Domestic violence is an important child welfare issue. Research shows that 30-60% of child abuse and neglect cases also involve a history of domestic violence (Edleson 1999). The impact of domestic violence on children may be significant.
The emotional toll on children who witness threats or violence against others can be substantial, especially when those involved are familiar to the child and the violence takes place in the home. Children may be affected when they witness domestic violence, regardless of whether or not they are directly abused.
Current research has found that children exposed to domestic violence are at an increased risk for emotional and behavioral problems, including anxiety, depression, and academic problems. The research also suggests that some children who have witnessed domestic violence show no symptoms of psychological distress.
Children’s responses may depend on the severity and frequency of the abuse, the availability of family and community support, and the child’s resilience. Once their safety is assured, most children can overcome the effects of trauma through professional counseling or other supportive interventions.
The Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) is responsible for ensuring the safety and well being of all children in New York City and strengthening families. Formed in 1996, ACS is the first New York City agency devoted solely to serving children and families. Through preventive services within the community, ACS aims to keep families together when appropriate by offering support within the home before problems become overwhelming to parents.
ACS provides community based services such as crisis intervention, counseling, parenting skills training and referrals to subsidized programs. The agency also operates the Family Preservation Program, which provides six- to eight-week crisis intervention and family preservation services through specially trained workers.
ACS offers respite care Citywide to eligible parents in need of immediate, temporary care and supervision of their children. The New York Foundling Family Crisis Center hosts one such program, where children up to age 11 may stay for a limited period of time while their parents address various crisis situations. The New York Foundling Family Crisis Center can also provide referrals to respite care programs throughout the City.
In 2001, ACS developed a set of Guiding Principles to address domestic violence involving caretakers who receive services through ACS. ACS works to enhance a child’s safety following detection of domestic violence at home by offering support to the non-abusive parent, while engaging the abusive partner in services.
In May 2003, ACS released the ACS Domestic Violence Strategic Plan, which describes the agency’s ongoing work and commitment to improving child welfare practice with families who are affected by domestic violence. ACS is one of the only children’s services agencies in the United States that has issued a strategic plan dedicated solely to domestic violence. The goal of the plan is to ensure that children and families who are affected by domestic violence receive the most appropriate intervention and services. Many initiatives in the plan are well under way and already making a difference to the children and families ACS serves.
Reach out to a domestic violence service provider contracted by ACS to provide preventive services.
Contact the local field office for information about preventive services.
Call the Prevention Information and Parent Helpline at 800-342-7472.
Search the ACS directory for supportive services.
In December 2000, ACS established 12 multidisciplinary clinical consultation teams throughout the five boroughs. These teams are made up of specialists in the areas of domestic violence, mental health and substance abuse, and offer highly detailed clinical consultations to ACS staff who might not otherwise possess specific expertise in these areas.
The domestic violence specialists specifically assist child welfare staff in identifying and assessing families affected by domestic violence and developing intervention strategies to keep the non-offending parent and his or her children safe. The specialists also provide ongoing in-service training on domestic violence in each ACS field office.
The teams are based in ACS field offices, where they play an important role in improving communication and collaboration between ACS and other agencies that address domestic violence including domestic violence service providers, the police department, and the District Attorneys’ Offices.
Many victims fear that disclosing domestic violence to a medical provider, social service worker or police officer may result in the removal of their children. Immigrant victims of domestic violence may fear that the abuser or other family members will seek to obtain custody of the children and/or remove them from the victim's care by taking them to their country of origin. Custody laws vary substantially from country to country.
ACS is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all the children in New York City. To this end, ACS is responsible for receiving and investigating suspected cases of child abuse and maltreatment that are reported to the New York State Central Register (SCR). If it is determined after preventive services have been provided or during a child abuse investigation that a child cannot remain safely in his or her home, the child will be placed in foster care. However, in most domestic violence cases referred to ACS for investigation, children are able to safely remain in the care of the non-offending parent.
The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) maintains a Statewide Central Register of child abuse and maltreatment (SCR). Certain individuals, who are referred to as “mandated” reporters, are required by New York State law to make a report to the SCR when they have reasonable cause to suspect that a child is an abused or maltreated child.
Individuals who are required to make such a report include any medical, dental, or mental health professionals, school officials, social services or foster care workers, day care providers, substance abuse counselors, or law enforcement officials. In addition to persons required to report suspected child abuse or maltreatment, any person may make such a report if such person has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is an abused or maltreated child.
If you suspect that a child is abused or neglected, report your concerns at any time of the day and on any day of the week to the SCR:
Mandated Reporter Hotline 800-635-1522
Non-Mandated Reporter Hotline 800-342-3720
Hearing Impaired 800-638-5163
You can obtain a copy of the New York State Office of Child and Family Services publication, “Summary Guide for Mandated Reporters in New York State” at www.ocfs.state.ny.us.