When working with families there are many challenges that we will come across that families have to deal with, and sometimes believe must be handled by themselves. Every family has different experiences and deal with different vulnerabilities which affect not only the children involved in the family but can affect the parents also. There are many policies and guidance that workers can give to support families through their times of need. This essay will explore the guidance given in cases of domestic violence, how this affects family life and how help can be provided to the families.
There are many different definitions for domestic violence, they vary in specificity, but all have the general same message. Richards et al (2008, p.11) defines domestic violence as:
“a broad term used to describe a range of behaviour, not all of which is violent or even criminal, that takes place within an intimate or family-type relationship. It can take place in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) relationships, and can involve other family members, including children. It can include physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or financial abuse, forced marriage or honour-based violence. It transcends all boundaries regardless of race, religion, age, or social background.”
There are many different forms of abuse that fall under the domestic violence title, some of which include physical violence, sexual violence, threats, harassment, isolation, psychological and financial violence. These acts of violence can affect men, women and children, there is no typical perpetrator or victim, however, women seem to fall under the victim category more than men.
Domestic violence can negatively impact the families experience for children and adults alike. It can be detrimental to children as it affects their day to day lives, ruining their childhood innocence and affecting how they perform in school. The trauma they experience through domestic violence will carry with them way into adulthood and can ruin friendships and relationships.
In many unfortunate cases, children fall, victim of domestic abuse, whether being abused themselves or witnessing parents or siblings abuse, it can heavily impact their childhood and their future. As professionals, the greatest importance within these situations is children. Children may bear witness to abuse directly, but can also indirectly witness abuse, this can be through hearing the abuse from another room, seeing the marks left on parents or going into the room and seeing the aftermath of the abuse e.g. blood on the floor or broken furniture. These all play an impact on children’s wellbeing. Being witness to abuse can be traumatic for children, they may not always understand the fullness of the situation, however, seeing parents in pain can cause the greatest upset for children.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, women fall victim to domestic abuse more likely than men.
The children act 1989/2004
Cleaver et al (2007) referral process
When a family is first suspected to be suffering from domestic violence, they first go through a referral process to begin the investigation. Cleaver et al (2007) investigated what agencies work together when supporting families with cases that are referred to children’s social care. They examined 357 social work case files during 2002, the cases involved when a child was referred to the social services to safeguard and their welfare. The first stop they identified is the children’s social care team is made aware of the circumstances of a family. The referral can be made by several different people/organisations some including health visitors to the family or in some cases it was the police force that made the referral. They found the highest percentage was a single professional taking 58.9% in these cases being made. A quarter of the sample cases non-professionals made the referral with 96 cases, and in 22 instances it was the parents or young people themselves asking for help. Based on their findings here they concluded that the police and health services were the main agencies which identified whether a child needed support due to suspicions of domestic violence taking place with their family household. It was found that referrals can be made in several different ways, including notifications to the police, letters, phone calls and a referral form, also known as the Common Assessment Framework. Each agency had a different method of referral in which they preferred, social service departments prefer using letters whereas voluntary services preferred telephone calls. From the information found about the referrals, Cleaver et al found social workers usually had more than one reason into why they are being referred to, with 60% of all cases having one reason as cases of domestic violence. Part of the criteria for the referrals is that they undertake some form of assessment to be able to distinguish what further action needs to be taken. Different characteristics of the child affected the kind of response that social workers would give, this included age, gender and ethnicity. They found that the age of the child had no effect on the reason for the referral but heavily impacted the source of the referral, Cleaver et al (2007, p.33) stated “non-professionals, such as parents, relatives and neighbours were more likely to make a referral about a child over the age of five years than younger children.” There are different elements that would affect these decisions, but it is seen that for children under the ages of five they are more likely to be referred by a professional, possibly because younger children and babies tend to have more health visitors and doctors visits than older children.
