Editor's Message: When Child Abuse or Neglect and Domestic Violence Co-Occur

Judge Dean LewisJ. Dean Lewis, Judge (retired)
Former Member, National CASA Association Board of Directors
Past President, National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Acts of child abuse or neglect and domestic violence commonly co-occur within the same family unit. It is critical to child safety that the social worker assigned to investigate the report of abuse or neglect is trained to look for signs of domestic violence. Law enforcement officers who respond to a report of domestic violence in situations involving children should likewise be alert to potential child safety issues, including child abuse or neglect.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) supports judicial leadership in the court and in the community. In order for a community's children to be safe, court-affiliated organizations and members of the community need to be informed about the prevalence of child abuse and domestic violence co-occurrence and be encouraged to develop collaborative solutions that meet the needs of victims and are supported by the community. The judge can offer a forum in which community and agency leaders can meet to discuss the problem and develop a coordinated and effective response. Judge Leonard P. Edwards (ret.), past president of NCJFCJ, is widely respected for his work in the area of judicial leadership. His article "Reducing Family Violence: The Role of the Family Violence Council" is informative and encourages solutions be reached across the entire justice system.

The October issue of The Judges' Page includes the following articles:

Members of the NCJFCJ leadership share their thoughts on the co-occurrence of child abuse and domestic violence and the commitment of NCJFCJ to deal effectively with the issue in "Message from the NCJFCJ Leadership."

Z. Ruby White Starr, assistant director of the NCJFCJ Family Violence Department, offers background on understanding domestic violence issues in the context of child abuse cases in "Promoting Safety in Cases Involving Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment."

Judge Steve Aycock (ret.), assistant director of the NCJFCJ Family Violence Department, and Z. Ruby White Starr jointly author two articles: "The Role of Judges in Understanding a Batterer's Use of Violence in Co-Occurrence Cases" and "Balancing the Risk and Safety Needs of Domestic Violence Victims." These articles explain that child abuse and domestic violence co-occur in 40-70% of dependency cases; inform us of the need for judges to be educated on the nuances of co-occurrence cases in order to exercise judicial leadership in developing a coordinated response; and explain the need for availability of appropriate services to address the child abuse and domestic violence aspects of such cases.

Judge Janice M. Rosa of Buffalo, NY, serves as a member of the NCJFCJ Board of Trustees. Her article, "Domestic Violence and Child Welfare—How Can Judges Make 'Reasonable Efforts' Findings?" encourages judges to make reasonable efforts inquiries using the NCJFCJ publication Reasonable Efforts Checklist for Dependency Cases Involving Cases of Domestic Violence and bench cards at every hearing, thus ensuring that all necessary and appropriate services to address the co-occurrence are in place.

Judge Rebecca Orf of Jackson County, OR, notes that interventions better protect children when service providers afford safety for both children and adult victims of domestic violence. Judge Orf encourages collaboration and coordination between service providers in her article, "A Judge's Role in Intervening with Adult and Child Victims of Domestic Violence."

Judge Katherine Lucero of Santa Clara County, CA, serves as an NCJFCJ Permanency Planning for Children Department Model Court Lead Judge and as a member of the NCJFCJ Board of Trustees. Judge Lucero shares her community's experience as a Greenbook site using best practices established in the NCJFCJ publication Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice in her article "Greenbook Reflections."

Katheryn Yetter, JD, senior attorney, NCJFCJ Family Violence Department, gives readers insight into the development of a statewide collaborative modeled after the NCJFCJ publication Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice, in "Moving Beyond 'Failure to Protect' in West Virginia."

Elizabeth Barnes Whitney, JD, assistant director of the NCJFCJ Permanency Planning for Children Department, offers helpful advice to CASA/GAL volunteers in her article "7 Ways to Support Children Exposed to Domestic Violence."

Nicole Bates, administrative assistant in the NCJFCJ Family Violence Department, shares her experience as a volunteer working with the Washington, DC Superior Court and her background working in the NCJFCJ Family Violence Department in "Advocating for Children Exposed to Domestic Violence: A CASA Volunteer’s Perspective."

Katheryn Yetter and Emilie Meyer, JD, NCJFCJ Family Violence Department, explain safety concerns from the perspective of domestic violence victims relative to parental and relative notification laws in their article "How Are Victims of Domestic Violence Affected by Efforts to Identify Fathers in Dependency Cases?"

Judge Eugene M. Hyman of the Santa Clara (CA) County Superior Court; Wanda Lucibello, the Chief of Special Victims Division at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office; and Emilie Meyer co-author an article "Responding to Adolescent Partner Violence." Insight into the problem of adolescent partner abuse is critical when working with teens involved in dependency cases.

Emilie Meyer, assistant attorney, Family Violence Department, NCJFCJ, updates us in "National Trends in Family Violence Legislation: 2009."

Melissa D. Bahmer, MS, serves as senior program manager, model courts, NCJFCJ Permanency Planning for Children Department. She reports on training regarding domestic violence issues planned for the PPCD's upcoming meeting in "2010 Model Courts All-Sites Conference: No Wrong Door."

Paula Campbell of the Permanency Planning for Children of NCJFCJ, and Emilie Meyer of the Family Violence Department offer readers additional online resources and publications. 

On behalf of the editorial committee of The Judges' Page, I want to thank the NCJFCJ Permanency Planning for Children Department and the NCJFCJ Family Violence Department for jointly sponsoring and securing the articles that appear in this issue.

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