Children’s Aid Helping ALL Members of the Family

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It is an issue that unfortunately many of us have had some experience with, but, many people have difficulty understanding or grasping the severity of this national problem. Nearly three out of four (74%) of Americans personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a problem that affects all people regardless of race, income, religion, gender or sexual orientation. One of the many factors that contribute to carrying out this form of abuse on an intimate partner and/or children stems from experiencing or witnessing the same trauma as a child.

The Family Wellness Program is the only program in New York City that serves the entire family – including abusive partners. We believe that when there is violence in the home, it is in the best interest of the children to provide services to every member of the family, in an effort to stop generational violence and restore healthy relationships between parents and children, if possible. The Children’s Aid Society and the New York City’s Coalition on Working with Abusive Partners (CoWAP) brought together over 200 New York City providers of domestic violence services, legal services, mental health, child welfare services and fatherhood programs at the One Size Does Not Fit All: Exploring Diverse Approaches to Working with Abusive Partners conference in 2009 to discuss multiple approaches being used around the country to work with perpetrators of intimate partner abuse.

The information gathered at the conference and colloquium was used to develop ’next steps’ for expanding services for abusive partners in New York City. Recommendations from The Children’s Aid Society, based upon information gathered from the experts, include:

  • An assessment of the abusive partner that identifies the factors that contributes to their abusive behavior.
  • Individualized therapy to support behavior change.
  • Parenting programs designed specifically for abusive parents.
  • Substance abuse treatment specifically designed to also address the co-occurrence of abusive behavior.
  • Counseling for the couple and family only following individual services for both partners, when there is no longer violence or significant risk of violence, and accompanied by individual services and ongoing safety assessment by a professional with expertise in domestic violence.
  • Greater consistency in the application of consequences imposed by the criminal justice system.
  • Ongoing services for abusive partners after the initial program completion in order to support behavior change.

It is clear that current services need to be re-evaluated and diversified to properly treat and protect victims and their families. We believe that including intensive counseling and work with the abuser, to maintain a nonviolent home for children - while ensuring the safety of affected child first and foremost - is integral in tackling the roots of generational abuse.