Join the conversation – Child-focused approaches when working with parents affected by family and domestic violence

Join the conversation – Child-focused approaches when working with parents affected by family and domestic violence

29 May 2019
A family in the park

This webinar discussed the skills and knowledge that practitioners need in order to have child-focused conversations with adults affected by FDV.

A full recording of the webinar and related resources, including slides, audio and a transcript, is now available.

The full recording of the webinar is also available on our YouTube Channel.

This webinar was the fourth in a series of webinars being facilitated in partnership between Emerging Minds and CFCA, with a specific focus on the mental health of infants and children.

The ability of generalist practitioners to identify adults who are either perpetrating or experiencing family and domestic violence (FDV) is crucial for the prevention and early identification of its effects on children. In this webinar, Professor Sarah Wendt discussed research she is leading on the skills, understanding and support that practitioners require to be able to identify and respond to presentations from adult perpetrators and victims, and to ensure a focus on children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

This research shows that over two-thirds of parents presenting to Relationships Australia SA (RASA) identify as being affected by FDV, either as perpetrators or victims. David Tully discussed this research from a service perspective at RASA, sharing some of their experiences that have led to specific child-focused policies and practices and how these have supported positive outcomes for children. He also discussed practice models that support practitioners to have child-focused conversations with adults.


This webinar was co-produced by CFCA and Emerging Minds. They are working together as part of the National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health, which is funded by the Australian Government Department of Health under the National Support for Child and Youth Mental Health Program.

