Posted in Media releases
Children need to be the focus of domestic and family violence services, study finds
Tuesday, 13th October 2020
Children’s needs must be moved to the front and centre of services supporting families living with domestic and family violence, according to a new study from ANROWS.
The report, published today, explores the common co-occurrence of domestic and family violence (DFV) when parents have challenges relating to mental health and the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs.
In the context of families, these issues significantly impact children. However, in adult-focused services there is a tendency for the needs of children to become invisible.
Led by Professor Cathy Humphreys at the University of Melbourne, the project found evidence that a coordinated approach is needed to address these complex intersecting issues and to enable practitioners to work with each individual member of the family.
The Safe & Together: Addressing ComplexitY for Children (STACY for Children) project was developed in collaboration with the Queensland Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women, and jointly funded by ANROWS and the Queensland Government. It analysed the impacts on children of the implementation of the Safe & Together Model™ in services across Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, drawing on practitioner experiences from speciality DFV services, NGO family services, alcohol and other drug services, mental services and statutory child protection agencies.
The Model aims to ensure that services working with families affected by DFV prioritise keeping children safely with their non-offending parent (usually mothers) as the default starting point for effective support.
The study found that when the model is implemented holistically, with strong collaborative practice across agencies, it leads to better outcomes for children and families affected by DFV and parental alcohol and other drug use, and/or mental health challenges.
Young people, mothers and fathers who were interviewed for the study reported that their experiences with workers trained in the Safe & Together Model were more positive than their experiences with workers who were not trained to apply the Model. The trained practitioners also reported they were better able to recognise the centrality of children in the patterns of power and control used by perpetrators of DFV.
The report finds that this kind of child-focussed practice at the intersections of DFV, problematic use of alcohol and other drugs, and challenges with mental health can only emerge in an authorising environment.
ANROWS CEO Dr Heather Nancarrow emphasised the need for leadership in ensuring this happens.
“Sector leaders and agency managers must clearly communicate to staff their support for organisational change to enable evidence-based practice to achieve better outcomes for the families they support,” Dr Nancarrow said. “This means ensuring that child-focussed approaches are reflected in culture, training, policies and procedures.”
The new ANROWS report is part of a broader suite of interconnected research, including the Safe & Together Addressing ComplexitY (STACY) report, which was funded by the Australian Government Department of Social Services and will also be published today alongside guidelines for practitioners.
“The guides are co-designed with managers and practitioners to ensure that when other complex issues emerge, perpetrators of domestic and family violence, as well as women and children, are kept in view,” explained Professor Humphreys.
This research builds on earlier ANROWS projects, including the PATRICIA project (PaThways and Research Into Collaborative Inter-Agency practice) and Invisible Practices: Interventions with fathers who use violence, that both centred on the Safe & Together Model.
Professor Humphreys will join other experts to launch the suite of research and explore the implications for policy and practice in an ANROWS webinar on Thursday 29 October.
For further information, contact Michele Robinson at ANROWS
on +61 0417 780 556 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited (ANROWS) is a not-for-profit independent national research organisation.
ANROWS is an initiative of Australia’s National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010–2022. ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.
ANROWS is the only such research organisation in Australia.