Witnessing domestic violence can have a profound effect on a child’s emotional and cognitive development. Children are exposed to abuse in a variety of ways:
Sometimes they are direct witnesses to abusive explosions. Sometimes they see the aftermath: a hole in a wall or door, food or dishes thrown to the floor, furniture overturned, broken or smashed items, the parent’s injuries or tear-stained face.
Even when in another room, children frequently hear the arguments, the hitting, and the threats.
Children feel the stress of worrying about a parent or anticipating an explosion. Children can also get caught in the middle of a fight: baby being held when the mother is hit or pushed, a toddler playing on the floor who gets knocked into by the parents, an older child who tries to stand up for the victim and gets pushed or hit by the abuser.
CCADV believes in every family and individual child’s resiliency. While the effects of exposure to violence vary and are many, our member programs and their staff work delicately and carefully with the victims that are often forgotten, the children.
Each CCADV member program has a specialized Child Advocate, a role specifically designed to address the needs of children. Our trauma-informed Child Advocates work with parents to help them understand the effects of the domestic violence and how it impacts the child, restore a healthy parent- child relationship and safety plan when the offending parent is involved.
Regularly trained by national experts including Betsy McAlister Groves and Maxine Weinreb of the Child Witness to Violence Project out of Boston Medical Center, Child Advocates are always challenged to think critically on how to best serve each individual child’s needs. Twice a year Child Advocates also receive training on topics such as: the rights of children related to the McKinney Vento Homeless Act, the statewide Birth-to-Three program for children that are developmentally delayed, and the resources available for children through CCADV’s collaboration with Head Start and the CT Parent Advocacy Center.
Another important child-focused initiative at CCADV includes the delivery of Safe Families Safe Homes (SFSH), a curriculum based-training that was initially created to provide Head Start staff with the skill-set needed when working with children exposed to domestic violence. Selected as one of the original pilot sites to deliver this model in 2004, CCADV has continued to deliver SFSH, which now has expanded to meet the training needs of child care providers working with children exposed to domestic violence.
In order to better serve families exposed to domestic violence, CCADV is committed to improving collaboration between the criminal justice system, child protection system and CCADV’s domestic violence advocates.
Through the Eyes of a Child: Understanding the Experiences and Perspectives of Children Living in Shelter
In 2015, CCADV initiated its Through the Eyes of a Child project to assess and understand the experiences of children who reside for a period of time in one of the state’s 18 domestic violence emergency shelter settings. It is our ongoing practice to capture feedback from survivors, in this case child survivors, so that we may learn, adjust and improve our approach to serving this young population. Most importantly, we always seek to understand the efficacy of our work and aim to do better. For this reason, CCADV selected to conduct a second phase of the Through the Eyes of a Child assessment in 2020 to benchmark our progress and identify continued opportunities for improvement.
CCADV, at its core, is a social justice serving organization. As service providers embedded within a system of power, we acknowledge that we are accountable to the people who need our support. We must ensure services are equitable for all victims and survivors. Services must steadfastly address the myriad of additional barriers experienced by communities of color and must be accessible despite these barriers. Explicitly placing a focus on the experience of children of color was therefore especially necessary through this assessment.
Throughout the process, advocates taught us a great deal about the important work they do and their commitment to working with our youngest survivors. Children taught us about the importance of safe spaces, their need for autonomy and the significance of listening and learning from them. This report details the findings and recommendations of the Through the Eyes of a Child project.
For more information about our services for children, please contact Kelly Annelli, Director of Member Organization Services, at (860) 282-7899 or firstname.lastname@example.org.