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Keywords:

  • child protection (policy and practice);
  • child welfare;
  • domestic violence;
  • violence (against women and children)

Abstract

Large numbers of domestic violence (DV) cases on child protection caseloads have necessitated the development of practices that address both DV and child safety. The first step in this process is to gain an understanding of the differences between DV-involved cases and other forms of maltreatment. The implementation of a differential response service model in Ontario offered an opportunity to compare risk assessment ratings, service outcomes and recurrence and to identify pathways of DV cases through child protection services (CPS). A sample (n = 785) of child protection investigations over a 4-month period was examined. Of these investigations, 26% cases were DV referred; 87% of the DV victims were mothers; perpetrating partners were mostly absent from investigations; non-white families were more often investigated for DV than white families; and DV cases were more likely to remain open for ongoing CPS. Only one-third of DV-exposed children were assessed as having been harmed and most community referrals were made for the victim parent. Mothers were the primary target of investigation, remaining in CPS for extended service provision although recurrence rates were lower than found in other investigations. Results are discussed to inform investigative procedures, assessment and service response to more adequately respond to children and families when DV is present.