Ask questions about the children and find out what their mother thinks. As with all aspects of victim-defined advocacy, this conversation must be respectful and culturally responsive.
How a child is doing will be determined by the combination of their strengths and all the risks they face – not just the domestic violence. Identify the positives in the child’s life – family, school, individuals, interests, resiliency, and culture. Talk about the risks – the violence and other factors that are a risk to the children’s development. These might include living in poverty, health issues, family dysfunction, parenting challenges, abuse, or inadequate schools.
Sometimes your views will differ – from other advocates and from the mother’s. Check your understanding of her view and the accuracy of your own. Work to get on the same page.
Children benefit when advocates provide information, conversation, and resources that support a victim’s parenting. The parent also benefits. Build support from the cultural context of the victim’s family and parenting approach.
Sometimes violence and other life hardships damage the relationship between the child and the victim-parent. When warranted, offer the parent concrete suggestions for repairing and strengthening that connection.
What you offer will depend on the child. As with adults, strategies must be customized to their needs, culture, and current resources.
Advocacy with parents may not be enough to protect their children from serious harm. Additional steps are then necessary. For example, involve other family members, connect the family to other social services, or offer intensive parenting intervention plans. Some circumstances may even require child protection involvement.
This is particularly important in programs that might provide a different advocate for the victim-parent and the child.
They may have resources that will help the children you’re working with. The domestic violence specific knowledge and resources you have will help the children they are working with. Potential collaborations may be found with the following kinds of programs: child advocacy, child behavioral health, child health care providers, parenting programs, schools, kids clubs, fatherhood programs that acknowledge and address family violence, early childhood programs, child poverty, child welfare, family support, child protection, law enforcement, and juvenile court.