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Social Worker’s Practice Guide to Domestic Violence

In 2010, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) released the Social Worker’s Practice Guide to Domestic Violence to all Department of Children, Youth, and Family (DCYF) Social Workers.

Tips for using the guide

  • Refer to it when advocating for victims with social workers
  • Pass it on to anyone who has a role in the lives of families involved with the child welfare system
  • Inform survivors about their rights to get assistance in dealing with domestic violence

Information contained in the guide

Reasonable Efforts – What every domestic violence victim, child, and domestic violence perpetrator has a right to expect from DCYF social workers regarding domestic violence (DV):

  • Consistent screening
  • Specialized Assessments (pp. 33–35) that consider: the perpetrators’ control tactics, the lethality risks to the children and the non–offending parent, and the victim’s protective factors
  • Increased children’s safety with increased victim safety
  • Holding perpetrators accountable for the DV they commit (p. 17)

How social workers should work with victims:

  • Work collaboratively with victims to increase their safety
  • Refrain from requiring protective order (p. 69)
  • “Keep service plans for DV victims minimal” (p. 69)
  • “Avoid mandating actions that will compromise the safety of the adult DV victims or children” (p. 70)
  • Avoid mandating contact with advocacy services. Rather, facilitate contact. (p. 70)

How social workers should work with perpetrators:

  • List the alleged perpetrator as the subject of the referral when DV is the reason for the child abuse or neglect (pp. 58-59)
  • Refer perpetrators to certified DV treatment during voluntary services and dependencies (p. 76)
  • Offer voluntary services to non-biologically related DV perpetrators who function in a parental or care-giving role (p. 73)
  • Create case plans aimed at decreasing physical danger, remedying the effects of the abuse, and restoring stability (p. 77)
  • Focus on changes in behavior, not just compliance with case plans (p. 78)

Protection Orders: an option, but not a requirement:

  • DV victims should not be required to get a Protection Order (p. 69)
  • DCYF may request a protective order in dependency cases on behalf of children (p. 16)
  • Social workers may support a victim filing a Protection Order with written information regarding risks to children and recommendations regarding visitation (p. 16)
  • Social workers may accompany an adult DV victim to court to support their request for a Protection Order (p. 16)

DV perpetrator intervention vs. anger management:

  • Social workers should refer perpetrators to treatment by certified DV Perpetrator Intervention Programs, not only anger management (pp. 76-77)

Parental termination when DV creates ongoing disruption in children’s lives:

  • In some case it is “both possible and permissible to seek [termination of the DV perpetrator’s rights, but not the DV victim’s rights] if it is in the best interests of the children” (p. 78)