In 2006, the domestic violence advocates from the six demonstration sites gathered together for a final meeting to discuss the challenges and successes facing each community, share lessons learned over the six years of the initiative, and to receive technical assistance from national experts. During the course of this meeting, the Family Violence Prevention Fund conducted video interviews with five of the demonstration sites to highlight some of the lessons learned and common themes that emerged over the course of the initiative.
The video clips below include the domestic violence advocate’s responses to 7 key questions about their work in implementing the Greenbook guidelines in their community. As the network of communities undertaking similar efforts grows, we hope these videos and accompanying resources will provide some words of wisdom and concrete tools to assist other communities working to improve outcomes for families dealing with the overlap of domestic violence and child maltreatment.
Click on each question to view the interviews and view related tools and resources
Question #1: What was the Greenbook initiative about and why should advocates get involved?
From 2000-2007, the United States Departments of Health and Human Services and Justice funded six demonstration sites across the country to implement the Greenbook’s recommendations. Too often, women and children in violent situations are victimized twice: first by the abuser, and second by the very systems that are designed to help them. The "Greenbook" recommendations are designed to promote safety by teaching judicial, child welfare and domestic violence workers to coordinate more effectively. The goal is to keep women and children safe, allow women in violent relationships to access services without fear of losing custody of their children, and in most cases to prevent the removal of a child from a non-abusive parent. In many cases, the families that are in the child welfare system and are experiencing domestic violence are not being served by domestic violence programs and are not receiving the services and support they need.
Over the course of the initiative the advocates struggled to define their role in the Initiative. Fulfilling many different roles over time, advocates sat on Executive Steering Committees, crafted policy and protocols, provided direct services to woman involved in the child welfare system, consulted with caseworkers, attended community meetings, and transformed their own programs to reflect new learning. Each demonstration site chose to focus on different projects and outcome goals---some advocates worked on individual advocacy while others chose to focus on institutional advocacy.
Question #2: What was difficult about partnering with CPS and the Courts?
When domestic violence co-occurs with child maltreatment, courts and child welfare and domestic violence agencies may all be called upon to assist families. These service providers have different mandates, levels of power and resources, philosophies, and protocols. These differences can often result in ineffective interventions and additional trauma to families that are already under great stress.
Systems reform requires time, effort and other resources. Furthermore, the process of change is often uneven and requires revisiting needs and issues repeatedly. Bringing all of these different systems to the table for the first time was ground breaking and presented a new set of challenges. Child welfare and the dependency courts represented formal systems with well-defined roles and resources. By contrast, the domestic violence community was made up of grassroots organizations and did not represent a single system.
Once the systems were at the table, building consensus and moving the work forward added more layers of difficulty, but over time, progress was made. Cross system collaboration meant advocates had to delve into some very tough and sensitive internal and cross system conversations about how the systems (including their own) were and were not serving the best interests of families. One issue the advocacy community struggled with was exploring the needs of children exposed to violence without fueling further involuntary interventions from child welfare and courts.
Each demonstration community struggled with creating an atmosphere of trust and equal voice, as each system seemed to come to the table with their own interests and goals. Through trust building exercises, facilitated retreats and cross dialogue and cross training, communities were able to create an understanding of how each system worked.
Limited staff, funding and other resources are a challenge to collaborative efforts, especially if there are large differences among partners in the resources they bring. One of the major difficulties for domestic violence programs and their staff in particular, was the capacity of these programs to be involved in a collaboration based project that involved countless meetings, workgroups, and many additional responsibilities in addition to providing their advocacy services. Domestic violence programs struggled with securing additional funding to support the staff to attend the meetings and participate in other Greenbook related activities such as national conferences.
Question #3: What were some of the positive results?
The Greenbook embodies a fundamental commitment to undertake collaborative efforts to change systems in order to improve practices, services, and outcomes for children and families. Each site went through varied processes to decide which specific Greenbook recommendations to focus on implementing and all ended up with very different work-plans and strategies to improve outcomes for families. Each site conducted strategic planning processes where they did research on the scope of the problem in their community, prioritized goals and desired outcomes, and developed action plans. Each site participated in a local and national evaluation process and the reports are posted below.
