Promising Futures Website Helps Advocates, Child Welfare Practitioners Break the Cycle of Abuse for Children & Youth Exposed to Domestic Violence

A mother embraces her young sonExposure to domestic violence can lead to significant health and developmental problems, and is all-too common in the lives of many children.  Research finds that children who witness domestic violence are at greater risk of developing psychiatric disorders, developmental problems, school failure, committing violence against others, and at risk of low self-esteem[i].  Given how many children are exposed to domestic violence each year, these consequences are widespread.  To address the ongoing need to develop and evaluate effective interventions for children exposed to domestic violence,  the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA) has supported  Futures Without Violence in creating Promising Futures- Best Practices for Serving Children, Youth and Parents Experiencing Domestic Violence. Produced with support from the Family & Youth Services Bureau (FYSB), Promising Futures is an online resource center that provides domestic violence and child welfare practitioners with access to trauma-informed best practices for serving children and families experiencing domestic violence.  Promising Futures houses training curriculums, toolkits, and webinars not only geared towards advocates, but also helpful for parents. 

All of the tools and materials throughout the website are drawn from interventions that have been rigorously evaluated, and include a wide array of innovative and emerging interventions that can be offered in a variety of community-based settings by different types of service providers, including domestic violence advocates.  In addition to a searchable database of these interventions, the website houses:

  • Promising  practices for serving children and youth exposed to domestic violence;
  • Strategies for strengthening program readiness and capacity to deliver developmentally appropriate, trauma informed and effective programming;
  • Information and resources on protective factors, resilience, and interventions that strengthen the mother-child bond; and,
  • Guidance on program evaluation and adaptation.

Guiding the materials and resources that comprise Promising Futures are several core principles informed by a robust evidence base. These principles are: mothers’ and children’s safety and wellbeing are inextricably linked; implementing trauma informed approaches is an effective way to reduce the effects of domestic violence on mothers and children; culturally relevant programming is essential; and, emphasizing protective factors, resiliency, and strengthening the mother-child bond is effective in breaking the cycle of violence.  A particular resource that child welfare practitioners and domestic violence advocates will find helpful is a compendium of 16 Trauma-Informed, Evidence-Based Recommendations for Advocates Working with Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence. For this compendium, Futures Without Violence commissioned a review of evidence-based, therapeutic intervention programs for children exposed to domestic violence to offer a set of concise and practical recommendations for program staff and advocates. The recommendations are part of an effort to foster a cycle of learning between research and practice that honors both the importance of evidence-based approaches and wisdom that emanates from implementation.

Promising Futures is a key part of FVPSA’s strategy to support children who have been exposed to domestic violence by breaking the generational cycle of abuse through trauma-informed interventions. We know that reaching children impacted by domestic violence is critical to both their immediate and future wellbeing.  In 2011 alone, 1 out of 15, or approximately 5 million children, witnessed physical intimate partner violence in the U.S. ; throughout childhood, it is estimated that 25.6%, or approximately 19.4 million children, witness domestic violence in their homes.[ii]  Just as alarming is the fact that thirty-one percent (31%), or nearly 1 in 3 children who witnessed partner violence, also reported being physically abused.[iii]

Advocates working in domestic violence programs supported by FVPSA encounter children nearly every day. In 2012, a total of 127,462 children and youth accompanied their parents entering shelter. These children deserve the promise of a healthy, violence-free future just as much as any child in the United States. With the help of the materials and tools created for Promising Futures, those working with children exposed to domestic violence are better equipped to transform young lives.

To access these resources, please visit: http://promising.futureswithoutviolence.org/

To learn more about the national network of domestic violence shelters and services supported by the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program (FVPSA), please visit: http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/fysb/programs/family-violence-pre...


[i] Whitfield, C.L., Anda, R.F., Dube, S.R., & Felitti, V.J. (2003). Violent childhood experiences and the risk of intimate partner violence in adults. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(2), 166-185.

[ii] Hamby, S, Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Ormrod, R. (2011). Children’s Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence and Other Family Violence, Juvenile Justice Bulletin – NCJ 232272. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Retrieved at : http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/jvq/NatSCEV-Children's%20Exposure-Fam...

[iii] Hamby, S, Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., & Ormrod, R. (2010). The overlap of witnessing partner violence with child maltreatment and other victimizations in a nationally representative survey of youth. Child Abuse and Neglect 34, 734-741.