October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month: How Colorado child welfare and benefit case managers can assist survivors
October 18, 2021
As a Colorado benefits case manager or child welfare caseworker, you show up to work every single day to help connect families with the resources that they need. Your work helps ensure that families are supported. Thank you! It is so important that families are able to consistently put food on the table, heat their homes, find livable-wage work, and afford basic necessities like rent, utilities, milk and diapers.
Many people accessing county services are experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and you play an important role in screening for IPV and providing skilled engagement that helps survivors of domestic violence to safely access benefits and supportive services.
Frequently working in person with individuals and families makes you uniquely positioned to recognize signs that IPV may be occurring. Signs of domestic violence can look different for everyone and people of all backgrounds and demographics can experience domestic violence. Being trained to ask and respond sensitively to these vulnerable clients is invaluable. The State offers training on working with people experiencing domestic violence to county staff through the Child Welfare Training System for Child Protection workers and through the Family Violence Option training for Benefits workers!
Learning to identify abusive behavior in a relationship is an important step in helping someone who may be dealing with domestic violence. While there are many internal and external reasons why survivors find it hard to leave their partner who chooses to use abusive behavior, financial stability may cause additional hesitancy for a person to even consider leaving an abusive relationship. Below are ways to support clients experiencing IPV.
If someone shares with you that they have experienced or are currently experiencing abusive behavior from a partner, you have been entrusted with important information. Thanking the person for trusting you, and validating the strength and courage they are showing by getting services, can go a long ways in building rapport and setting the groundwork for improved safety.
The extensive overlap between domestic violence and child maltreatment requires a specialized and coordinated response in providing services. Some guiding principles from the Child Welfare Information Gateway for how to respond when IPV is present include:
- Identify and assess domestic violence at every stage of the child protection process for all child welfare cases and during any interaction during .
- Make every reasonable effort to keep children in the care of the non-offending Parent.
- Hold people who use violence solely accountable for stopping their behavior and connect them with services that address their abusive actions.
- Collaborate with community partners, such as domestic violence advocates and law enforcement officials.
Confidential advocacy services. Safely providing a client with information about available free and confidential resources and support is always a good idea. Encourage clients who may be actively experiencing IPV to contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.
They can connect anyone to a local free and confidential service provider right here in Colorado. Support is available 24/7 in more than 200 languages. Survivors of domestic violence who cannot make a phone call, can:
- Text loveis (capitalization does not matter) to 22522
- Visit thehotline.org to chat with an advocate
Safety planning. Inform the survivor of what a safety plan is and the importance of having one in place. Offer to help connect the survivor with local, free, and confidential services to help create a safety plan.
Inquiring about access to weapons in the home. Ask the survivor about potential weapons in the home. More than one in four homicides in the United States are related to domestic violence, and the use of firearms in domestic violence situations increases the risk that there will be multiple fatalities. Intimate partner homicide events often result in multiple victims, including the deaths of coworkers, friends, new dating partners of the victim, strangers, police officers, and children or family of the victim. If there are accessible weapons, reach out to a community-based advocate to help with additional safety planning.
Inform survivors about legal assistance available to them. It is important to make sure that they are aware of helpful resources such as:
- Cash assistance for legal costs
- Information on how to navigate the legal system
- Referrals to legal aid services
Refer the client for individual therapy rather than couples counseling. A relationship in which IPV is present has, at its core, an imbalance of power and control. This imbalance makes couples counseling an unsafe environment for the person experiencing the abuse.