Children Exposed to Violence: A Blueprint for Action

Healthy families and healthy communities go together. Violence prevention for children is not just an issue of law enforcement—it’s much more. It’s about creating safe places and learning opportunities, ensuring relationships with caring adults in the family and community, and providing a network of supports and services.

—Ann Rosewater, Former Counselor to the Secretary of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS);
currently HHS Regional Director,
Atlanta, GA

  • Principle 1: Work together.

  • Principle 2: Begin earlier.

  • Principle 3: Think developmentally.

  • Principle 4: Make mothers safe to keep children safe.

  • Principle 5: Enforce the law.

  • Principle 6: Make adequate resources available.

  • Principle 7: Work from a sound knowledge base.

  • Principle 8: Create a culture of nonviolence.

    Principle 1: Work together

    Each profession has held a different piece of the puzzle making up a child’s life, but no discipline could see the complete picture. As a result, children have fallen through the cracks.

    — Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General of the United States

    When it comes to responding to the tragedy of violence, coordination among professionals is absolutely crucial.

    In some respects, the notion of “collaboration among diverse professionals” has come to feel like a flavor of the month. It sounds good and it makes sense, but too often what results is collaboration for its own sake. Yet when it comes to responding to the tragedy of violence, coordination among professionals is absolutely crucial. Children exposed to violence encounter a dizzying array of professionals (e.g., police, child protection workers, school counselors, domestic violence advocates, physicians, lawyers, therapists, judges), and whereas families must coordinate their interactions with these multiple practitioners, the agencies themselves are not required to coordinate their activities. Without coordination among this virtual crowd of helpers, children and their family members can be seriously retraumatized and may remain unprotected while perpetrators of violence go unpunished. Coordination is also critical to prevention. It creates a web of supports and protections that can provide a buffer against risks and can even eliminate (or at least postpone) the need for intervention.

    In the final analysis, no one program has the resources or the expertise to develop a truly comprehensive response to children and families experiencing violence. Programs must work together. In fact, experience shows that coordinated responses to children exposed to violence can accomplish the following:

  • Reduce the number of interviews and other agency procedures a child undergoes.

  • Minimize the number of individuals involved in a case.

  • Enhance the quality of evidence discovered.

  • Provide essential information to family and child protection services agencies.

  • Help build comprehensive safety plans for battered women and their children.

  • Prevent the system from holding battered women accountable for the actions of
        the abuser (thereby increasing the danger to mothers and children).

  • Generally minimize the likelihood of conflicts and finger-pointing among agencies
        with different philosophies and mandates.

    Collaboration is not having a meeting—the initial part is confrontation. You have to work out your differences before you can get to a common goal.

    —Pat McGrath, Deputy District Attorney,
    San Diego, CA

    In addition to collaborative practice, there is an equally pressing need for collaborative leadership. Interdisciplinary leadership bodies—such as a State or community board, coordinating council, or task force—can monitor program availability, effectiveness, and inclusiveness; publicly articulate needs; and help secure resources for joint use. At the agency and intergovernmental level, collaborative leadership stimulates the development of supportive systems, offers frontline staff a vehicle for solving problems that may arise from collaboration, and raises the level of accountability for collective effectiveness.

    Collaboration can range from taking steps to coordinate the activities of various disciplines to constructing a new and mutual helping system.
    Finally, collaboration must go beyond service agencies, community-based organizations, and individual professionals. It must include affected families, youth, and other community members while recognizing their differing levels of experience in, and readiness for, engaging in collaborative work. Too often, these voices are missing or are inadequately supported. As a result, agencies lose important information about how to design social support systems and services that are age-appropriate, culturally meaningful, and effective within local neighborhoods. Safety planning for battered women and their children is an excellent example of a multidisciplinary effort that actively involves the affected family members in the collaboration.

    Take action!

    Collaboration can range from taking steps to coordinate the activities of various disciplines to constructing a new and mutual helping system. It can mean joint training, consultation, or actual joint practice. Many States have laws requiring joint investigations and cooperation between law enforcement and child protection agencies in child abuse cases. Other States have laws authorizing creation of multidisciplinary teams that bring together law enforcement professionals, child protective services professionals, domestic violence advocates and service providers, healthcare professionals, and other practitioners.

    The following are examples of specific collaboration action steps that can be taken:

    Child protective services professionals. Professionals providing child protective services can work with law enforcement professionals on integrated approaches to prosecution. For example, by seeking guidance from law enforcement about investigation and evidentiary issues, child protective services workers can enhance their contribution to prosecuting alleged perpetrators and keeping families and children safe.

    Child protective services professionals also can work with domestic violence organizations to ensure that assessment and monitoring procedures will identify domestic violence, promote family safety, and support the child’s relationship with the nonabusive parent. When domestic violence is an issue, they can work with staff from community-based organizations, battered women and other family members, and others who know the family to assess the child’s immediate safety and determine what concrete steps can be taken to make the child safe.

    Elected officials can reassess confidentiality laws and practices that inhibit the sharing of information.

    Domestic violence advocates. Those who work as advocates in the area of domestic violence can support and organize regular cross-training activities with agencies and groups that work with families and children. Advocates can teach others why it is important to focus on the safety of mothers to ensure the safety of children. They can suggest strategies to build on the strengths of battered women and reinforce their safety. They also can work with child protective services and the courts to ensure that assessment procedures and advocacy efforts will identify child maltreatment and promote children’s safety.

    Healthcare professionals. In the healthcare field, professionals can use a team approach to intervening with child victims, taking advantage of the different skills of doctors, nurses (including school nurses), social workers, and other types of practitioners. Because of their leadership role in the healthcare field, doctors have a critical role to play in modeling how to work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals. Cooperation between healthcare professionals and child protection workers and domestic violence advocates should be proactive; i.e., it should take place before a joint intervention is necessary.

    Judges. Judges can take a leadership role in knocking down the barriers between different courts (such as delinquency and dependency courts) and restructuring the system to facilitate sharing of information about families. For example, a judge should be aware that a 17-year-old perpetrator standing before him or her is also appearing in another court as a victim of abuse, that the youth’s mother has been a victim of domestic violence and has a protection order on file, and that the youth’s younger sibling has been picked up for truancy. At a minimum, judges need to collaboratively develop protocols for sharing information and issue orders that foster appropriate communication across agencies where possible.28

    Law enforcement professionals. Law enforcement professionals can begin by acknowledging that because most officers are not child development specialists or mental health clinicians, it is critical to involve those who can provide expertise in these areas. Law enforcement professionals should have ready access to victim assistance professionals, advocates, and clinicians; involve them in the early stages to help manage cases; and ensure that support and services are provided to child victims and battered women on a continuing basis. In addition, training on child development—and on collaboration itself—can be incorporated into police academy training, ongoing officer training, and rollcall and can be arranged in conjunction with social workers or other professionals.

    Attorneys. Attorneys can work through State and local bar associations to identify needed improvements in legislation, financing, and court operations. Some bar associations have created interdisciplinary task forces or commissions through which attorneys can work with a range of other professionals on this issue.

    Legislators and policymakers. Elected officials can reassess confidentiality laws and practices that inhibit the sharing of information. In so doing, they need to remain sensitive to and protect the safety concerns of family members.29

    Researchers. Evaluation is necessary at every step in the process—from the initial stages of planning collaborative efforts through joint data collection and the dissemination of findings. Researchers must be consistently and actively involved in collaborative efforts. (For more on the issue of research, see Principle 7.)

    School personnel. All school personnel—teachers, counselors, administrators, school nurses, secretaries—should know their local child protective services workers so that when issues arise, they have ready access and established working relationships.

    Who’s doing it?

    Children’s Advocacy Centers coordinate with social services agencies and mental and physical health providers to ensure that child victims and witnesses get the support they need.
    Children’s Advocacy Centers. In more than 350 communities around the country, Children’s Advocacy Centers enable law enforcement officers, child protection workers, prosecutors, victim advocates, and therapists to coordinate the investigation, prosecution, and treatment of victims of child abuse and neglect. The Centers ensure cooperative interviews of children in a child-friendly setting, rather than multiple interviews in intimidating environments. Children’s Advocacy Centers also coordinate with social services agencies and mental and physical health providers to ensure that child victims and witnesses get the support they need. The U.S. Department of Justice provides funds to communities seeking to establish or strengthen Children’s Advocacy Centers.

    For more information, write Nancy Chandler, Executive Director, National Children’s Alliance, 1319 F Street NW., Suite 1001, Washington, DC 20004–1106; call 202–639–0597 (extension 101); e-mail info@nca-online.org; or visit www.nca-online.org.

    Community Based Family Resource and Support Program (CBFRSP). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Child Abuse and Neglect administers CBFRSP, which is designed to fund collaborative, statewide child abuse prevention networks in each State. Within each State, the lead agency funds the direct provision of prevention services at the local level. One unique feature of this program is that it encourages States to use collaborative efforts to leverage additional funds that can then be matched by additional Federal dollars. Funds have typically been used to start up, maintain, and expand public information activities and provide parent information programs that focus on healthy and positive parenting skills and foster an understanding of child development and behavior.

    For more information, write Ellie Wagoner, Federal Project Officer for Title II of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, CBFRSP, Office on Child Abuse and Neglect Children’s Bureau, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 330 C Street SW., Switzer Building, Room 2421, Washington, DC 22447; or call 202–205–0749. Local organizations may contact their State CBFRSP lead agency for information on funding and may also contact the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (800–394–3366) or Ellie Wagoner for information about how to reach their State CBFRSP contact.

    In the Safe Kids/Safe Streets program, five communities are working to break the link between child and adolescent victimization and later juvenile or adult criminality.
    The Child Development-Community Policing (CD–CP) Program. This program is a joint effort of the Yale Child Study Center, the New Haven Police Department, local schools, and State child protective services. CD–CP is designed to provide immediate mental health services to child crime victims and witnesses. Mental health providers are available to respond with police officers at crime scenes where children are in need—24 hours a day. Police officers and child development/mental health specialists train each other. CD–CP also provides advocacy and therapeutic services for battered women and for their children who have witnessed violence in the home. Whether responding to a domestic violence call or an altercation in a schoolyard, police and psychologists work together to uncover the root causes of children’s troubles and to help devise appropriate solutions.

    For more information, write Colleen Vadala, Administrative Assistant, CD–CP Program, 47 College Street, Suite 212, New Haven, CT 06510; or call 203–932–2939.

    Palm Beach County’s Community Partnership. The Children’s Mental Health Alliance and the Palm Beach County (Florida) Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative are working together to place a behavioral health professional in each of the County’s public schools. Beginning in elementary schools (with a focus on children in kindergarten through third grade), the project seeks to replace a system of fragmented and isolated programs with one that is coordinated and based on best practices for the delivery of children’s mental health services. Behavioral health professionals work in the schools, collaborating with teachers to identify at-risk children. Once a child has been recognized, the behavioral health professional connects the family to available resources in the school and community. In addition to providing day-to-day support for the project in Palm Beach, the Children’s Mental Health Alliance has a faculty of national and international experts to consult on best practices in behavioral health, model community partnerships, parent education models, and school-based antiviolence programs.

    For more information, write Pamela Sicher Cantor, M.D., The Children’s Mental Health Alliance, 52 East 72nd Street, New York, NY 10021; call 800–790–CMHA (2642) or 212–879–5244; or e-mail CMHAS@aol.com.

    Safe Kids/Safe Streets. In this demonstration program supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and Violence Against Women Office, five communities are working to break the link between child and adolescent victimization and later juvenile or adult criminality. The initiative seeks to reduce child and adolescent maltreatment and resulting child fatalities. Each Safe Kids/Safe Streets community is engaged in a full range of cross-agency strategies that are based on data and designed to improve the way the community responds to child abuse and neglect. Approaches include multidisciplinary investigation teams, case management and home visitation services, coordination between domestic violence and child abuse interventions, neighborhood-based family resource centers, community policing, dependency court reform, and prevention education.

    For more information, including contact information for each of the Safe Kids sites, write Robin Delany-Shabazz, Coordinator of Child Abuse and Neglect Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 800 K Street NW., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20531; or call 202–307–9963.

    The Safe Start Initiative will meet the needs of children and their families at any point of entry into the system.
    Safe Start Initiative. OJJDP is providing funding to expand community partnerships to prevent and reduce the impact of violence by creating a comprehensive service delivery system that will meet the needs of children and their families at any point of entry into the system. Partnerships between service providers—including the fields of childhood education and development, health and mental health, family support and strengthening, domestic violence and child welfare, substance abuse prevention and treatment, crisis intervention, courts and legal services, and law enforcement—should improve access to, and delivery and quality of, services for young children at high risk of exposure to violence and for those who have been exposed to violence. Safe Start is a multimillion dollar/5-year initiative.

    For more information, write Kristen Kracke, Initiative Coordinator, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 800 K Street NW., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20531; or call 202–616–3649.

    The Violence Intervention Program (VIP) for Children and Families. Based in New Orleans, LA, VIP is a partnership between the Department of Psychiatry at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center and the New Orleans Police Department. The program helps to identify and assist young children and families exposed to violence by providing education for police officers about the impact of violence on children, operating a 24-hour hotline, and developing a community resource directory to help police officers when they need to refer a child or family.

    For more information, write Joy Osofsky, Founder and Director, Violence Intervention Program (VIP) for Children and Families, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, Department of Psychiatry, 1542 Tulane Avenue, New Orleans, LA 70112; call 504–568–3997; or e-mail josofs@lsumc.edu.

    Additional resources for Principle 1:

    Work together

    For more specific recommendations on collaborative practice, see the following publications:

    Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Recommendations To Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Child Victims and Witnesses, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Monograph, June 1999, NCJ 176983 (for availability information, click here).

    Building Bridges Between Domestic Violence Organizations and Child Protective Services: A Policy and Practice Paper, June 1999 (revised February 2000). Available from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (800–537–2238).

    Children Exposed to Violence: Recommendations for State Justice Systems, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General, 1999, NCJ 180494 (for availability information, see click here).

    A Coordinated Approach to Reducing Family Violence: Conference Highlights, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice and American Medical Association (AMA), Research Report, October 1995, NCJ 155184 (for availability information, click here).

    Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice, recommendations from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1999. To order, write National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, P.O. Box 8970, Reno, NV 89507; or call 800–527–3223.

    Family Violence: Emerging Programs for Battered Mothers and Their Children, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1998. To order, write National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, P.O. Box 8970, Reno, NV 89507; or call 800–527–3223.

    Forming a Multidisciplinary Team To Investigate Child Abuse, Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, November 1998, NCJ 170020 (for availability information, click here).

    Sharing Information: A Guide to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and Participation in Juvenile Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and U.S. Department of Education, Family Policy Compliance Office, June 1997, NCJ 163705 (for availability information, click here).


    Principle 2: Begin earlier

    One of the greatest developmental challenges for toddlers is moving out and exploring the world. This beginning exploration requires courage and a certain degree of trust— that caretakers are there to protect and encourage them, and that the world they’re moving into is basically safe. What happens when children get very early messages that this is not the case? Does it thwart their curiosity, their desire to learn, their ability to establish social relationships?

    —Betsy McAlister Groves, Director,
    Boston Medical Center Child Witness to Violence Project

    Over half of the kids coming into the child welfare system are age 6 or below and historically we’ve done nothing to ask questions about them. We ignore these children as if we were blind to them. We must give each of these children a face.

    —The Honorable Cindy Lederman,
    Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court

    Newly available information can help solve the puzzle of preventing and reducing the impact of children’s exposure to violence.
    Newly available information can help solve the puzzle of preventing and reducing the impact of children’s exposure to violence. For example, recent research on children’s brain development shows that what happens very early in a child’s life forms the core of his or her later capacity for learning, socialization, and success.

    This information clearly indicates that efforts to date have not focused adequately on very young children and have been founded on the incorrect assumption that their exposure to violence does not matter because they do not know what is going on and will not remember it. In fact, feelings of terror, hopelessness, rage, and anxiety and a failure to make positive and meaningful social connections (responses commonly identified in older children exposed to violence) are very real for even the youngest child. For many children exposed to violence, the fear response is “turned on” all the time. Even in the presence of no external threat, these children experience the same feelings that other children who are not exposed to violence might experience in a state of high alarm. Children exposed to violence must accomplish crucial developmental tasks in this persistent state of fear.

    Experience early in life may be especially crucial in organizing the way the basic structures of the brain develop. For example, traumatic experiences at the beginning of life may have more profound effects on the “deeper” structures of the brain, which are responsible for basic regulatory capacities and enable the mind to respond later to stress.

    —Daniel Siegel, M.D., Medical Director,
    Infant and Preschool Service, University of California,
    Los Angeles; Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry,
    UCLA School of Medicine; Director of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Children’s Mental Health Alliance Foundation, New York30

    Violence prevention efforts must start much earlier, and all training for professionals working in this field must include information about very young children.
    This new information goes hand in hand with another relatively recent realization: that very young children constitute a significant proportion of the children who are exposed to violence. Domestic violence occurs disproportionately in homes with children younger than age 5;31 children younger than age 4 account for 76 percent of child abuse and neglect fatalities;32 and child abuse is the leading cause of death in children under age 1.33 The ramifications are clear. Violence prevention efforts must start much earlier, and all training for professionals working in this field must include information about very young children.

    Take action!

    Beginning earlier means:

  • Start before the child is born. It is necessary to reach at-risk families even
        before a child is born. All medical providers, including public health departments
        and home visitation programs, should routinely assess for violence against women
        during pregnancy—it is perpetrated against up to 16 percent of pregnant women
        and may be a predictor of future child abuse.34

  • Start at home. New parents need help and support to become capable and
        nurturing caretakers. The importance of bonding, attachment, and connectedness
        cannot be overstated.35 Home visiting by trained professionals—especially
        nurses36—is a strategy that is demonstrating increasingly positive results.
        Expanding the availability of parenting education based outside the home also
        is important.

  • Reduce isolation. Families that are isolated from kinship or community supports
        are at greater risk for violence. It is critical to figure out who these families are
        and connect them to the community. It is also necessary to develop specific
        strategies to counter batterers’ deliberate isolation of their partners and families.
        Comprehensive support services and programs, including childcare, Head
        Start/Early Head Start, and recreational activities, are essential.

  • Prepare for emergencies. Many of the children who are served by crisis
        nurseries and other respite programs witness violence every day. Respite and
        crisis care services can play a significant role in preventing violence by providing
        parents or caretakers temporary relief or assistance in times of stress or crisis.
        In addition, domestic violence advocates are also key players in providing
        assistance, support, and shelter for women and their children in times of crisis.

  • Remember youth. Unfortunately, some youth who are victims of violence are
        themselves parents who may become perpetrators of violence against their own
        young children. Teen parents need developmentally based support.

  • Train, train, train. Professional training across disciplines should include
        information about the effects of violence on very young children, ways to work
        with these children and their families, and the dynamics of domestic violence.

    Who’s doing it?

    Unfortunately, some youth who are victims of violence are themselves parents who may become perpetrators of violence against their own young children. Teen parents need developmentally based support.
    Cradle to Classroom program. A collaborative effort of the Chicago Public Schools, the Department of Public Health, six hospitals, and agencies for pregnant and parenting teens, this program trains teens in how to develop parenting skills and access community resources. It offers counseling to new mothers about issues of domestic violence and provides teens access to prenatal, nutritional, medical, social, and childcare services. The program has significantly reduced school dropout and multiple birth rates among participating young women. By providing enhanced opportunities for parents to bond with their infants—increasing basic trust and security for the children—this program also lays the groundwork for skills and relationships later in life that may prevent violence.

    For more information, write Sue Gamm, Chicago Board of Education, Specialized Services, 125 South Clark Street, Chicago, IL 60603; or call 773–553–2005.

