Guidelines Initiative

In about half of all child maltreatment cases, a parent is also being battered. The intersection of domestic violence and child maltreatment is generally overlooked. Too often, non-offending battered parents (usually mothers) are blamed for the abuse of their children. Too rarely, perpetrators are held accountable. Children suffer because they may be injured in the course of violence against their mother, or they suffer harmful effects simply by being in a violent home.

In most communities, the primary systems for helping mothers and children become safe (i.e. dependency courts, child protective services, and domestic violence service providers) need to strengthen their understanding, capacity, and tools to address the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence. 

To address these issues, the Family Violence Department of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges convened leading family court judges and experts on child maltreatment and domestic violence. Together, they developed a groundbreaking publication, "Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence & Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice," . Released in 1999, it offers a comprehensive set of responses designed to eliminate or decrease the enormous risks that battered parents, caseworkers and judges must take on behalf of children.

A Federal Initiative ensued and six demonstration sites were selected from among 100 candidates to be a part of this unique project. In December of 2000 and January of 2001, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services funded the six communities under an Inter-Departmental Demonstration Initiative: "Collaborations to Address Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment." The six communities were: Santa Clara County, California; San Francisco County, California; Lane County, Oregon; El Paso County, Colorado; St. Louis County, Missouri; Grafton County, New Hampshire. Each community received approximately $350,000 for seven years. The Federal Initiative required communities to implement guidelines from the Effective Intervention in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. These guidelines were directed at child welfare agencies, community-based domestic violence providers, and dependency courts. These organizations agreed to establish collaborative structures and develop policies and procedures to enhance the safety and well-being of battered women and their children. Many other local organizations, such as law enforcement, probation and parole, prosecutors, health care providers, children's advocates, mental health providers, domestic violence survivors, and other community-based groups also contributed in important ways.

In addition to funding the communities, the Federal Initiative included a national evaluation and ongoing technical assistance. The evaluation was conducted by Caliber Associates and its partners, the National Center for State Courts and the Education Development Center. The national evaluation team explored how effectively the sites implemented the guidelines. In addition, each site was required to designate an evaluation/data coordinator to work with the national evaluators and to lead local evaluation and data collection activities. Technical assistance was provided by the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, the Family Violence Prevention Fund and the American Public Human Services Association.

The Initiative was supported by both federal and private partners. Private partners included the David and Lucile and Packard Foundation, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Anne E. Casey Foundation and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges. The Federal Partners included several offices of the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. The offices in the Department of Justice included: the National Institute of Justice, the Office on Violence Against Women, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Likewise, the agencies in the Department of Health and Human Services included: the Children's Bureau, Administration for Children, Youth and Families; the Office of Community Services, Administration for Children and Families; the Division of Violence Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, who led the Initiative steering group.

Today, Effective Interventions in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice helps child welfare workers, domestic violence advocates and family court judges in communities across the country change their approach to family violence to better help battered women and their children achieve safety. Effective Interventions in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice has spawned activities in states and localities across the country.

Read more about the Federal Initiative Demonstration Sites, and Other Initiatives.


Resource Center on Domestic Violence: Child Protection and Custody.


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