Some examples of success include:
Increased overall collaboration and knowledge about co-occurrence for all systems;
Cross training for all partners;
Creating local policy;
The addition of new specialized positions (e.g. advocates in courts and CPS offices);
New multi-disciplinary teams and differential responses to support families;
New policies on confidentiality and information sharing;
New screening and assessment tools;
Enhanced practice skills with all members of the family; and
New programs that addressed the needs of children who had been exposed to domestic violence.
Although conflicts were experienced, sites reported that positive shifts were made in the way services were delivered. Moreover, the models, protocols, tools, and other resources the Greenbook sites developed provide valuable resources that other communities and organizations can draw from to implement change.
Question #4 How do advocates stay true to their values and philosophy?
As domestic violence agencies began to work more closely with child welfare and the courts, some advocates discussed their fears about staying true to women centered advocacy and were worried about being co-opted by systems. Advocates who were co-located in child welfare and domestic violence agencies were particularly susceptible because they were so deeply embedded into the system. These advocates found that by consulting with other colleagues in addition to keeping the voices of survivors and their children in the forefront, advocates were better able to maintain their values and philosophy.
Question #5: What are some of the ways your advocacy work has changed?
Over the course of the initiative domestic violence advocates shifted the ways in which they approached their own work with families in addition to moving the change within the child welfare and court system forward. The advocates came into the project somewhat reactive, and focused on how they wanted the child welfare and court systems to change and didn’t really reflect on how they could improve their own work.
In the beginning of the Greenbook, discussions about children started with the question of - Is domestic violence child abuse? This question always led to the same discussion, how to prevent cps from removing children. Albeit an important dialogue and one that deserves both practice and policy changes, it almost served as a conversation stopper. When the advocates changed the question to - What do children exposed to violence need? It opened the doors for more creative and helpful thinking. One that led to a continuum of responses, the last one being removal from mothers.
Over the course of the project, many advocates understood better the complex needs of children and some programs developed new services and protocols to strengthen their work in this area.
Question #6: What were some of the hot topics that emerged?
A number of common themes/issues emerged in all of the demonstration sites and advocates spent a tremendous amount of time discussing and attempting to develop strategies to address such questions/issues as:
Whether battered women should be mandated to services?
What information were domestic violence programs comfortable sharing with child welfare and does the advocacy community need to come to an agreement as a whole?
Does a lack of access to domestic violence programs (for some battered women) contribute to being involved with CPS and the courts? Does it contribute to the over representation of women and children of color in the CPS system?
How do programs intervene and support women who use violence, or have substance abuse issues and mental health issues?
Understanding the difference between exposure to domestic violence and child maltreatment and what services need to be developed in order to address children’s needs across a continuum
How can community organizing be beneficial in the prevention of unnecessary cps involvement?
How can domestic violence programs improve their outreach to families in the child welfare system?
How can advocates increase safety and provide support to families who want to stay together or have ongoing contact?
How can the collaboration include the voices of survivors and their children in a meaningful way?
How can domestic violence programs and communities sustain this work over time? How do partners deal with the lack of resources, staff turnover, etc.?
Question #7: What were some other lessons learned about collaboration?
As the demonstration initiative came to a close the advocates pointed to increased collaboration and cross training across systems as two major successes of the project. Advocates in all of the sites emphasized that having a better understanding how families experience and interact with the systems in addition to having relationships with people across systems improved their ability to advocate on behalf of the best interests of women and their children. Advocates also highlighted that keeping the voices of women and children at the forefront was essential in grounding the work and keeping it true to what families wanted and needed. Advocates also underscored that building relationships and trust across systems only occurred over time, was an ongoing process, and often involved conflict.
Video clip #7
Project Leadership Matters: Utilizing Skilled Leadership in Multi-System Change Efforts to Address the Co-Occurrence of Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment, Lessons Learned from the Greenbook Project Directors (Currently in Press)