Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Education

Supervisor

Jaffe, Peter G.

Abstract

This dissertation involves three studies exploring the risks children face living with domestic violence (DV) and the critical role of child protection services (CPS) in assessing risk in DV cases. The first study examined the involvement of CPS before domestic homicides cases as reviewed by the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC). One in five of the homicide cases where children were present in the family system had prior involvement with CPS. The underlying themes of DVDRC recommendations directed to the child welfare sector highlighted the need for enhanced ongoing services to promote safety and hold perpetrators accountable, specialized DV training, and increased cross-sector collaboration. Findings emphasized the need for continued efforts to develop community awareness and collaborations to assess and manage risk.

Study two utilized data from an online survey of 138 Ontario child protection workers (CPWs) on their risk assessment and safety planning practices with DV cases. Assessing and managing risk was frequently and consistently completed across the province; however, the specific strategies and identified challenges varied. CPWs mostly utilized CPS mandatory tools to assess risk. Some CPWs added their clinical judgment or use of other standardized DV risk assessment tools, based on training and experience with DV cases. Emphasis was placed on consistently working collaboratively with families and professionals in other sectors to address risk.

Study three built on the survey in study two through in-depth interviews with 29 Ontario CPWs to examine their perspectives on assessing risk with families where DV is the primary concern. CPWs identified numerous barriers at the systemic (i.e., challenges with collaboration), organizational (i.e., lack of written policies or procedures specific to DV), and individual (i.e., worker-client relationship barriers, high caseloads, lack of ongoing training) levels. Encouragingly, some CPWs identified a diverse range of promising practices in overcoming barriers and engaging with victims and perpetrators.

Overall, the findings from these studies suggest that child protection can play a key role in assessing and responding to risk factors related to serious harm or homicide. There are multiple warning signs that should trigger CPS involvement to collaboratively manage risk. CPS can be a more effective part of an overall coordinated community response that promotes awareness, specialized training, assessment tools and intervention strategies for high-risk DV cases that threaten the lives of parents and children.

Summary for Lay Audience

This dissertation consists of three studies that looked at dangers children face living with domestic violence (DV) and the key role of child protection services (CPS) in understanding the dangers present in DV cases. The first study was a case analysis looking at any involvement of CPS that happened before the DV-related homicides. These cases came from a database from by the Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC). One in five of the homicide cases where children were in the family system had prior involvement with CPS. The DVDRC recommendations directed to the child welfare sector highlighted the need for better ongoing services to promote safety for victims and children and hold perpetrators responsible for their violence, more DV training for workers, and better relationships between different services that help families. Findings emphasized the need for continued efforts to develop community awareness to understand and reduce danger.

Study two utilized data from an online survey of 138 Ontario child protection workers (CPWs) on the ways in which they gather information and make decisions with the family about risk and keeping everyone safe when there is DV. These strategies to keep families safe were often completed across the province; however, workers worked differently and faced difficulties. CPWs mostly used the CPS required tools to look at dangers. Some CPWs added their prior knowledge or used other DV questionnaires, based on training and experience with DV cases. CPWs discussed the importance of building relationships with families and other professionals in order to help reduce the dangers for children.

Study three built on the survey in study two through in-depth interviews with 29 Ontario CPWs to look more closely at how they work with families where DV is a big issue and making it unsafe for children. CPWs identified numerous barriers at the systemic (i.e., challenges with working together with other professionals), workplace (i.e., lack of written rules or steps that need to be taken that were specific to DV), and individual (i.e., worker-client relationship barriers, high caseloads, lack of ongoing training) levels. Encouragingly, some CPWs identified a diverse range of ways to work through these barriers and be effefctive with victims and perpetrators.

Overall, the findings from these studies suggest that child protection can play a key role in considering and responding to dangers that can exist when DV is happening. related. There are many dangerous behaviours that should alert CPS to meet with the family and other professionals to reduce risk. CPS can be a more effective part of an overall coordinated community response that promotes awareness, specialized training, assessment tools, and intervention strategies for high-risk DV cases that threaten the lives of parents and children.

Available for download on Tuesday, December 01, 2020

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