    Crisis/respite care nurseries. Respite—identified as one of the most important components of comprehensive family support—is a continuum of services ranging from planned, temporary childcare for children with disabilities or chronic illness to emergency care for children living in families facing a crisis such as job loss, serious illness, homelessness, or other serious stresses that can lead to child abuse. Crisis nurseries that provide this service have been demonstrated to protect against abuse and other negative consequences resulting from violence in the home. A survey of extremely high-risk families participating in the Lane County Relief Nursery Program in Eugene, OR, during the 1994–95 program year found that 95 percent of the several hundred enrolled children had no reports of abuse or neglect during their participation in the program, and 90 percent were living safely with their families at the end of the period covered by the survey. A 1992 study of Iowa crisis care programs indicated a 13-percent decrease in the reported incidence of child abuse in the initial four pilot counties after crisis care programs were implemented. Of the more than 25,000 children whose families used the services of the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery (a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week shelter program for at-risk children in Spokane, WA), not one has sustained a life-threatening injury since the nursery opened its doors in 1987.

    For more information, write ARCH National Respite Network and Resource Center for Respite and Crisis Care, 800 Eastowne Drive, Suite 105, Chapel Hill, NC 27514; call 800–473–1727; or visit www.chtop.com.

    The Healthy Families America national initiative helps new parents get their children off to a healthy start
    Healthy Families America (HFA). This national initiative helps new parents get their children off to a healthy start. HFA provides home visiting services to families in more than 400 communities. Participation is strictly voluntary. The programs adhere to a series of critical elements: they must be intensive, comprehensive, long term, flexible, and culturally appropriate.

    For more information, write Barbara Rawn, Director of Programs/HFA, Prevent Child Abuse America, 200 South Michigan Avenue, 17th Floor, Chicago, IL 60604; or call 312–663–3520.

    The Prenatal and Early Childhood Nurse Home Visitation Program. Located in Denver, CO, the Nurse Home Visitation Program has been operating for more than 20 years. Nurses begin visiting low-income, first-time mothers during pregnancy and continue visits until a child is 2 years old. The program relies on trained, experienced, mature nurses with strong interpersonal skills. Nurses make home visits every 1–2 weeks and involve family members and friends. Each nurse carries a maximum caseload of 25 families. The program costs between $2,800 and $3,200 per family per year, and rigorous studies show that it reduces the risk of early antisocial behavior in children and reduces the incidence of maternal child abuse, substance abuse, and arrests. It also has recently been shown to reduce juvenile offending.37

    For more information, write Peggy Hill, Associate Director, Kempe Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health, 1825 Marion Street, Denver, CO 80218; or call 303–864–5207.

    Additional resources for Principle 2:
    Starting earlier

    For additional information on this topic, see:

    Caring for Infants and Toddlers in Violent Environments: Hurt, Healing and Hope, December 1993/January 1994; and Islands of Safety: Assessing and Treating Young Victims of Violence, April/May 1996; publications of Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. To order, call 800–899–4301 or visit www.zerotothree.org.


    Principle 3: Think developmentally

    Prevention is better than treatment, earlier is better than later, but it’s never too late to make a difference.

    —Jack Shonkoff, M.D., Chairman,
    National Academy of Sciences Board on
    Children, Youth and Families

    Too often, a child's developmental level or age is disregarded.
    New information about very young children can help reshape thinking on how to prevent and treat their exposure to violence and how to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. But violence happens not only to the very young—it happens to children of all ages. Yet, in many ways, there has been a failure to take into account the changing needs of children exposed to violence at different stages in their lives or to recognize that it is possible to help an older child overcome the impact of violence that may have occurred years ago. Too often, a child’s developmental level or age is disregarded. Perhaps worse, the procedures and settings are often geared to the needs of adults, not to children at all.

    This is not an effective strategy. Instead, expectations for children’s ability to understand, communicate, and participate must change as children grow and develop. The capacity to engage with them at each stage of development requires specific skills and training. Outreach to children should shift from home to school and then to clubs and community programs. As children grow, the people likely to be most effective with them may shift from their parents or other family members to teachers, coaches, or other adult mentors and eventually to peers.

    The bottom line is that whenever intervention is necessary, it must be developmentally appropriate for the child. Each formative stage presents unique opportunities and requires a different perspective and a different set of tools. A coordinated community response to children exposed to violence needs to identify known points of risk—when regular development can be derailed and when prevention and assistance are most needed—and respond with the best and most age-appropriate interventions.

    Take action!

    We ask a great deal of children who have been victims or witnesses to crime when we ask them to participate in the criminal justice system. It is a system designed for adults, not for children . . . and if children cannot participate effectively in the criminal justice system, it may be impossible to protect them from future victimization and to hold the offenders accountable for their actions.

    —From Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Recommendations
    To Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Child Victims and Witnesses,

    U.S. Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime38

    Bringing prevention, intervention, and accountability systems in line with the developmental needs of children can be accomplished through four principal strategies:

  • Providing training for all professional disciplines on child development
        (with particular attention to the early years) and ensuring access to child
        development experts when necessary.

  • Making the physical environments where services are provided child-friendly.

  • Changing agency procedures so they are consistent with children’s needs and
        capacities.

  • Partnering with schools.

    The U.S. Department of Justice recommends that all criminal justice professionals who come in contact with children be trained to identify those who are exposed to violence as victims or witnesses and be informed of the impact of victimization on children.
    Training. The U.S. Department of Justice recommends that all criminal justice professionals who come in contact with children be trained to identify those who are exposed to violence as victims or witnesses and be informed of the impact of victimization on children. Criminal justice professionals assigned to handle cases involving child victims and child witnesses should have indepth training in forensic interviewing, child development, identification of abuse-related injuries, the emotional and psychological impact of abuse, and legal issues related to child victims and witnesses.39

    This recommendation should be applied to professionals of all disciplines who come into contact with children exposed to violence. For example, domestic violence organizations should train staff regularly to understand, recognize, and respond to maltreatment in children of varying ages.

    Creating child-friendly environments. Police stations and courthouses should have victim-witness advocates available at all times to provide skilled support and assessment for children as they go through the justice system. Judges can arrange the courtroom so that safe and separate waiting areas are available to prevent the child from encountering the defendant or the defendant’s family. At a minimum, social services, medical facilities, and domestic violence agencies should have child-sized furniture, toys and drawing material, and light-filled and cheerfully decorated interview rooms.

    Creating developmentally sensitive procedures. Judges can prevent trauma to children in the court by, for example, making sure that all objections are argued outside the hearing or presence of the child, requiring that all attorneys use developmentally appropriate language when questioning child witnesses, and limiting continuances. In addition to modifying court procedures, courts should enforce rules of evidence to ensure that juries hear credible out-of-court statements that children make about abuse. Courts also should provide privacy protections for children and minimize the number of times a child is interviewed. Closed-circuit television or similar accommodations should be used as needed.

    Systems should be put in place to coordinate social services interviews with mental and physical health examinations and with law enforcement investigations. The goal should be to minimize the number of interviews to which children are subjected.

    Schools are natural partners for implementing strategies to meet the developmental needs of children exposed to violence.
    Mental health services that are developmentally appropriate must be created for children. Child protective services also should be certain to screen for domestic violence and carefully assess the child’s safety. Collaboration with domestic violence advocates, child development specialists, and others is essential for providing the best resources to children.

    Partnering with schools. Schools—including Early Head Start, Head Start, and other preschool programs—are natural partners for implementing strategies to meet the developmental needs of children exposed to violence. Schools have extensive, age-specific experience and expertise with children. Schools also have mechanisms in place for providing preventive information to youth and families, flagging problems early, and intervening and working with families. For example, families are likely to find schools more familiar (and therefore less threatening) than social service or law enforcement agencies. Child protective services professionals, domestic violence advocates, healthcare professionals, law enforcement professionals, and other practitioners should take advantage of the resources provided by schools, actively engaging school personnel as consultants and partners.

    Who’s doing it?

    Age-specific programs. In a few places around the country, new violence and delinquency prevention and intervention programs for children are using age as the basis for defining participants.

  • In Boston, MA, the Child Witness to Violence Project (CWVP) provides
        counseling, advocacy, and outreach for children age 8 or younger who witness
        violence. The project has a multilingual, multicultural staff of social
        workers, early childhood specialists, and mental health professionals and is
        run under the auspices of the Department of Developmental and Behavioral
        Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center.

        For more information, write Betsy McAlister Groves, Project Director,
        CWVP, Boston Medical Center, MAT 5, Boston, MA 02118; or call 617–414–
        4244.

  • In Hennepin County, MN, the Targeted Early Intervention Program is an
        intensive, long-term intervention for children whose delinquent behavior is first
        identified when they are younger than 10.

        For more information, write Kristi Lahti-Johnson, Hennepin County Attorney’s
        Office, Early Intervention and Protection Division, 525 Portland Avenue South,
        Minneapolis, MN 55415; or call 612–348–6223.

  • In Los Angeles, CA, the LA Commission on Assaults Against Women developed
        the In Touch With Teens program to expose teenagers to the myths and realities
        of teen relationship violence and inform them about alternatives and resources
        for assistance.

        For more information, write Leah Aldridge, LA Commission on Assaults
        Against Women, 605 West Olympic Boulevard, Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA
        90015; or call 213–955–9090.

    In Pittsburgh, PA, Violence Free: Healthy Choices for Kids teaches fourth- and fifth-grade children alternative choices for handling interpersonal conflict.

  • In Pittsburgh, PA, the Women’s Center and Shelter
        of Greater Pittsburgh has created Violence Free:
        Healthy Choices for Kids, an elementary school
        prevention program that teaches fourth- and
        fifth-grade children alternative choices for
        handling interpersonal conflict, helps school
        personnel identify students living with domestic violence, and shows parents
        where and how to get help for partner abuse. The shelter provides the Healthy
        Choices program to 11 elementary schools in the Pittsburgh area.

        For more information, write Janet Scott, Women’s Center and Shelter of
        Greater Pittsburgh, P.O. Box 9024, Pittsburgh, PA 15224; or call 412–687–
        8017 (extension 332).

  • In Sacramento County, CA, the Community Intervention Program is geared to
        children ages 9 to 12 who are arrested or cited by law enforcement and whose
        families have been investigated at least once for child abuse and/or neglect.

        For more information, write Diane Telling-Rodriguez, Chief Deputy
        Probation Officer, County of Sacramento Probation Department, 3201 Florin-
        Perkins, Sacramento, CA 95826–3900; or call 916–875–0286.

