GUIDELINE 1. RECEIVING REPORTS

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					MODULE 2 Creating Context
Mothering In The Context Of Violence Against Women

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Module 2 Learning Objectives
Participants will:

•Learn more about the challenges of mothering,
protection and safety within the context of woman abuse

•Explore how children and youth‟s safety is linked to
women‟s safety

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Module 2 Learning Objectives
Participants will:

•Review evidence about violence against women in
relationships and parenting, including research that finds a positive effect on mother-child attachment.

•Apply a women-centred, strengths-based approach
to a case study

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Best Practice Approaches
Women-centred, Strength-based
Consider the following concepts:
 The abuser should be held accountable for the

violence, not the woman
 Provide coordinated, culturally sensitive support

services
 Wherever possible, provide voluntary support

services
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Best Practice Approaches
Women-centred, Strength-based
 Separation or outside intervention often leads to

escalation in frequency and lethality of violence
 Most abusive people have the ability to control

their behaviour - anger management courses not appropriate
 Impact of abuse: some women appear to be the

problem while partners appear credible, rational and responsible
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Best Practice Approaches
Women-centred, Strength-based
 Women fearful about the removal of their children

are usually not forthcoming in providing information to a child protection worker
 If a determination is made that the children are at

risk in their mother‟s care:
 provide appropriate services to the mother in a

respectful, integrated, and culturally sensitive manner.
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Best Practice Approaches
Women-centred, Strength-based
 If removal is necessary, services should be provided

in a manner that recognizes and supports the mother‟s strengths and need for safety.
 Engage mothers to:  determine and develop their own service plan goals  identify their needs for safety and support  identify their children‟s needs for safety and support
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Violence Against Women
Balancing Risks
Most women care deeply about their children‟s safety and work to protect them from:
 physical assaults  other risks perpetrated by the abuser  systemic harms such as poverty, racism , isolation

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Violence Against Women
Balancing Risks
A woman in an abusive relationship who has children faces two sets of painful challenges:
 protect herself and her children from physical and other dangers created by her partner.  confront life-generated risks, which are sometimes more frightening than the first.

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Violence Against Women
Balancing Risks
Life-generated risks when considering separation from her partner:
 Where will she find housing and money to feed her

family?  What will she do if her partner reports her to child protection services as he has threatened to do?  Who will baby-sit for the children when she has to go to work and her partner is no longer there?  Will he try to kidnap the children?
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Violence Against Women
Balancing Risks
 Life-generated risks enter into each abused woman‟s calculation of her children‟s safety  Deciding and preparing to leave the relationship does not eliminate these risks  Deciding and preparing to leave the relationship may bring these risks to the forefront
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Violence Against Women
Balancing Risks
 Women who have experienced abuse have developed an enormous capacity for
 creative problem-solving
 safety strategies  crisis management

 Often very resourceful and have usually attempted to find support for themselves and their children.

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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks
 Goal is to create empowering support services for women:
 respectful, collaborative working relationships between

providers and clients

 Unfortunately, the systems are not always in place

to support women and their children.
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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks
 Women report that sometimes services add to the harms that they have experienced in their lives.  Women have experienced disempowerment and loss of autonomy in abusive relationships; they bring this experience into their encounters with

well-intentioned service providers.
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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks
 Many women calculate their risks and make decisions about leaving their abusive partner when they perceive that their children are at risk.

 The complexity and risks of leaving an abusive relationship are enormous (Modules 3 and 4).
 Despite this, many people frequently ask, “Why do battered women stay when this places them and their children in jeopardy?”
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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks
 The questions an abused woman may ask herself are more

complex, such as:








“If I leave, will the violence be worse?” “Should I leave and place myself and my children in poverty?” “If I leave and live on less money, my children will have to live in a more dangerous neighbourhood, and should I do this to them?” “Should I leave and risk losing my children in a custody battle with their abusive father?”
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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks


Will I be able to protect my children if their father has unsupervised access?”



“Do I have the right to leave if I am being sponsored by my partner and/or don‟t have status?”
“Will I lose all community supports by leaving?”



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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks
Women and children and youth‟s safety is most compromised during and after separating from an abusive relationship.
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Violence Against Women
Compounding Risks
 Be aware of the risks and difficulties that a woman and

her children face in leaving an abusive relationship
 Develop service plans that include the complexity of her

situation.
 Develop service plans that reflect an appreciation of the

obstacles women face when trying to fulfill the expectations of the service plan.
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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
Can women who experience abuse mother their children?
 Research shows that women in abusive relationships

who are mothers may have heightened empathy, caring and protectiveness towards their children.
Cox, Kotch, & Everson, (2003) Journal of Family Violence, 18(1), 5-17

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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
The separation of the interests and safety of women and children and youth has serious implications:
 The very women that the system relies on to protect

children are alienated from the system.
 May feel that they must hide features of their lives if they

perceive that their children will be removed from their care.
 If this becomes known, a worker may distrust the woman

or deem her to be unable or unwilling to protect her child.
Graham-Bermann & Edleson (2001)
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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
 While „the well-being of the child‟ is the

mandate of child protection services, who is primarily responsible for the child‟s well-being?
 In most cases the mother, even when, and

perhaps especially when, she is being abused by her partner.
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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
„Failure to protect‟ suggests that the woman is responsible for stopping her abusive partner from putting their children at risk, rather than focusing on his failure to ensure the children’s safety.

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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
 Women often blamed for not protecting their children.

