Misunderstandings, misalignments, and motivation for changing systems
Professionals’ accounts of working with families experiencing domestic and family violence in the child protection system
Keywords:Domestic violence, family violence, child protection, practice issues, sector reform, collaborative practice
The child protection and domestic violence sectors continue to struggle to effectively respond to the complex needs of survivors of domestic violence. This article reports the findings of a study investigating the perceptions and work practices of twenty-five Australian practitioners who work with families to attend to safety concerns of children who experience domestic violence. They reported dissatisfaction with the persistence of systems which hold mothers solely accountable for their children’s safety and render violent fathers invisible. Practitioners also expressed motivation to develop better system-wide and collaborative responses to families that are based upon feminist principles that promote gender equity, are person-centred, culturally respectful and violence informed. This however can only be achieved through wide-scale policy and legislative reform.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety. (2019). Domestic and family violence, housing insecurity and homelessness: Research synthesis (2nd Ed.; ANROWS Insights, 07/2019). Sydney, NSW: ANROWS.
Bancroft, L., Silverman, J. G., & Ritchie, D. (2012). The batterer as parent: Addressing the impact of domestic violence on family dynamics (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Banks, D., Landsverk, J., & Wang, K. (2008). Changing Policy and Practice in the Child Welfare System Through Collaborative Efforts to Identify and Respond Effectively to Family Violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(7), 903–932. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260508314693
Black, T., Trocmé, N., Fallon, B., & MacLaurin, B. (2008). The Canadian child welfare system response to exposure to domestic violence investigations. Child Abuse & Neglect, 32(3), 393–404. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.10.002
Busetto, L., Wick, W., & Gumbinger, C. (2020). How to use and assess qualitative research methods. Neurological Research and Practice. 2(1), 1-10.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101
Brown, C., Peck, S., Humphreys, J., Schoenherr, L., Saks, N., Sumser, B., & Elia, G. (2020). COVID-19 lessons: The alignment of palliative medicine and trauma-informed care. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management. 60(2): e26-e30.
Cox, P. (2016). Violence against women: Additional analysis of the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Personal Safety Survey, 2012 (ANROWS Horizons: 01.01/2016 Rev. ed.). Sydney: ANROWS.
De Simone, S. & Heward-Belle, S. (2020). Evidencing better child protection practice: why representations of domestic violence matter. Current Issues in Criminal Justice. 32(4) 403-419.
Douglas, H., & Walsh, T. (2010). Mothers, Domestic Violence, and Child Protection. Violence Against Women, 16(5), 489–508. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801210365887
Gillingham, P. (2006). Risk assessment in child protection: Problem rather than solution? Australian Social Work, 59(1), 86-98.
Healey, L., Connolly, M., & Humphreys, C. (2018). A collaborative practice framework for child protection and specialist domestic and family violence services: Bridging the research and practice divide. Australian social work, 71(2), 228-237.
Hester, M. (2012). The three planet model. In N. Lombard & L. McMillan (Eds.), Violence
against women: Current theory and practice in domestic abuse, sexual violence and exploitation (pp. 35– 52). London: Jessica Kingsley.
Heward-Belle, S. (2016). The diverse fathering practices of men who perpetrate domestic violence. Australian Social Work, 69, 323-337.
Heward-Belle, S., Lovell, R., Jones, J., Tucker, H., Melander, N. (2021). Practice in a time of uncertainty: Practitioner reflections on working with families experiencing intimate partner violence during the COVID19 global pandemic. Affilia, Dec 2021. doi:10.1177/08861099.
Hunnicutt, G. (2009). Varieties of patriarchy and violence against women: Resurrecting “patriarchy” as a theoretical tool. Violence against women 15.5(2009): 553-573.
Lovell, R.C., Greenfield, D., Johnson, G. et al. (2022). Optimising outcomes for complex trauma survivors: assessing the motivators, barriers and enablers for implementing trauma informed practice within a multidisciplinary health setting. BMC Health Serv Res 22, 434. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-022-07812-x
Laing, L., Heward-Belle, S., & Toivonen, C. (2018). Practitioner Perspectives on Collaboration across Domestic Violence, Child Protection, and Family Law: Who’s Minding the Gap? Australian Social Work, 71(2), 215–227. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2017.1422528
Morrison, D (12 June 2013). Chief of Army message regarding unacceptable behaviour. Retrieved: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaqpoeVgr8U.
Radford, L. & Hester, M. (2006). Mothering through domestic violence. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Reinhartz, S. (1992). Feminist methods in social research. New York: Oxford University Press.
Warshaw, C. & Tinnon, E. (2018). Coercion related to mental health and substance use in the context of intimate partner violence. National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma and Mental Health.
World Health Organization. Violence against women prevalence estimates. Geneva; 2018. Report No.: 2021. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
Zannettino, L., & McLaren, H. (2014). Domestic violence and child protection: towards a collaborative approach across the two service sectors. Child & Family Social Work, 19(4), 421–431. https://doi.org/10.1111/cfs.12037