  • In Toronto, Canada, the Earlscourt Under 12 Outreach Project is a multifaceted
        intervention for boys between the ages of 6 and 11 who commit minor to serious
        offenses.

        For more information, write Leena K. Augimeri, Outreach Project, 46 St.
        Clair Gardens, Toronto, Ontario, M6E 3V4 Canada; call 416–654–8981
        (extension 112); or visit www.earlscourt.on.ca.

    Child Victims Model Courts Project. Since 1995, 18 courts around the country have used the support of this project to adopt model practices, including alternative dispute resolution; community-based services; multidisciplinary, court-led meetings and training; court calendar improvements; assignment of a single magistrate and prosecutor for the life of each case; more substantive preliminary hearings; and increased representation for children and families. The project is a joint effort of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

    For more information, write the Permanency Planning for Children Department, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, P.O. Box 8970, Reno, NV 89507; call 800–527–3223; or e-mail ppp@pppncjfcj.org.

    The School Resource Officers program combines the efforts of educators, law enforcement officers, students, and parents to prevent or deal with school-based violence.
    School Resource Officers program. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services sponsors training and grant funding for School Resource Officers (SRO’s) throughout the Commonwealth. The SRO program combines the efforts of educators, law enforcement officers, students, and parents to prevent or deal with school-based violence. While SRO’s are, first and foremost, law enforcement officers charged with keeping order, they also serve as law-related educators, role models, and community resources. The program is implemented differently in different jurisdictions, depending on local needs. For example, in Chesterfield County, a suburban community outside of Richmond, the police department places an SRO in each of the county’s 11 middle schools and 9 high schools. In Bedford County, a large rural county in central Virginia, SRO’s have collaborated with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office and Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court to implement a “No Contact Contract” to address a bullying problem within the schools.

    For more information, write Donna Bowman, Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, 805 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23219; call 804–371– 6506; or e-mail dbowman@dcjs.state.va.us.

    King County Kids Court. In this 5-hour, Saturday court school in Seattle, WA, child victims of crime meet with a judge and a prosecutor and participate in activities that help them understand the roles of court personnel, discuss their concerns about testifying in court, ask questions, and feel comfortable in the courtroom. Children and their parents also learn stress reduction techniques to help them through the trial. Kids Court has developed a comprehensive curriculum that is being replicated in several cities across the country.

    For more information, write Donna Belin, Executive Director, King County Kids Court, Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, 704 228th Avenue NE., PMB 323, Sammanish, WA 98053; or call 206–386–KIDS(5437).

    Additional resources for Principle 3:
    Think developmentally

    For more specific recommendations on developmentally appropriate practice or more information on research, best practices, and training opportunities, consult the following resources:

    American Academy of Pediatrics–Task Force on Adolescent Assault Victim Needs. Adolescent assault victim needs: A review of issues and a model protocol, Pediatrics 98(5):991–1001, 1996.

    American Academy of Pediatrics–Task Force on Violence. The role of the pediatrician in youth violence prevention in clinical practice and at the community level, Pediatrics 103(1):173–181, 1999.

    American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), 407 South Dearborn Street, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60605; 312–554–0166; www.apsac.org.

    Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Recommendations To Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Child Victims and Witnesses, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Monograph, June 1999, NCJ 176983 (for availability information, click here).

    Caring for Infants and Toddlers in Violent Environments: Hurt, Healing and Hope, a publication of Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, December 1993/January 1994. To order, call 800– 899–4301 or visit www.zerotothree.org.

    Children Exposed to Violence: Criminal Justice Resources, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Bulletin, June 1999, NCJ 176984 (for availability information, click here).

    Children Exposed to Violence: Recommendations for State Justice Systems, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General, 1999, NCJ 180494 (for availability information, click here).

    Handbook on Questioning Children: A Linguistic Perspective, by Dr. Anne Graffam Walker, American Bar Association, Center on Children and the Law, 1999. To order, call 800–285–2221.

    Interviewing Child Witnesses and Victims of Sexual Abuse, Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1996, NCJ 161623 (for availability information, click here).

    Islands of Safety: Assessing and Treating Young Victims of Violence, a publication of Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, April/May 1996. To order, call 800–899–4301 or visit www.zerotothree.org.

    Missing and Exploited Children’s Training Programs, Fox Valley Technical College Criminal Justice Department, P.O. Box 2277, Appleton, WI 54913–2277; 800–648–4966; www.foxvalley.tec.wi.us/ojjdp.

    National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse/American Prosecutors Research Institute, 99 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703–739–0321; www.ndaa-apri.org.

    National Children’s Alliance, 1319 F Street NW., Suite 1001, Washington, DC 20004; 800–239–9950 or 202–639–0597; www.nca-online.org.

    National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, 330 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20447; 800–FYI(394)–3366 or 703–385–7565; nccanch.acf.hhs.gov.

    National Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Association, 100 West Harrison Street, North Tower Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98119–4123; 800–628–3233 or 206–270–0072; www.nationalcasa.org.

    National Resource Center on Child Maltreatment, Two Midtown Plaza, 1349 West Peachtree Street NE., Suite 900, Atlanta, GA 30309; 404–876–1934.

    Report to Congress: Youth Education and Domestic Violence Model Programs, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Education, 1998. To order, call William Riley, Director, Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, at 202– 401–5529.

    Search Institute, 700 South Third Street, Suite 210, Minneapolis, MN 55415; 800–888–7828; visit www.search-institute.org.

    Starting Early Starting Smart: An Early Childhood Collaboration Between the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education and the Casey Family Program, ncadi.samhsa.gov/promos/sess/finalreportfinding/default.aspx.


    Principle 4: Make mothers safe to keep children safe

    I’m here because I think that if someone would have listened to what my mom was saying, she still could have been alive today. It’s like nobody cared. Police were called to my house constantly and nothing was done. I just want you to listen to what I have to say because, I may only be 15, but I’m here because my mom couldn’t be. And I’ll do what I can for domestic violence no matter what it takes.

    —Wendy H., youth participant in the
    National Summit on Children Exposed to Violence

    As efforts to address the problem of children exposed to violence move into the next century, so too must some basic operating assumptions change with the times. While this broad dictum certainly could apply to many issues, discussions among participants in the National Summit on Children Exposed to Violence repeatedly returned to three related assumptions that still serve as the basis for much policy and practice. These assumptions must be challenged so that the groundwork can be laid for solutions that will be more successful than past efforts.

    Once the significant co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence is acknowledged, it will be possible to begin sensitive and successful interventions and improve the capacity to hold perpetrators accountable.
    The first assumption is that maltreatment of children and violence against women are completely separate phenomena. The second is that children who witness violence are not significantly affected by it. The third is that the nonabusive parent in a domestic violence situation (the mother in 95 percent of the cases) should be held accountable for the actions of the abuser.

    Family violence is rarely just a one-time event. When children witness abuse between their parents, there are no safe spaces. Violence committed by a loved one kills trust—and can have an enduring effect on how children learn to form relationships. . . . If we are to achieve our goals we must enable a child to heal and be safe, and to enable that child’s mother—too often a victim of abuse herself—to achieve safety and stability. And we must seriously hold perpetrators accountable without further jeopardizing children and women’s safety and the stability of that family.

    —Ann Rosewater, Former Counselor to the Secretary of the
    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS);
    currently HHS Regional Director,
    Atlanta, GA

    Child maltreatment and violence against women often happen under the same roof. Although it would be difficult to discern from current policy and practice, two decades of research have confirmed that adults and children often are victimized in the same family. Data show that police encounter at least half a million children during domestic violence arrests each year;40 there is an overlap of 30 to 60 percent between violence against children and violence against women in the same families; battered women are more likely to abuse their children than women who have not been battered;41 and children who are exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of being murdered or physically injured.42

    Once the significant co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence is acknowledged, it will be possible to begin sensitive and successful interventions and improve the capacity to hold perpetrators accountable. The overlap of child maltreatment and domestic violence is one reason why collaboration between law enforcement, child protective services, and domestic violence programs is so critical.

    Research shows that even when children do not suffer physical injury, the emotional consequences of viewing or hearing violent acts can be severe and long lasting.
    Violence exceeds the bounds of physical harm. Children witness violence— homicide, rape, assault, and domestic violence—every day. Research shows that even when children do not suffer physical injury, the emotional consequences of viewing or hearing violent acts can be severe and long lasting. However, the issue is complex. The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges reports:

    A wide range of studies has shown that some children who witness adult domestic violence suffer considerably. These studies indicate that, on average, children who experience domestic violence exhibit higher levels of childhood behavior, social, and emotional problems than children who have not witnessed such violence. These documented harmful effects to child development have led many to conclude that if a child resides in a home where domestic violence is occurring, the child is in immediate danger and requires child protection services.

    Research in this area is still in its infancy, however, and a large percentage of child witnesses in these studies did not show elevated levels of developmental problems. The impact of witnessing violence on children is moderated by a number of factors, with some children showing great resilience in the face of adversity. Each child’s response to domestic violence, therefore, should be assessed carefully, and harm established clearly, before agencies and courts determine which interventions are required.43

    Battered (nonoffending) mothers are allies for those who are trying to protect the children. Historically, women who are victims of domestic violence often have been held responsible for batterers’ violence against them and their children. They have been blamed for being abused, for exposing their children to abuse, for not leaving the perpetrator, or for not stopping his violence. This blame belies the fact that most battered women care deeply about their children’s safety and work hard to protect them both from physical assaults by a batterer and from the harm of poverty and of isolation that may result from leaving or reporting a batterer. They know that creating safety for children requires eliminating both of these sets of risks.44

    We must listen to these mothers and recognize their heroism. The more we know about them and their lives, the better we are at communicating their strengths, which has resulted in needed policy changes.

    —The Honorable Cindy Lederman,
    Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court

    A battered woman cannot change or stop a perpetrator’s violence by herself; if she does not have adequate support, resources, and protection, leaving him may simply make it worse for her children. In many cases, making mothers safe— by trying to remove or change the source of the domestic violence risk (i.e., the batterer)—does make children safer and offers them their best hope for stability. Therefore, child welfare administrators and juvenile court personnel should seek to keep children affected by maltreatment and domestic violence in the care of their nonoffending parent whenever possible.45 Women’s efforts to protect their children should be recognized and supported.

