Evaluation of Cross-Disciplinary Training on the Co-Occurrence of Domestic Violence and Child Victimization: Overcoming Barriers to Collaboration
Haas, Stephen M., Bauer-Leffler, Simon, Turley, Erica, Journal of Health and Human Services Administration
Over the last thirty years, researchers have studied the association between domestic violence and child victimization and have confirmed that such behaviors often occur within the same family. In fact, many studies have concluded that the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child victimization is rather substantial and wide-ranging (Appel and Holden, 1998; Edleson, 1999). In a review of thirty-five studies published between the late 1970's through the 1990s, it is estimated that adult domestic violence and child maltreatment was co-occurring in 30 to 60 percent of families (Edleson, 1999; Banks, Hazen, Coben, Wang, & Griffith., 2008; Potito, Day, Carson, & O'Leary, 2009). More recently, reviews of child protective services cases have disclosed that roughly 4 in 10 cases involving children who were either killed or seriously injured, the children had also been exposed to other domestic forms of violence (Spears, 2000). There is also some evidence that the severity of violence exhibited among intimate partners is closely associated with the severity of abuse experienced by children living in the home (Appel and Appel, 2006). Yet, it has only been within the past ten years that major efforts have been undertaken to address the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child victimization.
Historically, these two forms of victimizations have been treated independently of one another--even when members of the same family are involved. This is in part due to the fact that the two systems in charge of dealing with such victimization have operated under different sets of philosophies, missions, mandates, policies, and procedures (Appel and Appel, 2006; Moles, 2008; Potito, et al., 2009). While domestic violence programs more often deal with violence between adults, child protective service agencies are responsible for supporting, defending, and advocating for child victims of abuse and neglect (Saunders and Anderson, 2000; Banks, et al., 2008). Likewise, child welfare agencies often reside within state and other governmental entities while domestic violence service programs are typically housed in nonprofit organizations. As a consequence, the relationship between these two systems has sometimes been characterized as one with a lack of trust and where cooperation is more of the exception rather than rule (Findlater and Kelly, 1999a; Potito, et al., 2009).
Nonetheless, communities have begun to recognize that one agency alone cannot properly address the needs of families experiencing both domestic violence and child victimization. In response, new strategies centered on the use of cross-disciplinary training to increase collaboration are developing across the country on both state and local levels (Nuszkowski, Coben, Kelleher, Goldcamp, Hazen, and Connelly, 2007; Banks, et al., 2008). For example, states such as Michigan and Massachusetts are leading the way by successfully conducting cross-disciplinary, co-trainings among domestic violence and child welfare workers in an effort to improve the handling of co-occurrence cases (Whitney and Davis, 1999; Saunders and Anderson, 2000). Los Angeles and Orange counties in California have also sought to change the attitudes and knowledge of personnel across disciplines in an effort to increase inter-agency collaboration (Mills and Yoshihama, 2002).
Such initiatives are typically accomplished through didactic methods of instruction and the delivery of specific information designed to foster a better understanding of inter-agency policies, procedures, and responsibilities. Moreover, such trainings often also seek to educate trainees on how to recognize and overcome barriers to collaboration. By changing individual attitudes, educating case managers on the roles and responsibilities of other system actors, and facilitating change in prevailing policies and procedures that inhibit inter-agency cooperation, it is believed that cross-disciplinary trainings can help to reduce many barriers to collaboration. …