Emerging Minds
Learning
4hrs

Family and domestic violence and child-aware practice

About the course

This course examines opportunities for practitioners to engage in a prevention and early intervention approach to promote children’s mental health and wellbeing in the context of family and domestic violence (FDV).

It will provide you with a conversation guide to assist your engagement with parents who are living with FDV to enquire about their children’s social and emotional wellbeing. 

Whilst this area of work presents challenges for practitioners, it is important that they work in a way that actively considers the safety and social and emotional wellbeing of children in families where FDV is present. 

This course will not equip you with the skills required for crisis response, risk assessment and safety planning to recognise and respond to FDV. It assumes you have a basic understanding of these. It will explore an approach that will help you to focus on the children in families where FDV is a presenting issue. This course also assumes that you have a level of basic training and confidence in gendered understandings of family and domestic violence and the effects on women and children.

Although family and domestic violence can occur in many different kinds of intimate or family relationships, it is most frequently perpetrated by men towards their female partners and children.1 It is within this context that this course looks at the ways in which children are impacted by violence. 

Modules

Principles and practices

Based on a series of video demonstrations, this module explores strategies for practitioners where fathers who are using violence present to their service. It explores a child-aware conversation that invites fathers to consider the effects of their violence on their children, and the meanings and implications of this for their responsibilities as a parent. The practice principles for working with mothers living with family and domestic violence are also explored.

Applying the PERCS Conversation Guide

This module explores the use of the PERCS Conversation Guide, in particular conversations around the five PERCS domains in a child’s life, when working with a mother in the context of FDV. It is based on a series of video demonstrations with a mother.

Who is this course for?

This course is based on the following understandings: 

  • FDV is prevalent in the lives of many Australian women and children. 
  • Women experiencing FDV will typically not present at specialist FDV services.  
  • There is a role for workers in non-FDV services to gain skills in crisis response, risk assessment and safety planning to recognise and respond to FDV.   
  • It is important that this response has a focus on the children in these families to minimise the effects of FDV on children’s mental health and wellbeing.   

This course is designed for practitioners in adult-focused services who engage with adult and family adversity. It recognises the significant number of parents affected by FDV who present to services, and the interrelated nature of FDV and mental health, substance use, homelessness, poverty, and child protection issues. 

Note

This course will not equip you for long-term therapeutic work with either men perpetrating violence or women and children being subjected to violence and abuse. That work requires specialist skills and training.

Specialist long-term therapeutic training is available from other providers including the following links to organisations.

Learning outcomes

This course will enable you to support both mothers and fathers to:

  • consider the impacts of FDV on their children 
  • lessen these impacts in order to support their children’s safety and social and emotional wellbeing  
  • be curious about the social and emotional wellbeing of their children by using the PERCS Conversation Guide and parent engagement principles  
  • continue working on their presenting issue (other than violence) while acknowledging the context of FDV and its effects on the various domains of their children’s lives.  


This course will also help you to be mindful of conducting these conversations without:

  • compromising the safety of women and children subjected to FDV 
  • reinforcing mother-blame or shame  
  • diminishing men’s responsibility for their use of violence, nor their responsibility to act in safe and respectful ways towards women and children  
  • jeopardising parents’ engagement with your service.

The work in this course follows on from the foundation course, The impact of family and domestic violence on the child which covers topics such as:

  • What is FDV?
  • The prevalence of FDV in Australia.
  • The impacts of FDV on the social and emotional wellbeing, physical health, mental health, and development of infants and children.
  • Why it is important for all practitioners to be able to respond to FDV in a child-focused way.

If you are inexperienced in working with parents affected by FDV, or would like to know more about the effects of FDV on children, it is recommended that you complete the foundation course as a starting point before undertaking this course.

The knowledge and understandings you will gain from this foundation course are important in supporting you to be able to have safe and effective child-focused conversations with parents where FDV is a presenting issue. 

Self-care

This course features videos of fictional parents and family scenarios. As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed: 

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later. 
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course, and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy. 
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course. 

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263. 

Definitions

For the purpose of this course, the term ‘parent’ encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

'Social and emotional wellbeing' refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. Social and emotional wellbeing incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is integral to child development.2

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.3

‘Family and domestic violence’ (FDV) refers to “acts of violence that occur between people who have, or have had, an intimate relationship. While there is no single definition, the central element of domestic violence is an ongoing pattern of behaviour aimed at controlling a partner through fear, for example by using behaviour which is violent and threatening. In most cases, the violent behaviour is part of a range of tactics to exercise power and control over women and their children, and can be both criminal and non-criminal.”4

‘Parent engagement’ is a process where a practitioner establishes a relationship with a parent for the purposes of reaching a shared understanding of the family’s circumstances, the concerns that are circulating within and around the family, and the purposes of the consultations. It is characterised by the parent experiencing their contribution to the conversation as meaningful and significant.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities often use ‘family violence’ to describe the range of abuses perpetrated within families and communities. This term also includes lateral violence, which describes how historical and ongoing trauma and social and cultural oppression move through kinship networks, communities and generations.4

References

  1. Department for Child Protection and Family Support (2015). Practice Standards for Perpetrator Intervention: Engaging and Responding to Men who are Perpetrators of Family and Domestic Violence. Perth: Western Australian Government.  
  2. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: development of a Children’s Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra: AIHW.
  3. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, p.6.   
  4. Council of Australian Governments (COAG). (2009). National Plan to reduce violence against women and their children. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia, p.2.

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