July 2019 Newsletter

Words Create Worlds: Opportunities to Foster a Better Understanding of DV in Custody Processes

My name is Jay Otto, and I am a researcher for the Center for Health and Safety Culture. Domestic violence and custody are not my areas of expertise. My research focuses on how culture (shared values and beliefs) impacts behaviors that affect health and safety. I have been learning about this complex topic of establishing custody in families experiencing domestic violence in support of NCJFCJ’s Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody. In this project, I was able to interview many experts from across the U.S. working on custody in the context of domestic violence (DV).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 6.6% of women and 6.4% of men in the U.S. experienced sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking in the past 12 months by an intimate partner in 2010-12. More than twice as many experienced psychological aggression in the past 12 months (14.1% of women and 18.2% of men). The impacts of this violence are far-reaching and significantly complicate establishing custody agreements for children in families experiencing DV.

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June 2019 Newsletter

Re-Thinking Mandatory Reporting for Survivors and Youth of all Genders and Sexual Orientations

When I was 18 years old, I volunteered at a local domestic violence shelter.  Part of the 40-hour volunteer training included a briefing on our new role as mandated reporters. Learning this new information, I felt a wave of anxiety wash over me.  What if I failed to recognize a situation that required a mandated report?  What if the survivor I was working with didn’t want to involve child protective services or the police?  And my most daunting fear: What if making a mandated report made the survivor less safe?

In my fifteen years of experience in the domestic violence movement, I have met countless other advocates who share similar fears and discomfort with engaging in the system of mandatory reporting, yet they continue to do so for a seeming lack of other options.

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April 2019 Newsletter

Family Law Mediation and Domestic Violence

Before joining the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody (RCDV:CPC) as a part-time program attorney, I worked for many years as a legal services attorney. I represented children in the custody of social services, immigrant survivors of domestic violence, and victims of elder abuse. I have also had the honor of serving as a justice of the peace pro tempore for many years, where I still occasionally hear and decide cases in a judicial capacity. While both of these roles were invaluable to my current experience with and knowledge of family law and court systems, I often felt that my ability to serve families fully was limited by these traditional court roles. As such, I became a family court mediator and a panelist for court-based custody and dependency mediation programs throughout northern Nevada.

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April 2019 Newsletter

National Child Abuse Prevention Month

The Family and Youth Services Bureau, Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) Program proudly funds the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody (RCDV: CPC), a project of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). RCDV:CPC works with judges, attorneys, court personnel, child welfare, and advocates to better understand domestic violence and child maltreatment better. It also promotes best practices to improve the safety and well-being of children and their non-abusing parent.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month (NCAPM), a time to recognize the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. It also marks another opportunity to partner with our sister bureau, the Children’s Bureau (CB), which oversees NCAPM activities and federal efforts to increase awareness of this important issue.

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Without a Lawyer, but Not Without Help

Most family court custody cases have at least one participant who is not represented by an attorney. Cases with self-represented litigants (SRL) make up between 70% and 90% of all family court cases. Unsurprisingly, then, the majority of survivors of domestic violence who seek remedies through the family court do so without the help of an attorney. While having a lawyer is recommended, the harsh reality is that there are simply not enough pro bono or legal aid lawyers to meet the great need.

Findings from interviews with SRLs suggest that they feel disadvantaged in court compared to those with legal representation, perceive that representing themselves negatively impacts their case outcomes, and believe that representing themselves adds stress to an already taxing experience.3 For survivors of domestic violence, these challenges are magnified: a survivor is typically at a financial disadvantage, the presence of domestic violence often complicates the case, and in addition to the typical stress of a family court case, a survivor is often trying to manage trauma, both the survivor’s own and the children’s.

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Parents Have a Role in Ending Teen Dating Violence

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. As the mother of a son who recently graduated from college, I know how difficult it can be to discuss dating and healthy relationships with a teenager. As a long-time advocate against domestic violence, I also know how important it is for parents to have these conversations with their children starting at an early age. Unfortunately, there is a myth in our society shared by many adults that teens do not experience dating violence or, if they do, the violence is not very severe.

This may be one reason why nearly three in four parents with children under the age of 18 have never talked to their children about domestic violence.1 The reality of teen dating violence, however, is that one in five high school girls and one in ten high school boys will be involved in an abusive relationship in the next 12 months,2 and 58 percent of young women aged 18 to 22 know someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a dating partner.3

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Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody’s (RCDV: CPC) inaugural issue of The Resource Center Newsletter!


Happy New Year and welcome to the Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody’s (RCDV: CPC) inaugural issue of The Resource Center Newsletter!

We hope that, over the coming months, you and your colleagues read these electronic newsletters with as much as enthusiasm as our team brings to their creation. Within each electronic newsletter, you will find blogs from our staff and invited guests on critical issues, innovative collaborations, promising practice, and changing policies affecting domestic violence work as it intersects with child protection and child custody systems. We will also highlight job opportunities and relevant new resources, research, and learning opportunities from the RCDV: CPC, NCJFCJ, and our partners across the country.

In November of 2018, the RCDV: CPC staff gathered for a full day to consider our national leadership as a resource center and to identify the issues and/or projects we hope to explore and support in the coming year. Those issues and projects will be highlighted here each month.

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Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.


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