Implication is that women make the choice to remain with their abusive partner.
 Given the demands of child protection caseloads, one

author notes that it is easy to forget that women who come in contact with the child protection system are surviving under increasingly precarious circumstances.
Trocme and Chamberland, 2003 in Davies and Krane 2006 Collaborate with Caution: protecting children, helping mothers.
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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
•View women as the source of protection, safety and security for children and youth •Support women‟s safety a primary goal •support for women and their children‟s safety •reduction in risk of retraumatizing children and youth by removing them from their mother‟s care
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Violence Against Women
Abused Women and Mothering
 Expert testimony explains that separating children

and youth from their non-abusive mothers can be more damaging and traumatic than remaining with their mothers in the context where she is being abused.*

* Handout 3.9 - full description of the expert testimony
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Violence Against Women
Impact on Mothering
 Isolation  Severed relationships with friends and family

 Fear of being judged
 Feel like they are going crazy  Reluctant to tell friend or professionals  Unsafe advice, judgements and blame for the

abuse by family members, friend or professionals
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Violence Against Women
Impact on Mothering
 Frequent moves when detection becomes likely  No action in community to assist the victims  Rural Isolation far from support and safety services  Privacy concerns about seeking help in small

communities
A Handbook for Health and Social Service Providers and Educators on Children Exposed to Woman Abuse/Family Violence; Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, 1999.
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Violence Against Women
Impact on Mothering
 Women respond to violence and abuse in many different

ways, mostly focused on maintaining safety and wellbeing of themselves and their children.
 However, the powerful influences of violence, abuse, power

and control by an intimate partner can include:  an erosion of self-esteem  health challenges  barriers to self-determination  additional challenges to parenting
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Violence Against Women
Impact on Mothering
Some issues mothers living with violence may face:
 Unpredictable rules and behaviours of abusive partner  Inconsistent consequences for children and youth  Pre-occupation with staying safe  Unrealistic expectations and pressure from the abuser

 Little financial stability
 Mother emotionally exhausted
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Violence Against Women
Impact on Mothering
Some issues mothers living with violence may face:
 Attempts at appropriate parenting undermined by abuser  Children and youth verbally abusive mother  Children and youth learn not to talk about feelings  Abuser uses jealousy of the children as control tactic  Mothers self esteem may be very low; unable to model a

positive self image for their children
Best Practice Approaches Child Protection and Violence Against Women, Appendix 1
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Violence Against Women
Support Women & Their Children
Children are safer and more supported when mothers are safer and more supported:
 Work with a woman to identify supports  Learn about and practice a women-centred approach  Provide support to the woman that avoids victim blaming  Look for barriers/ challenges to accessing supports  Ask her how she would like her MCFD social worker to

work in collaboration with any other services
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Violence Against Women
Support Women & Their Children
Ask her if there are any services or supports for her children she would like help to connect with such as:
 Children Who Witness Abuse program  School counsellor

 Youth outreach program
 Child care/day care services and subsidy  Religious/cultural groups  Multicultural school support worker

 First Nations School Support Worker
 Health services (doctor, mental health, substance use)  Respite care
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Violence Against Women
Support Women & Their Children
Ask her if there are any services or supports that she would like to have help getting connected to:
 Legal services (lawyer, legal aid, custody/access advocates)  Support Group for mothers

 Family support worker or other parenting supports
 Anti-violence services (Women‟s Outreach, Specialized Victim

Services, Transition or Safe House, Stopping the Violence Counselling)  Police  Religious and/or cultural community or groups  Multicultural services
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Violence Against Women
Support Women & Their Children
 Supports re: aggressive youth
 Aboriginal services  Stopping the Violence counselling  Immigration workers

 Subsidized or other housing
 Income Assistance through the Ministry of Employment and 


 

Income Assistance Counselling for abusive partner Employment services Training and education services, programs, and subsidies Health Services (doctor, mental health, substance use)
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Violence Against Women
Avoid Blaming Mothers
 Often, as child protection workers are stretched thin

by unmanageable caseloads and fears about making wrong decisions, workers „modify their conception of the client‟.
 The client becomes exclusively the child or youth,

with mothers and their needs viewed as extraneous to protection interventions.
Davies and Krane (2006) Collaborate with caution: protecting children, helping mothers
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Violence Against Women
Women-Centred Approach
How to apply a Women-Centred Approach:
 Find out mother‟s schedule - how and when to contact her.  Don‟t leave messages with others or on machine.  Always use call blocker so your number is not displayed.  Check that it is safe for her to speak to you by asking

questions such as: “Is now a good time to talk?”  Arrange a meeting where you know the abuser will not be present – eg. at school

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Violence Against Women
Women-Centred Approach
 Avoid making inaccurate assessments about the

woman‟s behaviour and resultant parenting ability.
 Recognize the woman‟s strengths and build on the

strategies that she has used to keep herself and her children safe.
 Ask questions such as: “What assistance do you need to

keep your children safe?” rather than making statements that imply blame such as: “It‟s your responsibility to keep your children safe from your partner”.
 Respect the woman‟s ability to make choices within the constraints of child protection practice.

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Violence Against Women
Women-Centred Approach
 Share knowledge and information.  Provide services that are accessible from the perspective

of the woman.
 Provide interpretation services that allow safe discussion

about her experiences
 Support „solutions that respect and account for women‟s

cultural and religious values.‟
 Discuss her concerns and needs for support and safety.
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Violence Against Women
Women-Centred Approach
Advise the woman of the following for safety purposes:
 when you/police plan to contact family members,

particularly the alleged abuser  if for any reason the contact is delayed  after you have made contact with the alleged abuser  that you will not disclose her and/or her child‟s location to the perpetrator or anyone without her knowledge and permission
Buchwitz, Rita (2001) Alternatives to Apprehension: Education, Action and Advocacy
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