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Related resources

Comments

Thank you for the webinar. It was really interesting.
Sally
is it possible to see a copy of the DOORS screening tool?
Emma
Yes, you can register for the Family DOORS app at https://familydoors.com/
Emerging Minds
due to a lack of services for men how do you suggest that generic services attempt to engage perpetrators? especially if there are safety concerns around doing so?
Amanda
We believe that having child-focused conversations with men in general services is an important preventative factor in supporting the social and emotional wellbeing of children. Having said that, we also understand that having these conversations in a safe and respectful manner is challenging for practitioners, who need to be supported by consistent family violence frameworks and practice policies, robust supervision and training and development if they are to work with fathers around violence. David talked about the difference that the Family DOORS screening tool has made for generalist practitioners at Relationships Australia (SA) when having conversations with fathers about the safety of thier children. Emerging Minds are releasing a eLearning course in late June which has a module on having child-focused conversations with fathers who use violence.
Emerging Minds
I work with victims of DV often women in legal area, often in assessments women don't want to answer questions regarding the children's wellbeing (mental and physical) - women are often afraid that the children then will taken away from them. Do you have any specific assessment tools that can be used without it being too instrusive or blaming the women for the DV.
Genoveva
This is a real challenge for working with mothers. There is significant work being done at a policy level to ensure that mothers are not made responsible for the use of violence perpetrated by male partners. Assessment tools are important but so too are consistent messages to mothers about legal and ethical responsibility for violence being located with the perpetrator.
Emerging Minds
I work within a mental health framework that supports the emotional and social learning of children between the ages of 5-8yrs old. I work with teachers at school and a lot of children who I work with have experienced domestic and family violence. Their behaviours can range from violent external behaviours to internal anxieties. Teachers have undertaken trauma informed training. How should the teachers be approaching the students behaviours within the classroom? Keeping in mind that teachers aren't always aware of the violence or severity of violence within the home.
Webinar participant
You raise and excellent point here. Many children who witness FDV exhibit behaviours such as acting out or withdrawal which can all be interpreted in many different ways by family, frineds and teachers. Consistent understandings of the effects of violence on children are important for teachers and other professionals. Emerging Minds is currently developing an eLearning course regarding the effects of FDV on the mental health of children 0-12 and this will be available in mid-July.
Emerging Minds
How might you engage men in interventions when women have disclosed experiences of control and abuse confidentially. Also when there is a fear of placing the woman at further risk of abuse if he learns that she has been talking about it.
Mel
This is certainly a complex and difficult practice challenge. Men need to be ready to engage and to take some responsibility for their use of violence if there is to be success. When women share their stories of violence it is obviously important that the safety ramifications of all practice decisions are discussed, as well as their effects on women and children.
Emerging Minds
Is there professional development on how to engage men?
Dianne
Yes, there is much work being done at the moment in engaging men who perpetrate violence and most states and territories can access training and support from experience men's behaviour change practitioners. In South Australia and nationally, the work of Alan Jenkins has been critical in engaging men in holistic and accountable ways and his books , 'Invitations to Responsibility,' and 'Becoming Ethical' have been seminal in the development of practice.
Emerging Minds
I have had conversations where the idea that engaging men by discussing their role as a parent is often fraught with risks, as some men will use their access to children as a way of controlling their partner / ex partner. Any advice on seeing through this circumstance?
James (Jim)
Yes, this can be true. But, alternatively, many men are motivated to change because they want something different for their relationship with their child. The ability and confidence of practitioners, being supported by practice policies and assessment tools are vital in having safe, accountable and responsible conversations with fathers about their children's social and emotional wellbeing. Practice understandings about working with fathers who use violence have only really developed in the last forty years and their is still much work to be done in the field, but their is general practice agreement that we need to be able to engage men positively if we want safer outcomes for children and mothers.
Emerging Minds
Once you've mapped survivor's protective capacities and resistance to the violence, how can you use this information in the journey towards safety and healing?
Sachini
Mothers who have been affected by FDV, childhood trauma and poverty invariably have long histories of resilience, despite significant adversity. A position of curiosity can create space for examples of resilience and connectiveness between mothers and children, as well as the strategies that women have used to protect their children.21 Practitioners taking a relational stance characterised by curiosity and respect are more likely to listen and enquire about skills, strengths and know-how that mothers have drawn on in responding to the hardships they have been facing. This practitioner curiosity is possible even where parents are behaving in ways that make their children feel scared or insecure. Once stories of skills, strengths and know-how are available to parents they can be replicated, and a blueprint for safe and nurturing care of children can be developed. These stories can contain rich descriptions of how parents and children have overcome adversity and practitioners can therefore become interested not only about intergenerational disadvantage, but intergenerational capacity and contribution. Parents can feel less trapped in their current circumstances and less limited in what might be possible for the care and wellbeing of their children. These conversations can challenge fatalistic perceptions of children’s circumstances for both parents and practitioners.
Emerging Minds
How would you start a discussion around the perpetrators actions, without blaming & without causing shame - upholding dignity?
Daniel
Emerging Minds are currently developing a course with a specific module about engaging fathers about their use of violence and its effects on the social and emotional wellbeing on their children. This will be released in mid July.
Emerging Minds
I noticed a strong bias towards the position that family violence is perpetrated by men against women. Any thoughts about controlling violence perpetrated by women?
Joanne
There is certainly a recognition that some violence occurs from women to men and children, and indeed in same sex relationships. Given the evidence that the overwhelming majority of violence is perpetrated by men towards women and children, we have made a decision to focus on this - and its affects on children - during the webinar.
Emerging Minds
I'm not sure how you answer this but how do we engage men in a patriarchal system that doesn't threaten masculinity?
Tina
There is much work being done at the moment in engaging men who perpetrate violence and most states and territories can access training and support from experience men's behaviour change practitioners. In South Australia and nationally, the work of Alan Jenkins has been critical in engaging men in holistic and accountable ways and his books , 'Invitations to Responsibility,' and 'Becoming Ethical' have been seminal in the development of practice.
Emerging Minds
If Family violence is prevalent as you mention, how can we not regard this as a serious public health issue and gear our responses accordingly?
Tina
Absolutely agree. Which is why Professor Wendt advocates for common understandings of the problem and support for generalist practitioners to be able to identify and respond to the issues, using a child focused lens.
Emerging Minds
How do you bring the perpetrator "safely" in the room with the victim without traumatising them.
Tina
This requires an understanding that a perpetrator is willing to listen to what his partner or children have to say, and so intensive work with the perpetrator may be necessary first. There is much debate regarding the appropriateness of couples or family therapy where their is violence.
Emerging Minds
i'm just really interested if you can please give some examples of how you respond to people who minimize the violence or give a completely different interpretation of it? Thanks in advance
Bree
Being generally curious in a man's hopes for his children is often a good place to start. If we can develop a shared understanding with a father about his preferences for respectful and safe parenting he might become less inclined to minimise his behaviour.
Emerging Minds
How do you assess if it is safe to ask about domestic violence in the context of a family therapy setting? Could this increase the risk for women and their children?
Joanna
This requires an understanding that a perpetrator is willing to listen to what his partner or children have to say, and so intensive work with the perpetrator may be necessary first. There is much debate regarding the appropriateness of couples or family therapy where their is violence.
Emerging Minds
Are the results of the client survey undertaken by Relationship Australia are publicly available?
Ellen
Yes, please access rasa.org.au
Emerging Minds
It seems that same-relationships where there is DV become eclipsed within the model. How do you theorise these relationships within in the model to acknowledge these within a gendered model?
Gloria
We would recommend looking at the CFCA paper on intimate partner violence in LGBTIQ communities which discusses the conceptualisation of violence that occurs in LGBTIQ couples. You can find a link to the paper under the related resources heading of this webpage.
CFCA
Can you please recommend any QLD programs or websites, resources/tools for perpetrators of DFV for Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander families (cultural sensitivity)?
Sylvia
The following may be of some assistance, the Queensland Indigenous Family Violence Legal Service (http://www.qifvls.com.au/) and this directory of support services (https://www.qld.gov.au/community/getting-support-health-social-issue/support-victims-abuse/domestic-family-violence/find-local-support)
CFCA
I'm interested in the study Sarah mentioned about social workers and the role of field experience as well as workplace training in shaping their understanding of issues facing their client groups. 
Ellen
The data from the study is still being analysed, you can find out more about the project at the following link https://www.flinders.edu.au/swirls/partnerships-and-projects
Emerging Minds

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