The Intersection of Child Welfare and Domestic Violence

April 25, 2017


Written by: Elizabeth Stoffel, JD, Senior Program Manager, NCJFCJ and Kelly Ranasinghe, JD, Senior Program Attorney, NCJFCJ

For more than 22 years the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges’ (NCJFCJ) publication, the Resource Guidelines for Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases, has been a touchstone for courts challenged with the complex task of confronting child abuse and neglect in their own communities. The new Enhanced Resource Guidelines (ERGs) published in 2016, have improved upon the original version by providing key recommendations for courts, which reflect the direct relationship between domestic violence and child abuse. The ERGs tackle the challenges courts face when confronting the dual issues of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect within the complex structure of juvenile dependency and reunification.

Drawing upon the work of the NCJFCJ’s Greenbook and the Reasonable Efforts Checklist for Dependency Cases Involving Domestic Violence, the ERGs include recommendations for judges on issues like judicial leadership, cross-system collaboration, safety issues, mediation, trauma, and parent engagement. The result is the creation of a comprehensive picture of how judges can improve their child abuse and neglect practice while also remaining mindful of important domestic violence issues, which can play a powerful role in ensuring successful case outcomes.

The ERGs also focus on holding batterers accountable while asking courts to analyze the rationale for seeking removal of the child in cases involving domestic violence. Most importantly, the ERGs underscore the principle that courts and systems should engage battered parents as partners in the protection of children, rather than as impediments or roadblocks to recovery.

The ERGs reflect a shift in the way dependency courts and judges approach child abuse and neglect cases involving domestic violence, with an emphasis on empowering the victim to receive the support and services she needs to protect her children and minimize trauma to the family.