Support child protection workers to engage and respond to perpetrators of emotional abuse – family and domestic violence (FDV).
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Perpetrator accountability is greater than engagement. Accountable practice is about how case workers conceptualise and respond to the concerns identified. It is not a single ‘event’ but an ongoing process that includes taking a position of partnership with the adult victim and child to promote safety, avoiding language/recording that mutualises responsibility for violence and taking action to reduce or manage the risks posed by the perpetrator.
Accountable practice is underpinned by the following core principles:
For further information, see pages 12-15 of Perpetrator Accountability in Child Protection Practice (in related resources).
The procedures outlined below are intended to support child protection workers to conduct assessments and undertake safety planning that promotes perpetrator accountability. The practice guidance is for cases where the perpetrator is in a relationship with, or separated from, the adult victim. Engaging and responding effectively to perpetrators following separation/relationship breakdown is critical for promoting child safety, as separation is known to be a time of escalated violence and risk.
Child protection workers must be familiar with the Department of Communities (Communities) guidelines regarding worker safety, including Administration Manual entry Dealing with aggressive behaviour by clients (in related resources).
If a worker feels that they are unable to engage with a perpetrator safely, contact should not be pursued. However, child protection workers must clearly document the reason for not engaging the perpetrator in the SWA and seek approval from their team leader.
In situations where a worker is threatened by the perpetrator, consideration should be given to whether the perpetrator's behaviour is criminal in nature and if so, making a report to police is strongly encouraged.
Child protection workers must consult separately with the adult victim prior to and following any engagement with the perpetrator to inform:
Whether the perpetrator is engaged or not, child protection staff can hold the perpetrator accountable in the way they conceptualise, record and respond to the case. This includes
Safety and Wellbeing Assessment
This section should be read in conjunction with Chapter 2.3: Assessing emotional abuse – family and domestic violence and 'Holding Men Accountable' in Perpetrator Accountability in Child Protection Practice (in related resources).
The person using violence is the person responsible for harming the child, and is also the person most capable of being able to improve the child’s safety (by changing their behaviour). It is therefore imperative that the person using violence is engaged by the child protection worker, where safe and practicable.
Child protection workers conducting a SWA in cases involving emotional abuse–FDV, must interview the perpetrator where safe and possible. The purpose of the interview is to:
All information gathered from the perpetrator should be critically considered with regard to its reliability and accuracy, and used as ‘additional information’ only in the analysis of information.
To assist child protection workers to plan for an interview with the person who is using violence, a series of questions and prompts have been developed and are available in Emotional Abuse – Family and Domestic Violence Assessment Toolkit (also in related resources).
A decision not to contact the perpetrator of FDV must be clearly documented in the SWA. The decision must be approved by a team leader. Acceptable reasons for not engaging the person using violence include:
This section should be read in conjunction with Chapter 2.3: Safety planning - emotional abuse - family and domestic violence.
Where possible, child protection workers should engage the perpetrator of violence in the safety planning process. However, the perpetrator should never be part of the adult victim and child’s safety network; they must not receive a copy of the adult victim’s personal safety plan; and careful consideration should be given to whether or not it is suitable for the perpetrator to know the details about the safety plan prepared with the safety network (community and professional). The decision about whether or not to share this information with the perpetrator should be made in consultation with the adult victim.
Safety planning with the perpetrator is a separate but related process that focuses on what he can do to meet the safety goal(s) and create safety for the child.
Examples of actions or behaviours that could be included in the safety plan of a perpetrator of violence are provided below. Actions should be tailored to the person and the circumstances of their relationship with the adult victim (for example, in a relationship or separated) and should focus on ways that the perpetrator can demonstrate improved safety through a reduction in violence and abuse. Examples include:
For further examples, see 'Elements of a case plan for family and domestic violence perpetrators' in the related resource Perpetrator Accountability in Child Protection Practice
Note: it is important not to send the message to the perpetrator that violence is acceptable if the children are not present. Any violence perpetrated against a child’s mother is harmful to the child regardless of whether the child witnesses the incident. If the perpetrator can choose not to be violent at work, in the community or in front of the children, he can choose to not be violent at all.
To assist child protection workers to engage perpetrators of FDV in the safety planning process, a related resource has been developed which includes prompts and questions that can be asked, see Emotional Abuse – Family and Domestic Violence Safety Planning Toolkit (link also in related resources).
There may be times when interviewing or meeting with the perpetrator is not possible. This includes, but is not limited to, the following situations:
In these circumstances, all discussions, meetings and recording must continue to focus on the perpetrator as the source of harm or danger to the child and adult victim, and safety planning with the safety network should focus on: