Child welfare policy and practice on children's exposure to domestic violence

Theodore P. Cross, Ben Mathews, Lil Tonmyr, Debbie Scott, Catherine Ouimet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: This article reviews research, policy and programming in Australia, Canada and the US on the child welfare response to EDV. Method: The review draws on searches of standard research databases, interviews with researchers and practitioners, and the authors' own research. Results: Although EDV is underreported, across studies 7% to 23% of youths in general population surveys experienced EDV, 36-39% of youth in DV cases have witnessed the violence, and 45-46% of primary caregivers in child maltreatment investigations have experienced DV. Mandatory reporting can increase the number of cases that come to the attention of child welfare, but without resources for training and programming can lead to inappropriate reports, lack of referral for further assessment, and strains on the child welfare system. Improving the child welfare response to EDV can include collaboration between child welfare workers and DV advocates; increased training on screening for DV; new protocols on DV; and dedicated DV staffing within child welfare agencies. In recent years, policy and program attention to EDV has also been embedded within broader national efforts to protect children from violence and maltreatment. Differential response models that eschew investigation in favor of assessment and service delivery hold promise for families with DV. Conclusions: Empirical data are limited, but current research and practice experience suggest that child welfare agencies seeking to improve the response to EDV should collaborate with other disciplines involved with preventing and responding to DV, seek resources to support training and programming, consider methods that avoid stigmatizing parents, and build in a program evaluation component to increase knowledge about effective practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-216
Number of pages7
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Child welfare
  • Differential response
  • Exposure to domestic violence
  • Mandatory reporting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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