Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Children's Justice Initiative

The Coalition works on issues that impact children affected by domestic violence, and provides education and support to advocates working with children at domestic violence programs.

Know Your Rights

Do you know about the rights of domestic violence survivors as parents, when Child Protective Services gets involved?

We are excited to provide with you with tools for advocacy with survivors who are under investigation by, or must complete required activities for, Child Protective Services:

It’s a New Day!

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

Free Download (PDF)

Quick Links (page numbers below refer to the Guide):

Reasonable Efforts – What every DV victim, child and DV perpetrator has a right to expect from DCFS social workers regarding DV: 

  • Consistent screening for DV
  • 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 DV 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 DV advocacy services.  Rather, facilitate contact. (p. 70)

How social workers should work with perpetrators: 

  • List the alleged perpetrator of the DV as the subject of the referral when DV is the reason for the child abuse or neglect (pp. 58-59)
  • Refer DV 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)
  • DCFS 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)

WSCADV tips for how advocates can use 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. 

Areas of Focus 

The Children's Justice Initiative at the Coalition currently focuses on three areas:   

  • Improving the child welfare system's response to child abuse and neglect cases in which a parent is a domestic violence victim,
  • Advocating for changes in how the justice system handles divorce, parenting plans, and custody in cases where a parent is a domestic violence victim; and
  • Supporting and educating advocates so they can work more effectively with children.

Children's Advocates

Contact us if you are an advocate working part time or exclusively with children, and would like to join a listserv where you can share with other children's advocates your questions, advice, and information.