Every child matters
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a convention that works towards ensuring children across the world have rights and that they are in practice on a regular basis. Governments across the world have signed into the convention and get evaluated every seven years to make sure that they are working within the guideline. All the rights are set out through articles and they came up with 54 altogether. Within each article, they are set out to make sure children get rights and receive everything they need for further development. One example would be the right to have their own thoughts and beliefs to choose the religion with parents’ guidance (article 14). This right is necessary because children should be able to decide for themselves which path, they take with religion, with the support from parent’s, and not feel trapped that they must follow the same religion as their parents do. The first evaluation that the UK was in 1995 and the most recent one taken was in 2014. Within this time there has been much development with child rights, despite the second evaluation being recorded as confusing as the UNCRC didn’t believe that the government took any action from the feedback given the first time. In 2014 there were higher percentages of people who scored yes to right for an education and the right to be healthy. When working to support families who are suffering through domestic violence professionals can use the UNCRC to help evaluate the families and ensure that all of the children’s rights are being met, and if they are not being met, professionals should work quickly to find a resolution, whether this be to work with the family to ensure that the rights of the child are being given or whether in drastic cases there is no other choice than to put the child into the foster care and adoption system, which would be a last resort. The articles themselves cover different aspects of a child’s life and sets expectations of how their childhood should be. Some examples articles that professionals can use to evaluate families suffering from domestic violence would be article two, which in summary states that adults must do what is best for the child.
There are many different professionals that can work together to support families who fall victim of domestic violence, this is known as multi-agency work, some include police, children’s social care and domestic-violence support agencies. Together the agencies will share information and work to get to a solution. Richards et al (2008) suggest that the agencies will first try to gain what has happened in the incident and identify which other agencies are involved in the case. They will then decide whether there is a conflict of interests with the lead agency role. Finally, they will re-assess what needs to be done for the children involved in their protection and then they will plan and agree on an investigation process and whether any further action is needed. Richards et al (2008 p.198) state that “each agency must act in accordance with its duty when it is satisfied that the action is appropriate, there may be a joint investigation but the shared information flowing from that must be constantly evaluated and reviewed by each agency.” It is
Caf early assessment
The Common Assessment Framework is an assessment tool used by professionals who work closely with children. Firstly, a pre-assessment must take place
Goleman’s emotional intelligence
The domestic victims act 2004
It is paramount that as professionals supporting families that we understand all signs given to us and act accordingly to support the families, failure to do so can cause major unfortunate incidents. A key example where professionals failed a child was the Victoria Climbie case. Victoria had moved to the UK with her auntie Kouao, from early on in this case there were signs of domestic abuse. There came many occasions and signs that Victoria was being abused, including three hospital visits, one in which the burn marks were ruled as a non-accidental injury by the doctors, and two social work visits. From the very first hospital visit action should have been taken to investigate the family. one month into the pair moving to the UK Victoria, who was only around seven at the time, there was no effort made to enrol Victoria into the education system, and it is unclear how she spent the first month in the country. Professional intervention should have taken place her to enrol Victoria into the schooling system and more support given to Kouao to get a more sustainable living space than a bed and breakfast. In July Victoria was first admitted to the hospital, taken in by her childminder due to her face being swollen, at the hospital visit it was deemed by the doctors that it was a strong possibility that the injury was non-accidental. It was also concluded that Victoria was suffering from scabies. The second hospital visit was only a week later with Victoria having a serious scald to her face, Kouao claiming it that she had placed her head under a hot tap trying to relive the pain of scabies. It was so serious that Victoria was in the hospital for thirteen nights. Staff who cared for Victoria while in hospital noticed marks all over her body which were considered signs of deliberate harm. At the end of her stay in the hospital, Victoria was given back into the care of Kouao and Manning, Kouao’s boyfriend with whom they were living with, and a social worker was assigned to their case called Lisa Arthurworrey. Miss Arthurworrey visited Victoria in Manning’s household on two occasions. On the first occasion, Victoria was presented to be well dressed and playing with toys. However, during this visit, Miss Arthurworrey did not speak directly to Victoria and formed the impression that she was a happy child. Victoria was still not enrolled in school or any daycare system so the assumption was made that she spends most her time in the flat. The social worker’s only issue was she found the living arrangements unsuitable for a child. One major flaw here that the social worker missed was not speaking to Victoria directly. There were multiple incidents of people stating that around Kouao and Manning Victoria was shy and hardly spoke, yet when she was alone, she was described as a joyful time. The social worker should have spoken to Victoria alone without the presence of Kouao and Manning and speak to her directly about her time in the hospital and how she got the injuries. By doing this it could have been established that Victoria was abused, and action could have been taken to remove her from the situation. However, unfortunately, nothing was done in this case and Victoria passed away as a result of her abuse. Following this case was a public uproar about the case and how more should have been done to save Victoria’s life. Action should have been taken when the nurse’s suspected abuse was being taken place based on the injuries, they witnessed Victoria had. After the case, Lisa Arthurworrey lost her job as a social worker due to gross misconduct. Some would argue that better training of social workers ought to take place to avoid situations like this.