    I never considered talking to the mother about what she wanted. I ‘slayed the dragon,’ but the dragon paid the rent and took care of the kids while mom was at work . . . . It’s unfair to ask women and children to stick their necks out and risk their lives to help us prosecute cases when we are unwilling to look at what they really need.

    —Pat McGrath, Deputy District Attorney,
    San Diego, CA

    Take action!

    Women’s efforts to protect their children should be recognized and supported.
    To make this vision of safety and stability for battered women and their children real will require shifts in traditional practices and a willingness to confront some complicated and vexing policy questions. For example, how can juvenile courts and others protect children of battered mothers without revictimizing and blaming the nonabusive mother? What should be done when a battered woman wants to protect her child but is unable to do so? What should child protection workers do when a batterer is back in the house and children are not safe? What can be done to support battered women so they are not forced to return to abusive relationships? Can battered mothers who abuse their children be supported and protected from harm and also be held responsible for child maltreatment and for changes in their behavior? 46

    The following are examples of specific action steps that can begin to resolve some of these dilemmas:

    Child protective services professionals. Professionals in child protective services should take seriously the impact that witnessing violence has on children but should not automatically assume that allowing a child to witness violence constitutes maltreatment and requires removing the child from the home. Agency policy should clearly state the criteria under which children can remain safely with a nonabusing parent, the assessment required to determine safety, and the safety planning, services, support, and monitoring that will be required in these cases. Because of the variation in children’s responses to exposure to domestic violence, decisions should be made on a case-by-case basis.

    Domestic violence advocates. Advocates should keep the situation of children and families in mind as they work with victims. They should understand, recognize, and respond to child maltreatment and work collaboratively with child protection, law enforcement, and the judiciary to create safety and stability for families. Advocates should also develop greater capacity for serving mothers from diverse backgrounds and those with multiple problems (e.g., mental health or substance abuse issues). They also should be aware of State laws requiring them to report suspected child abuse to the appropriate authorities.

    Healthcare professionals. Staff in hospital emergency rooms, rape crisis centers, and outpatient pediatric and mental health clinics, for example, should know how to safely and accurately assess for the presence of domestic violence when they see victims of child abuse and for the presence of child abuse when they see victims of domestic violence.

    Law enforcement agencies should work for the safety of battered mothers and their children by holding the batterer—not the adult victim—accountable for domestic abuse.
    Judges and court staff. Judges in domestic violence and child protection cases should give complete instructions that fully protect both the mother and her children. The instructions should provide for helping the victim develop a safety plan, should explicitly address the issue of weapons possession by perpetrators, and should include very carefully crafted custody and visitation orders. Judges should hold perpetrators in contempt if they violate conditions of the order and should follow up with the victims regarding how best to enforce the order. Judges also can be leaders in helping child protection and domestic violence services change the way they interact with one another. The Open Society Institute’s Center on Crime, Communities & Culture recommends:

    The juvenile court should insist that a petition alleging ‘failure to protect’ on the part of the battered mother also alleges efforts she made to protect the children, the ways in which she failed to protect, and the reasons why, as well as identifying any perpetrator who may have prevented or impeded her from carrying out her parental duties. The juvenile court should prioritize removing any abuser before removing a child from a battered mother, and it should work with child welfare and social service agencies to ensure that separate service plans for the perpetrator and the victim of domestic violence are developed.47

    Law enforcement professionals. Law enforcement agencies should work for the safety of battered mothers and their children by holding the batterer—not the adult victim—accountable for domestic abuse. Law enforcement agencies should make arrests, enforce protection orders removing the batterer from the home, and monitor batterer compliance with required services and counseling plans. In addition, every time police are called to a domestic violence incident, they should be aware that if children are present, it is important to assess whether they, too, have been abused. Policies and protocols should be in place for responding to such situations. Agencies should develop these policies and protocols in collaboration with domestic violence programs, child welfare agencies, mental health agencies, juvenile courts, the criminal justice system, and the community. Police on the scene also need to be aware of State law requirements for reporting child abuse and neglect. Agencies should consider creating a special unit with expertise in this area.

    School personnel. In addition to watching for signs of exposure to violence among students, school personnel should be aware of the signs of domestic violence—and the probability of co-occurrence with child maltreatment—and be trained in how to respond effectively.

    Who’s doing it?

    The Dade County (Florida) Dependency Court Intervention Program operates on the assumption that the most effective way to make a child safe is to enhance the safety of the mother.
    Casa Myrna Vazquez (CMV). This bilingual and multicultural organization in Boston, MA, provides shelter and services to battered women and their children. CMV has two unique programs for teenagers. The Adolescent Transitional Living Program provides a supervised residence for up to 3 years for eight homeless, battered teenage girls who are pregnant or have infants. The young women receive comprehensive services and advocacy workshops in health, parenting, and housing. CMV also has a Moms and Sons Program to provide much-needed housing to battered women with adolescent male children. The program shelters 12 to 16 individuals or 4 families for up to 18 months and provides culturally appropriate clinical intervention and treatment, including intergenerational activities, recreation therapy, and mentoring from positive male role models.

    For more information, write Casa Myrna Vazquez, Inc., P.O. Box 180019, Boston, MA 02118; or call 800–992–2600 or 617–521–0100.

    Dade County Dependency Court Intervention Program (DCIP) for Family Violence. To date, the Dade County (Florida) DCIP may be the Nation’s only court program designed to address the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and other forms of family violence, to deal with domestic violence in the context of the child protection system, and to bring battered women’s advocacy to child dependency proceedings. DCIP seeks to raise awareness in the child welfare system that children are at increased risk for additional harm when domestic violence and child maltreatment co-occur. It also seeks to provide outreach-based advocacy for battered mothers, learn more about the impact of domestic violence, provide advocacy and service for battered mothers, and lead the development of a coordinated community response. DCIP operates on the assumption that the most effective way to make a child safe is to enhance the safety of the mother.

    For more information, write The Honorable Cindy Lederman, Dependency Court Intervention Program, 3300 NW. 27th Avenue, Room 201, Miami, FL 33142; or call 305–638–6087.

    DOJ/HHS demonstration project. In the fall of 2000, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services will begin implementing a demonstration initiative in selected communities that are interested in better addressing the intersection of domestic violence and child maltreatment. Five communities will conduct demonstration projects based on the guidelines established by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. The initiative will seek to facilitate more effective interventions for battered women and their children involved with three systems: child welfare agencies, domestic violence service providers, and dependency courts. Strategies may include increasing collaboration between systems, developing and implementing cross-system policy and staff development, improving procedures within each system, holding batterers accountable, and seeking greater community resources for serving affected families. A national evaluator will assess whether the initiative promotes more effective collaboration between local partners than previously and whether the initiative helps women and children achieve greater safety.

    For more information, write Jerry Silverman, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, 200 Independence Avenue SW., Room 450G, Washington, DC 20201; call 202–690–5654; or e-mail jsilverm@osaspe.dhhs.gov.

    Domestic violence specialists consult with child protection workers throughout the Commonwealth and provide case consultation, direct advocacy, and linkages to community resources.
    Massachusetts Department of Social Services Domestic Violence Unit. Ten years ago, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts began to build a Domestic Violence Unit within its child protective services program. This was the Nation’s first systemwide effort to bring domestic violence expertise to bear on decisionmaking within child protective services. Domestic violence specialists consult with child protection workers throughout the Commonwealth and provide case consultation, direct advocacy, and linkages to community resources. As a result of the program, Massachusetts protective services workers identified domestic violence as an issue to be addressed in 48 percent of their cases in 1994.

    For more information, write Pam Whitney, Director, Massachusetts Department of Social Services Domestic Violence Unit, 24 Farnsworth, Boston, MA 02210; or call 617–748–2338.

    Oregon’s State Office for Services to Children and Families (SCF). Oregon’s State child protection services and welfare agency, SCF, is working in collaboration with the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic Violence to develop and evaluate specialized services for victims of domestic violence who are referred to child protective services. The project’s goals are to increase the safety of battered women and their children referred to child protective services and to decrease the practice of blaming victims. Its strategies are to enhance collaboration between local SCF branches and domestic violence programs and to develop and evaluate specialized, effective services for battered women served by SCF. The agency is contracting with three local domestic violence programs to place advocates in rural jurisdictions. Housed at the local SCF offices, advocates provide consultation to SCF workers and direct services to clients. Services include assessment of domestic violence, creation of safety plans, advocacy, and peer support.

    For more information, write Bonnie Braeutigam, Domestic Violence Program Coordinator, State Office for Services to Children and Families, Child Protection Unit, 500 Summer Street NE., E–68, Salem, OR, 97310–1067; or call 503–945–6686.

    Additional resources for Principle 4: Make mothers safe to keep children safe

    For more information and specific recommendations on effective practice linking domestic violence and child welfare, see:

    Building Bridges Between Domestic Violence Organizations and Child Protective Services: A Policy and Practice Paper, June 1999 (revised February 2000). Available from the National Resource Center on Domestic Violence (800–537–2238).

    Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice, recommendations from the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1999. To order, write National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, P.O. Box 8970, Reno, NV 89507; or call 800–527–3223.

    Family Violence: Emerging Programs for Battered Mothers and Their Children, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, 1998. To order, write National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, P.O. Box 8970, Reno, NV 89507; or call 800–527–3223.



    Principle 5: Enforce the law

    It is a sad reality that the criminal justice system often does not deal adequately, and in my mind justly, with crimes against children . . . . It is time, way past time, for us to look at children’s exposure to violence as a law enforcement issue as well as a social services issue.

    —Eric Holder, Deputy Attorney General of the United States

    A crime against a child is a crime. The suggestion that these cases should be handled in mediation—instead of in the justice system—is wrong. If the justice system can’t handle it, the system needs to change.

    —J. Tom Morgan, District Attorney, Decatur, GA

    Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials agree that, all too often, abusive conduct that would typically result in a felony conviction if committed against an adult stranger is charged and treated less seriously when the victim is a child.
    Prosecutors and other law enforcement officials agree that, all too often, abusive conduct (sexual, physical, sometimes even homicidal acts) that would typically result in a felony conviction if committed against an adult stranger is charged and treated less seriously when the victim is a child. They see too many cases in which a child has died as the result of repeated physical abuse by an alleged “caretaker” and the defendant successfully argues that he or she never intended to hurt the child or never intended for the child to die. In the not-so-distant past, in fact, the death of a child as a result of chronic child abuse or severe neglect was not recognized under most State laws as an intentional homicide and often was not prosecuted to the fullest extent. The tragic result is that perpetrators of violence against children may be free to commit their crimes again. Domestic violence victims have suffered from a similar lack of response and advocacy from the legal system.

    The criminal justice system has a responsibility to make changes that will hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable for their actions through vigorous enforcement of the law.
    Tougher sentencing, however, may not be enough. Even when perpetrators of child abuse and domestic violence are convicted, judicial oversight and supervision of offenders are too often inadequate. Aggressive followup is critical to protecting children and their mothers.

    We judges don’t follow up on our orders. We have to bring batterers in, and create a legal and judicial culture of safety that prevents future harm.

    —The Honorable Ernestine Gray, Administrative Judge,
    Orleans Parish (Louisiana) Juvenile Court

    Why are the laws not fully upheld? Probable reasons include cultural prohibitions against intervening in “family matters,” this Nation’s early history of treating women and children as property and not according them basic rights, and continued bias and discrimination against women. Regardless of the origins of the problem, the criminal justice system has a responsibility to make changes that will hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable for their actions through vigorous enforcement of the law.

    The court and law enforcement improvement strategies detailed under Principle 3 of the Action Plan are designed to protect children from retraumatization by the criminal justice system (and other systems). As noted, an important byproduct of these changes is a greater likelihood of successful prosecution. Yet ensuring accountability goes beyond helping children be more effective witnesses in court. Holding perpetrators accountable will also require changes to statutes, rules, policies, and procedures.

    You should never be in a position where you can’t hold a defendant accountable because you don’t want to put a 5- year-old through the trauma. We have to change the rules.

    —Pat McGrath, Deputy District Attorney,
    San Diego, CA

    Take action!

    Manage the violent behavior of domestic violence offenders through proactive and frequent judicial monitoring and the use of graduated sanctions.
    A unified, statewide family court may be the ideal way to address many of these issues, but in the absence of such a system, much can be accomplished through legal and procedural changes. The U.S. Department of Justice has a number of specific recommendations for action that will help hold perpetrators of violence against children accountable for their actions. These are listed below.

    Enact State legislation to:

  • Reform murder statutes to allow prosecutions of fatal child abuse under
        “felony murder” provisions and to create special provisions addressing
        murders of children as part of a pattern or practice of child abuse.

  • Adopt evidence rules to ensure that juries in child molestation cases can
        hear evidence that the defendant has committed similar crimes.

  • Adopt evidence rules to ensure that juries hear credible out-of-court
        statements that children make about abuse.

  • Speed up trials where children are the victims and/or witnesses.

  • Provide privacy protections to children who are the victims of crime.

  • Start with the presumption that children will tell the truth.

  • Allow special procedures for child testimony on the rare occasions when
        a child cannot testify in the usual manner.

  • Change the Federal rules of evidence so they are consistent with those in
        some of the more progressive States. Although the Federal rules do not
        technically affect local rules, legal arguments always refer to Federal
        rules as the basis for decisionmaking.

    For more detailed information and sample legislative language on each of these and other recommendations, see Children Exposed to Violence: Recommendations for State Justice Systems, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of the Deputy Attorney General, 1999, NCJ 180494 (for availability information, click here).

    Change policies and procedures to:

  • Designate specialists or create special units in police departments and
        prosecutors’ offices to handle child victims and witnesses (and/or make use
        of child interview specialists from another discipline).

  • Maintain reasonable caseloads. A national survey of prosecutors found that
        of all cases, child abuse and adult sexual assault require the most time and
        resources.

  • Provide training to prosecutors, judges, and police officers in forensic
        interviewing, child development, identification of abuse-related injuries,
        the emotional and psychological impact of abuse, and legal issues related to
        child victims and witnesses.

  • Manage the violent behavior of domestic violence offenders through proactive
        and frequent judicial monitoring and the use of graduated sanctions
        (such as re-education programs for men who batter, community service,
        intense supervision, incarceration, and, when appropriate, testing and
        treatment for alcohol or substance abuse). In addition, judges should be
        open to input from diverse community-based organizations to jointly craft
        community-sensitive (and thus more effective) sanctions for domestic
        violence offenders. Probation and parole agencies, in collaboration with
        law enforcement, should develop strategies for monitoring offenders and
        strictly ensuring that they meet the terms and conditions of probation
        and parole.

  • Create multidisciplinary investigation teams. (For more information about
        this strategy, see Principle 1.)

  • Establish a volunteer program for court-appointed special advocates and
        standardize training for volunteer advocates. These programs have
        traditionally been found in family or juvenile courts, but there has been an
        increase in the use of independent legal advocacy for child victims in criminal
        court proceedings.

  • Ensure vertical prosecution (assignment of a single magistrate and prosecutor
        for the life of a case) in cases involving children exposed to violence.

    Additional resources for Principle 5: Enforce the law

    For more specific recommendations for changes to criminal justice policies and practices, see:

    Breaking the Cycle of Violence: Recommendations To Improve the Criminal Justice Response to Child Victims and Witnesses, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Monograph, June 1999, NCJ 176983 (for availability information, click here).

    Law Enforcement Response to Child Abuse, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse, May 1997, NCJ 162425 (for availability information, click here).

    New Directions from the Field: Victims’ Rights and Services for the 21st Century, Child Victims, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Bulletin, 1998, NCJ 172827 (for availability information, click here).

    Overview of the Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse: Update 2000, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Bulletin (presents information about the guides in the Portable Guides to Investigating Child Abuse series), February 2000, NCJ 178893 (for availability information, click here).

    Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Development and Operation Guide, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime and Sexual Assault Resource Service, Minneapolis, MN, NCJ 170609 (for availability information, click here).

    For an annotated directory of criminal justice resources on this issue, see:

    Children Exposed to Violence: Criminal Justice Resources, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime, Bulletin, June 1999, NCJ 176984 (for availability information, click here).

    For information on research, best practices, and training opportunities, contact:

    American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, 740 15th Street NW., Washington, DC 20005; 202–662–1720; www.abanet.org/child/home.html.

    American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children (APSAC), 407 South Dearborn Street, Suite 1300, Chicago, IL 60605; 312–554–0166; www.apsac.org.

    Missing and Exploited Children’s Training Programs, Fox Valley Technical College Criminal Justice Department, P.O. Box 2277, Appleton, WI 54913–2277; 800–648–4966; www.foxvalley.tec.wi.us/ojjdp.

    National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse/American Prosecutors Research Institute, 99 Canal Center Plaza, Suite 510, Alexandria, VA 22314; 703–739–0321; www.ndaa-apri.org.

    National Center on Child Fatality Review, 4024 North Durfee Avenue, El Monte, CA 91732; 626–455–4585; www.ican-ncfr.org/.

    National Children’s Alliance, 1319 F Street NW., Suite 1001, Washington, DC 20004; 800–239–9950 or 202–639–0597; www.nca-online.org.

    National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS), 2277 Research Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20850; 800–851–3420; www.ncjrs.org.


    Who’s doing it?

    A number of dependency court improvement initiatives are under way around the country. The following are two examples:

    Arizona Court Improvement Project. Adopting the Model Dependency Court (referenced above, in Principle 3), Arizona has enacted legislation requiring juvenile courts to take a more active role in child welfare case oversight and decisionmaking. The legislation seeks to ensure safe and permanent homes for Arizona’s children through comprehensive and timely judicial intervention.

    For more information, write The Honorable Nanette M. Warner, Presiding Judge, Pima County Juvenile Court Center, Division 20, 2225 East Ajo Way, Tucson, AZ 85713; or call 520–740–2054.

    Tragically, the systems that support children and families are too often the first to be cut when budgets are tight.
    Court reform efforts in New York City. The New York City family courts have designed new court procedures to eliminate unnecessary delays and adjournments, reduce attorney scheduling conflicts, and increase the continuity of trials by forging stronger alliances with other agencies. Under the Family Justice Program, the court, in conjunction with various agencies, has initiated new procedures that can shorten the length of time a child is in foster care awaiting adoption or help a battered woman avoid the anxiety and frustration of unnecessary adjournments. In addition, a family court judge who had previously handled 20 different types of court proceedings can concentrate on just one area of family law and increase expertise in that area. Agencies that interact daily with the court also can dedicate personnel to the handling of specific types of cases. New York City’s family court reforms also include the introduction of specialized domestic violence courts that seek to ensure continuity of court and agency personnel, intensive case monitoring, defendant accountability, and supportive services for victims. After 2 years, the Brooklyn Supreme Court Domestic Violence Court recorded significantly lower rates of dismissal, probation violation, and outstanding warrants.

    For more information, write The Honorable Joseph M. Lauria, Administrative Judge, New York City Family Court, 60 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013; or call 212–374–3711.

    (For additional action steps, see Principles 2 and 3.)


    Principle 6: Make adequate resources available

    We need to do this by dreaming big.

    —Ellen Cokinos, Executive Director, The Children’s
    Assessment Center, Halston, TX

    The need for adequate resources is a constant refrain in human services, the criminal justice and healthcare systems, communities, and families. The story is the same when it comes to preventing and reducing the impact of children’s exposure to violence: needs seem to exceed resources. Tragically, the systems that support children and families are too often the first to be cut when budgets are tight.

    Resources are desperately needed for both prevention and intervention. Public expenditures on child welfare services far exceed expenditures on support and prevention programs such as Head Start and Early Head Start; childcare; the Women, Infants and Children’s Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC); and school lunch and breakfast programs.48 In addition to prevention, there are other areas of particularly critical need, including funding to:

  • Bring community partners to the table and build their capacity to collaborate
        in ways that enhance their community’s response to children’s exposure to
        domestic and other violence.

  • Reduce caseloads and make needed resources available for child protection
        services and other direct service providers.

