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25 for 25: Crossing the Domestic Violence and Child Welfare Divide

We are commemorating our 25th Anniversary with 25 posts about our history and accomplishments between now and the Spotlight Gala on September 15.  Join us for a celebration of Voices for Children and all of the organizations, lawmakers, and individuals who have supported our work on behalf of children.  For details, visit voicesforchildren.com/spotlight-gala.

When Voices for Children was first founded 25 years ago, advocates for victims of domestic violence and advocates for children increasingly found themselves on opposite sides of a number of ongoing policy debates. This was especially true when it came to the question of how and when child protective services stepped in to cases of children being exposed to domestic violence. The domestic violence community feared that families would needlessly be split apart and child protective services was often not knowledgeable about the complexities of domestic violence situations, and the protective efforts victim parents make.

Voices for Children set out to bridge this divide to better keep children and families safe from domestic violence. From 1999 to 2002, we administered a federal Department of Justice Grant collaboratively with the Nebraska Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Coalition and DHHS to:

  • Research the linkage between domestic violence and child abuse,
  • Develop training materials and policy manuals for workers in child abuse, domestic violence and public assistance programs to better understand each other’s work and culture;
  • Create a video called “Through Trevor’s Eyes”   to raise awareness of all professionals, victims and perpetrators of the effect on children when they witness domestic violence between the adults they love;
  • Create a new CPS category of “witnessing domestic violence” as one type of emotional abuse; and
  • Pilot a model in Columbus, having one staff person share time between the CPS and the domestic violence program in the community. This was expanded to seventeen positions across the state that were later eliminated to due to budget cuts.

Understanding the linkage between domestic violence and child safety remains a crucial issue for our state. In 2010 alone, 9,366 children and youth were served by Nebraska’s domestic violence and sexual assault programs. That same year, domestic violence was noted as a reason for children’s removal from their homes in 12.8% of the cases reviewed by the Foster Care Review Board. Not only did Voices for Children’s collaborative work create many materials that are still used as a basis for staff training and education, but it also established an important relationship between two communities whose interests are much more similar than different.




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