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Don't Take My Kids: Barriers to Service Delivery for Battered Mothers and Their Young Children (From The Effects of Intimate Partner Violence on Children, P 277-294, 2003, Robert A. Geffner, Robyn S. Igelman, and Jennifer Zellner, eds. -- See NCJ-202075)

NCJ Number
Ellen R. De Voe; Erica L. Smith
Date Published
18 pages
Using focus group methodology, this study explored experiences of and barriers to help-seeking among battered women with children under 6 years old.
During the summer of 2000, women were recruited for participation in the study from three sites within a large social and legal services agency that serves victims of domestic violence and their families throughout New York City. The study sample consisted of 43 mothers who reported having been victims of domestic violence within the last 18 months. The women participated in 1 of 5 focus groups that ranged in size from 9 to 16 participants. The focus groups examined whether women perceived a need for services for themselves and/or their young children, whether they had sought services, what barriers to help-seeking they had encountered, and the quality of responses the women experienced from the service-delivery system. The dominant themes in the women's help-seeking experiences were punitive consequences for seeking help and system mistrust. Although many women described positive interactions with individual counselors, support group facilitators, shelter staff, and hotline operators, their overall experience in seeking services was negative. Those women who sought services for their young children could not find providers with appropriate developmental and domestic violence expertise. Some made a conscious decision not to seek services for their children out of fear that their children might be placed in foster care. Others reported that when they attempted to obtain assistance for their children, they felt blamed for their plight or received insensitive responses from service providers. Some of the women reported that when they sought services for themselves because of a battering incident, their children were removed from their custody. This paper argues that the development of services that address the preservation of the mother-child unit exposed to domestic violence is critical. Finding ways to enhance the potentially protective element of the mother-child bond may enhance the resilience of young children exposed to violence in their homes. Supporting this critical relationship by building the strengths of the mother-child unit is a more humane and effective remedy than removing infants, toddlers, and preschoolers from their primary caregivers at such a critical period in their development. Separating young children from their non-maltreating mothers as a standard practice is misguided. If anyone should be removed from the home, it should be the perpetrator of domestic violence. 27 references