  • Support and evaluate the effectiveness of offender rehabilitation programs
        that are part of a graduated range of sanctions that uses the coercive power
        of the criminal justice system to hold offenders accountable for their
        criminal acts of violence and for changing their behavior.

  • Serve battered women who are seeking to create safety for themselves and
        their children (e.g., by meeting their need for housing, transportation,
        childcare, job training, etc.).

  • Offer a full range of therapeutic treatments needed by children exposed to
        violence and training in practices that are sensitive to the developmental
        needs of children.

    Legislation is passed all the time telling courts what they’re supposed to do, but there is never any help to go along with it—no money for support staff, or to build a child-friendly courtroom. Without resources we are not enabling the judiciary to deal with this issue.

    —The Honorable Ernestine Gray, Administrative Judge,
    Orleans Parish Juvenile Court

    There is no doubt that addressing the needs of children exposed to violence is initially expensive. Yet over the long term, these expenditures prove to be extremely cost effective.
    There is no doubt that addressing the needs of children exposed to violence is initially expensive. Yet over the long term, these expenditures prove to be extremely cost effective. Being abused or neglected as a child increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53 percent and of arrest for a violent crime as an adult by 38 percent.49 Therefore, preventing the violence or reducing its impact soon after it occurs means—at a minimum—saving the later costs of investigating, prosecuting, and rehabilitating juvenile and adult offenders who were child victims.

    Some prevention programs that have studied expenditures versus outcomes are confirming the cost effectiveness of early, high-quality efforts. For example, the Tender Loving Care Home Visitation program in Oakland, CA, documents that the cost of the program in governmental and societal services ($6,000 per family per year) is recovered by the newborn child’s fourth birthday and the projected cost savings over a child’s lifetime are four times the cost of the program.

    Take action!

    Making sure adequate resources are available to address children’s exposure to violence means making better use of what is currently available (by improving coordination and encouraging volunteerism) and securing substantial and sustained financial investments—both public and private—in families, communities, and the systems that support and protect them.

    The following are ways to make creative use of what is already available:

  • Community-based service agencies can be the recipients of restitution
        checks from sex offenders or batterers. (Although individual amounts are
        small, they can add up.)

  • Governments at the Federal, State, and local levels can review the range
        of funding streams available for children exposed to violence and, where
        possible, identify opportunities to improve the coordination of funding.
        Legislatures can create new funding mechanisms (see examples below,
        under “Who’s doing it?”). Resources can be structured to be consistent
        with the principles in this Action Plan.

  • Healthcare professions can take advantage of telemedicine (delivery of health
        services via telecommunication) to assist children who have been the victims of
        violence. This technique helps resolve access issues and allows a team approach
        to be implemented at lower cost and without retraumatizing the child.

  • Universities can cover the costs of some of the training described in this
        Action Plan by incorporating training into existing curriculums and opening
        classes to professionals from the community.

    Who’s doing it?

    The following are examples of how to secure additional resources:

    The California Children and Families Initiative (Proposition 10) levies a cigarette tax to be used to create a comprehensive, integrated program of early childhood development services.
    California’s Proposition 10. The California Children and Families Initiative (Proposition 10) was passed by voters in November 1998. The Initiative levies a 50-cent-per-pack cigarette tax to be used to create, on a county-by-county basis, a comprehensive, integrated program of early childhood development services: health care, quality childcare, parent education, and intervention programs for families at risk.

    For more information on Proposition 10, write California Children and Families Commission, 501 J Street, Suite 530, Sacramento, CA 95814; call 916–323–0056; e-mail info@ccfc.ca.gov; or visit www.ccfc.ca.gov.

    The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County (Florida). The Children’s Board is a special taxing district for children’s services. Legislation passed in Florida in the 1980’s authorizes counties to take to public referendum the opportunity to assess property worth up to $5 million and use the funds for prevention and early intervention programs for children at the county level. In addition to standard child abuse prevention activities, services include childcare, media advocacy, comprehensive health care, research, and parent education.

    For more information, write the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, 1205 East Eighth Avenue, Tampa, FL 33605–3503; call 813–229–2884; or visit www.childrensboard.org.

    Smart Start for Alaska’s Children. Smart Start is a comprehensive, interdisciplinary plan to protect children, invest in proven prevention programs to break the cycle of family violence, and save money by reducing the costs associated with crime, health care, and welfare. Smart Start costs $32 million ($7 million for health care for 11,600 children and 800 pregnant women, $11 million for prevention programs, and $14 million for child protection programs) but does not require an increase in the State budget. Federal Medicaid payments to the State provide $31 million, and the remaining $1 million comes from higher taxes on snuff and chewing tobacco.

    For more information, write Shari Paul, Office of the Governor, State of Alaska, P.O. Box 110001, Juneau, AK 99811; call 907–465–4870.

    In Santa Clara County, the National Conference for Community and Justice has developed a number of strategies for aggressively seeking compensation for children who have been exposed to violence.
    Victim Compensation in Santa Clara County (California). California’s comprehensive victim and witness assistance programs may be operated locally by government or by private nonprofit agencies. A program operates in every county of the State. In Santa Clara County, the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ), a nonprofit human relations agency, has developed a number of strategies for aggressively seeking compensation for children who have been exposed to violence. (In California, children who have witnessed domestic violence are eligible for State compensation.) NCCJ places staff at the local Department of Social Services and family court and, through these sites alone, makes compensation claims for approximately 120 children each month. Each child receives up to $10,000 in mental health care. Under a new law, victims of domestic violence are now also eligible for compensation for relocation and home security expenses.

    For more information, write Joe Yomtov, Director, Victim Witness Program, 777 North First Street, Suite 220, San Jose, CA 95112; call 408–295–2656; or visit www.victim.org.


    Principle 7: Work from a sound knowledge base

    We are talking about a lot of children. 8,000 in Miami, 31,500 in Chicago, 2,300 in Salt Lake City. Almost 500,000 children nationwide—1 to 2 percent of the children in every community. And we know so little about them . . . .

    —The Honorable Cindy Lederman,
    Presiding Judge of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Court

    There’s harder science that can be brought to bear. We must know with precision how much child abuse there is and whether it is rising or falling.

    —David Chadwick, MD,
    Director Emeritus of the Center for Child Protection,
    Children’s Hospital, San Diego, CA

    There are significant differences in philosophy, strategy, and focus among the diverse professionals working with children exposed to violence. Yet there is consensus that despite a strong foundation, much more solid research and data are needed. There is also consensus that this lack of information makes it difficult to select the most effective interventions and get them funded.

    A number of areas of research and evaluation need particular attention, including:

  • Basic research on child development and resiliency.

  • Short- and long-term evaluations of a range of interventions, including child
        abuse and neglect interventions, efforts to rehabilitate offenders, school-based
        interventions, domestic violence advocacy, and others.

  • Research on the effectiveness of coordinated community response efforts.

  • Research that focuses on protective factors unique to particular communities
        and that assesses the impact of cultural competence in working with families.
        More information is also needed about systemic issues related to the
        overrepresentation of particular minority groups among victims and offenders,
        including patterns in case identification and selection.

    Take action!

    Wherever possible, efforts to prevent and reduce the impact of children’s exposure to violence must be based on solid research.
    Wherever possible, efforts to prevent and reduce the impact of children’s exposure to violence must be based on solid research. These efforts must also be documented and evaluated so that future endeavors can be improved on the basis of experience. These imperatives are at the root of elevating the issue of children and violence to a level of national prominence, securing adequate funding, and, most important, protecting children and their families. Participants in the National Summit on Children Exposed to Violence identified three critical components of an effective research strategy:

  • Research should seek input from community members, practitioners, and
        victims and, where possible, should be conducted in active collaboration
        with them.

  • International collaboration should be fostered to gain and share knowledge
        worldwide.

  • More concerted efforts are needed to broadly disseminate research findings,
        best and promising practices, and community directories of resources
        and practices. Consideration should be given to establishing a national
        clearinghouse.

    In 1994, recognizing the need for a greater synthesis of existing research in the area of violence prevention and intervention, the Institute of Medicine and the Board on Children, Youth and Families of the Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education of the National Research Council established a Committee on the Assessment of Family Violence Interventions. The Committee has recently issued a series of reports examining the emerging social science research base on violence and families. (For copies of reports, call the National Academy Press at 800–624–6242 or visit www.nap.edu.)

    Additional resources for Principle 7: Work from a sound knowledge base

    For more information on available data and program resources, contact:

    American Humane Association, 63 Inverness Drive East, Englewood, CO 80112; 303–792–9900; www.americanhumane.org.

    Crimes Against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, Horton Social Science Center, 20 College Road, Room 126, Durham, NH 03824; 603–862–1888; www.unh.edu/ccrc.

    National Center for Juvenile Justice (the research arm of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges), 710 Fifth Avenue, Suite 3000, Pittsburgh, PA 15219; 412–227–6950; www.ncjj.org.

    National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information, 330 C Street SW., Washington, DC 20447; 800–FYI (394)–3366 or 703–385–7565; nccanch.acf.hhs.gov.

    National Resource Center for Safe Schools, Northeast Regional Educational Laboratory, 101 Southwest Main Street, Suite 500, Portland, OR 97204; 800–268–2275; www.safetyzone.org/.

    National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 600 Flank Drive, Suite 1300, Harrisburg, PA 17112; 800–537–2238.

    Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Family Violence Department, P.O. Box 8970, Reno, NV 89507; 800–527–3223; www.ncjfcj.org/dept/fvd/res_center/.

    For additional coverage of this topic, see:

    “Convening a National Call to Action: Working Toward the Elimination of Child Maltreatment,” Child Abuse & Neglect The International Journal, Special issue, 23(10), 1999.


    Principle 8: Create a culture of nonviolence

    We have to pull the fabric of community back around the children who have suffered so much.

    —Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States

    Each of the steps identified in this Action Plan has value for preventing and reducing the impact of children’s exposure to violence. Taken together, these action steps will have even greater force. The greatest success, however, will be achieved when these actions are taken within a larger social environment that can help sustain them. A culture of nonviolence that supports children, women, and families is the vital context to ensure success.

