October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so it’s a good time to highlight the work that OCSE is doing with states and tribes to enhance safe access to child support services for victims of domestic violence. According to studies by the Center for Policy Research, as many as 90% of domestic violence victims say they would like to get child support if they could do so safely. We are responding to the needs of victims, as well as child support professionals, by providing training and technical assistance, partnering with national and state domestic violence experts, developing resources, and identifying model child support policies and procedures to increase safety for survivors.
We conduct direct domestic violence training for child support workers, attorneys, and judicial officers, and we can also work with ‘train the trainer’ models. We design our trainings to focus specifically on the intersection of domestic violence and child support, providing child support professionals with the skills and knowledge they need to deliver safe, effective services to victims and also maintain safety for staff. Trainings range in length from 90 minutes to a full day.
Another way that we work with state and tribal child support programs is by reviewing their existing domestic violence policies and procedures to identify gaps. We then provide technical assistance to help them develop comprehensive domestic violence plans for program operations.
OCSE has a related tool — Enhancing Safe Access to Child Support: IV-D Program Inventory and Planning Resource — attached to Information Memo-15-02. This step-by-step guide helps state and tribal programs assess their current approach to providing services to domestic violence survivors and offers suggestions for improvements.
Partnerships are critical to these efforts, both at national and local levels. We work closely with national leaders on domestic violence, and we help state and tribal programs connect and collaborate with state and local domestic violence experts.
Through these collaborations, we’ve been able to disseminate model practices to child support and domestic violence professionals broadly through webinars, conference presentations, and national roundtables. We facilitate meetings with state child support and domestic violence leaders to identify opportunities for cooperation, and we establish ongoing partnerships to promote safe access to child support for victims.
Our work with domestic violence experts and state and local child support programs has created a set of tools. These resources include caseworker desk cards, judicial bench cards, family violence indicator model practices, domestic violence screening guides, and public education materials.
Additionally, OCSE gathers sample materials and resources from state and tribal child support programs to share with others, and we promote dissemination of promising domestic violence-informed child support practices.
More information is available on the OCSE Family Violence webpage.
Michael Hayes is a member of the Division of Program Innovation at the Office of Child Support Enforcement. This story was originally published in the September-October 2018 Child Support Report.