Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

Public Awareness

Bulletins - Winter 2013 OPDV Bulletin

Table of Contents

(pdf)

Enhancing Child Welfare Domestic Violence Practice

David Mandel, MA, LPC; David Mandel & Associates LLC

For the past 16 years I have worked with child welfare and related systems to improve their response to families being impacted by domestic violence perpetrator behavior. During that time, I have seen significant and important shifts in practice, training, and policy. More attention has been placed on domestic violence as a child safety and well being issue.  There is more focus on holding the perpetrators accountable and less on finding the victim responsible for the perpetrator’s actions.  Despite these significant advances, systems change has not reached the level that would allow survivors to see the child welfare system as a consistent and meaningful support.

Photo of mother and child sitting on bench

Child welfare and domestic violence survivors are, in many ways, natural allies. In my experience, both survivors and child welfare workers indicate that their top priorities include the cessation of the abuse and good outcomes for the children.  In order to unlock the potential positive partnership and outcomes latent in this shared interest, child welfare can incorporate certain approaches to domestic violence perpetrators into all aspects of its organization.  It’s this shift in the approach to perpetrators that holds the key to achieving the promise of greater assistance from child welfare for domestic violence survivors and their children.

The following are two steps critical to making this change:

Child welfare has come a long way in its response to domestic violence and continues to move in the right direction. The current systemic interest in improving practice with fathers and the implementation of family assessment offers opportunities to embed these and related approaches to domestic violence into the DNA of child welfare. 

To read more about advancing child welfare practice in domestic violence cases go to the Safe and Together website.


  1. The language in this article reflects that male perpetrators and female survivors are the most common situation that child welfare will encounter and the history of differing expectations of mothers and fathers embedded in our social service systems.  Domestic violence may also occur in same sex relationships and sometimes can involve female perpetrators and male survivors.