Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Evaluation Study of an Interdisciplinary Social Work and Law Curriculum for Domestic Violence

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

Evaluation Study of an Interdisciplinary Social Work and Law Curriculum for Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

OVER THE PAST 3 decades, a growing recognition of the problem of domestic violence within the United States has resulted in the development of an array of services delivered by different professional disciplines to address the legal, social service, and mental and physical health needs of survivors, perpetrators, and child witnesses. While the availability of these services for those in need of them remains a critical issue, coordination of services requiring collaboration among the various professionals operating them, is also being recognized as a significant issue (Kantor, Enos, & Dalton, 2001; Shepard, 1999; Shepard & Pence, 2001). Too often, for example, a survivor finds herself alone with the ominous task of negotiating the various organizational structures of each particular service, as well as deciphering the different professional perspectives of the various disciplines involved.

In an effort to educate students to more effectively collaborate in the field of domestic violence, Fordham University's School of Social Work and School of Law developed an interdisciplinary course elective, Domestic Violence: Social Work and Law. The course is open to both social work and law students and is jointly taught by a law and a social work professor. The course teaches core knowledge about domestic violence, as well as interdisciplinary knowledge about each professions mission and role, in general and the specific roles undertaken by social workers and lawyers in each phase of domestic violence intervention. It also models collaboration skills through the joint teaching process and allows students to apply their domestic violence and interdisciplinary knowledge through extensive use of small group exercises where students have to work together on case situations. A detailed description of the course was published in the Journal of Social Work Education (Forgey & Colarassi, 2003), and this article evaluates the effectiveness of this course in teaching knowledge about domestic violence in general, interdisciplinary knowledge about each discipline's mission and roles, and the specific roles played by each profession in domestic violence intervention. Additionally, the effectiveness of the course in changing attitudes about interdisciplinary collaboration and about domestic violence is examined.

Background and Rationale

In an effort to create a more holistic and less fragmented domestic violence response system, there have been several developments within the service delivery system aimed at facilitating service coordination and collaboration among the different professions involved. One such development is the creation of coordinated community response systems, whereby communities bring together legal' health, mental health, and social service professionals to communicate and work together in a more systematic way in the service of ending violence (Gondolf, 1998; Kantor et al., 2001; Pence & Paymor, 1993; Shepard, 1999; Shepard & Pence, 2001). Another development involves structural changes within organizations in which other disciplines are hired to more effectively meet the multiple needs of survivors, perpetrators, and child witnesses. Examples of these include battered women legal services organizations that hire social workers to perform a myriad of social work roles including psycho-social assessment and domestic violence shelters that hire lawyers to provide legal services to victims (Forgey & Moynihan, 1999; Forgey, Moynihan, & Litman, 1999; Kantor et al., 2001; St. Joan, 2001; St. Joan & Salomonsen-Sautel 2001; Wylie, 1996). Some family and criminal court systems have also adapted their structures to accommodate the range of social service and mental health needs of victims, perpetrators, and their children by hiring social service professionals within the court structure to perform such roles as assessment, case management, and monitoring (Epstein, 1999; Tsai, 2000). …

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