    A culture of nonviolence that supports children, women, and families is the vital context to ensure success.
    In the broadest terms, this means creating a culture with zero tolerance for violence—one that promotes peaceful conflict resolution; rejects the use of power and control over children, women, and minorities; and respects racial, cultural, and class differences. It is also a culture that values and supports caregiving and parenting and recognizes the importance of the relationships between children and their parents and other caregivers, especially in the early years.

    Protective factors, collective efficacy, and children exposed to violence

    This kind of culture would, of course, be desirable under any circumstances. But it would have particular significance for preventing and reducing the impact of children’s exposure to violence. New studies are revealing two important facts. First, it has been demonstrated that the presence of “protective factors” (e.g., strong family relationships, alternative supports, dedicated daily time for children with a single caregiver, high expectations and a sense of purpose for children, and meaningful involvement in duties and community service, among others) can, in effect, guard children against the negative effects of exposure to violence.50 Second, it has been demonstrated that when all other variables are eliminated, the one characteristic that accounts for less violence in a community is the willingness of neighbors to intervene on behalf of others. This “collective efficacy” is the neighborhoodwide determination of residents to stop violence or flag its possible precursors.51

    Rebuilding the physical infrastructure of communities is an important part of creating a culture of nonviolence that supports children, women, and families.
    There is evidence to suggest, then, that a culture supportive of families, women, and children would inherently provide the protective factors and the collective efficacy needed to keep children safe from violence. Many believe in the value of such primary prevention, but specific skills and training are needed to develop effective primary prevention strategies and initiatives.

    Take action!

    There is no doubt that cultural change is a tall order. But there are a number of critical steps that agencies, communities, and individuals can take to achieve this goal.

    Agencies can take the following steps:

  • Ensure meaningful citizen involvement. Agencies can build local
        leadership and capacity by involving parents and youth as real partners,
        especially in formulating policies and procedures. Agencies can also work
        with families to establish informal prevention and support networks in the
        community (e.g., kinship networks, mentoring programs, and self-help groups).
        These networks will extend the reach and effectiveness of the agency.

  • Bring new voices to the table. The interests, needs, and concerns of
        communities of color, immigrant and migrant communities, youth, and others
        are largely ignored as agencies and others make decisions about their goals
        and operating strategies. Without representation of diverse voices, the
        Nation will never overcome racism, sexism, and other roots of violence in
        society, specifically against children. Local and Federal agencies should
        mandate that decisionmaking bodies include voices that are often unheard.

  • Use the bully pulpit. Agency heads, judges, doctors, elected officials
        (prosecutors, county commissioners, city council members, and legislators),
        faith leaders, and others can be leaders in building community coalitions to
        take on the issues outlined below.

    Communities and individuals can take the following steps:

  • Focus on creating safe spaces. Rebuilding the physical infrastructure
        of communities—the natural environment, play areas, transportation,
        facilities for community meetings and entertainment, schools, and shelters—
        is an important part of creating a culture of nonviolence that supports
        children, women, and families.

  • Increase awareness about children’s exposure to violence. As noted earlier
        in this Action Plan, the public’s understanding of the issue of children’s
        exposure to violence is limited. Because it has been variously—and
        unsuccessfully—regarded as a health, education, welfare, or justice problem,
        it lacks a unified voice. As a result, there is a great need to have something to
        organize around and something toward which greater resources can be directed.
        Communities can take a number of steps to increase local awareness or to
        support broader national efforts, including developing public information
        campaigns.

  • Stop gun violence. Clearly, guns and other weapons play a role in the
        violence to which children, women, and families are exposed. Taking whatever
        steps are appropriate in a given community to stop gun violence is important.

  • Hold the media accountable. Communities can hold the media
        accountable for playing both positive and negative roles in children’s
        exposure to violence. Communities can seek to ensure that local news stations
        do not cover violence gratuitously, that local newspapers publish program
        ratings so parents can keep violent images out of their homes, and that the
        media report on positive efforts to stop violence, enhance protective factors,
        and implement collective efficacy. Communities and individuals can work with
        the media to develop compelling, accurate portrayals of the impact of
        violence on children. Representatives of the media should be included on
        community task forces and collaborative teams formed to address these issues.
        In addition, the media should participate in developing a range of tools
        (such as parental warnings and “V-chip” technology) to reduce children’s
        exposure to violence over the airwaves. Finally, the media should help
        ensure that efforts to educate parents and youth about violence include
        information about the roles and responsibilities of the media.

    We do a terrible job of covering child abuse because there is a thicket of difficulty in covering it accurately. So it takes a great deal of patience and belief in the story on the part of editors to make this work. We have to invest resources in these stories.

    —Bob Levey, Columnist,
    The Washington Post

  • Support community policing. Neighborhoods that have community
        policing describe it as a foundation for problem-solving partnerships
        between communities and law enforcement. Through this strategy, law
        enforcement can also reorganize and reallocate resources to take a more
        holistic approach to working with families. In New Haven, CT, for example,
        the police department changed its Juvenile Division to the Family Services
        Unit to better serve families as a whole.

    Who’s doing it?

    The media should help ensure that efforts to educate parents and youth about violence include information about the roles and responsibilities of the media.
    Boston’s Problem-Solving Project. Like other major cities, Boston, MA, has been grappling with the problem of youth, gang, and firearm violence. A National Institute of Justice-sponsored Problem-Solving Project has used innovative methods and a team approach to disrupt firearms markets and deter youth violence. The team—which includes Harvard University researchers, city-employed gang outreach and mediation specialists, and representatives of the Boston police, Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, and Massachusetts Department of Probation—has developed real strategies for presenting gang members in Boston with a choice: “stop the flow of guns and stop the violence—or face rapid, focused, and comprehensive enforcement and corrections.” Although it is too soon to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of the program, the immediate results have been very encouraging.

    For more information, write David M. Kennedy, Senior Research Analyst, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, 79 John F. Kennedy Street, Cambridge, MA 02138 (or call 616–495–7533); or write Lieutenant Kevin Foley, Youth Violence Strike Force, Boston Police Department, 364 Warren Street, Roxbury, MA 02119 (or call 617–343–4444).

    The Child Wire. A recently launched news service, The Child Wire expects to become the definitive source of news pertaining to and affecting children and the premier medium for positive, solution-oriented news stories about young people. The Child Wire concept was developed to create a newsroom atmosphere in which children’s issues are met with seriousness and considered both news and newsworthy. Child Wire journalists will provide indepth reporting on broad topics that affect the growth and development of children.

    For more information, write Rachel Jones, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, The Child Wire, P.O. Box 15575, Washington, DC 20003–0575; call 202–543–5033; or e-mail Rachella35@aol.com.

    Families and Schools Together (FAST). This program model is dedicated to early intervention to help at-risk youth succeed. It offers youth structured opportunities for building relationships with parents and other family members, peers, other families, school representatives, and community members. The goal is to provide youth with a social safety net of protective factors to help them through difficult times. FAST has been widely acclaimed and replicated. The first 10 FAST trainers were certified in 1989; now, more than 250 trainers are active in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

    For more information, write Lynn McDonald, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1025 West Johnson, Madison, WI 53706; call 608–263–9476 or 608–663–2382; or visit www.wcer.wisc.edu/fast.

    Parents Anonymous, Inc., is dedicated to strengthening families through mutual support and parent leadership.
    Parents Anonymous, Inc. The oldest national child abuse prevention organization in the United States, Parents Anonymous, Inc., is dedicated to strengthening families through mutual support and parent leadership. Parents Anonymous, Inc., leads a national network of affiliated community-based Parents Anonymous® groups that hold weekly meetings for approximately 100,000 parents and children around the country. These groups are led by parents and professionally trained facilitators. Many State and local programs operate telephone hotlines. In addition, Parents Anonymous, Inc., works to raise awareness and educate the public on critical issues and community- and policy-based solutions. Volunteers make up the core support for the programs.

    For more information, write Parents Anonymous, Inc., 675 West Foothill Boulevard, Suite 220, Claremont, CA 91711; call 909–621–6184; e-mail parentsanon@msn.com; or visit www.parentsanonymous.org/paIndex1.htm.

    Partnerships for Preventing Violence. This free, national satellite broadcast training program specifically teaches violence prevention practitioners (not the lay public) how to implement effective primary prevention initiatives. The program is cosponsored by the U.S. Departments of Justice, Education, and Health and Human Services and is operated by the Prevention Institute.

    For more information, write Rachel Davis, Prevention Institute, 1181 Colusa Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94707; call 510–528–4482; or visit www.hsph.harvard.edu/php/VPP/partnerships/.

    Risk-focused policing has transformed the police mission from one of simply apprehending criminals to one of controlling crime before it happens.
    Risk-focused policing. The City of Redlands, CA, has transformed its paradigm for addressing neighborhood quality-of-life issues by consolidating housing, recreation, and senior services into the police department under the auspices of Risk-and Protective-Focused Prevention (RPFP). The RPFP program was adapted from an adolescent problem-prevention model developed by researchers at the University of Washington. Redlands’ RPFP policing works to understand and address the causes and prevention of problems in adolescents—substance abuse, delinquency, violence, dropping out of school, and pregnancy—by transforming the police mission from one of simply apprehending criminals to one of controlling crime before it happens. Redlands has mapped community, family, school, and peer group risk and protective factors at the neighborhood level, enabling the police department and the many community-based organizations that share access to these data to effectively focus their limited resources.

    For more information, write Chief Jim Bueermann, 212 Brookside Avenue, P.O. Box 1025, Redlands, CA 92373; or call 909–798–7661.

    Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative. In 1999, the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Justice launched the Safe Schools/ Healthy Students Initiative to support comprehensive, integrated, communitywide approaches to promoting healthy childhood development and addressing the problems of school violence and alcohol and other drug abuse. Local initiatives will work from strategic plans that include issues such as school safety, violence and substance abuse prevention and treatment, school- and community-based mental health services for prevention and treatment, early childhood development, and educational reform. Grants totaling more than $141 million have been awarded to 77 communities to support implementation of 3-year projects.

    For more information, write Kellie J. Dressler, Program Coordinator, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 800 K Street NW., Suite 300, Washington, DC 20531; call 202–514–4817; or e-mail dresslek@ojp.usdoj.gov.



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    Safe From the Start: Taking Action on Children Exposed to Violence
    OJJDP Summary
    November 2000