Support child protection workers to engage and respond to perpetrators of emotional abuse – family and domestic violence (FDV).
Note: 'The Department' refers to the Department of Communities.
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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 while avoiding language and 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, refer to pages 12-15 of Perpetrator Accountability in Child Protection Practice and Invisible Practices: Working with fathers who use violence (practice guidance).
The procedures outlined below are intended to support you 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 or relationship breakdown is critical for promoting child safety, as separation is known to be a time of escalated violence and risk.
You must be familiar with the Department's guidelines on worker safety, and refer to Administration Manual 3.3 Dealing with aggressive behaviour by clients
If you feel that you are unable to engage with a perpetrator safely, contact should not be pursued. However, you must clearly document the reason for not engaging the perpetrator in the CSI and seek approval from your team leader.
In situations where you are threatened by the perpetrator, consider whether the perpetrator's behaviour is criminal in nature and if so, making a report to police is strongly encouraged.
You must consult separately with the adult victim before and after any engagement with the perpetrator to inform:
Whether the perpetrator is engaged or not, you can hold the perpetrator accountable in the way you conceptualise, record and respond to the case. This includes:
Child Safety Investigation
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 you engage with the person using violence where it is safe and practicable.
When conducting a CSI in cases involving emotional abuse – FDV, you must interview the perpetrator where safe and possible. The purpose of the interview is to:
Consider all information gathered from the perpetrator critically in regard to its reliability and accuracy, and use it as ‘additional information’ only in the analysis of information.
To assist you 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 CSI. This decision must be approved by your 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 FDV.
Where possible, you 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 goals 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 you 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: