systems are more likely to create harm, be neglectful or practice in ways inconsistent with their mission.”

“Double standards around mothers and fathers, expressed in low expectations for men as parents and high expectations for women, must be deconstructed if we have any hope of better partnerships with adult survivors and meaningful interventions with the perpetrator as parent. “

“The paradigm shift can be broken down into four sub-factors which help determine where the system is on the Continuum of Domestic Violence Practice. The first sub-factor is what is the understanding of the relationship between domestic violence and child safety and well being that is driving the system’s policy and practice. Is it viewed as an adult to adult issue with limited relevance to child safety and well being or is it seen as being potentially impactful to child functioning across a number of domains? Is it seen as a relationship-based issue or a perpetrator pattern-based issue? The second sub-factor is how well does child welfare tackle the role of gender expectations. Is the work guided by unconscious acceptance of highly gendered expectations of mothers and fathers or is it formed around high standards for fathers in policy and practice? Is there a commitment to a comprehensive assessment of the protective capacity of adult survivors, giving the right amount of credit for the “parenting in a foxhole” of mothers in abusive relationships? The third sub-factor is how well child welfare prioritizes and operationalizes partnering with adult domestic violence survivors. Does it see survivors as the cause of the harm to the children or as the most likely and best ally around the safety and well being of children? The fourth sub-factor is related to intersectionality of domestic violence, other child welfare issues and issues of diversity, oppression and vulnerability. Is there an understanding of the connections between domestic violence and other key issues like housing instability, medical neglect, substance abuse and mental health issues?  Is a perpetrator pattern based-approach and an assessment lens of coercive control being used to ensure that perpetrators with privilege are being held responsible for their behaviors? Is there an understanding that with a “Failure to Protect” approach poor families and families of color are more likely to experience economic and family stress due to a focus on the goal of “ending the relationship” to resolve the violence issue.”

“At the same time, even well meaning attempts to apply the broader trauma-informed literature to domestic violence child welfare practice can lead to serious areas of neglectful practice including failure to pay attention elements of coercive control patterns of behavior that don’t traditionally fall with the domain of trauma-informed practice such as stalking or isolation of the family; a focus on clinical aspects of trauma without a real engagement of the current safety needs of the family; attempt to treat the trauma symptoms of the adult and child survivors while the behavior of the perpetrator is on-going; failure to engage the trauma history of the perpetrator at all or in a domestic violence-informed manner; and a failure to account for how trauma-related disclosures might be used against a domestic violence survivor by the child welfare system.”

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