Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence


Social Worker's Practice Guide to Domestic Violence

In March 2010, DSHS released the Guide 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 perpetrator has a right to expect from a social worker:

  • Consistent screening for DV
  • Specialized assessments (pp. 33-35) that consider perpetrators' control tactics , 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 DV advocacy services.  Rather, facilitate contact. (p. 70)

How social workers should work with perpetrators (pp. 72-78):

  • 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 PO 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 only not 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)