The feedback we have received from Advocacy Institute participants in Florida has been overwhelmingly positive, and in many ways has even exceeded our expectations. Many of the participants have indicated an increase in their confidence in working with child welfare and voiced increased skills in working with child welfare-involved clients. Seasoned advocates are expressing that they feel a renewed passion in their work and newer advocates state that they are feeling more confident and capable in their roles. We have heard from many advocates that they feel better able to identify and support mothers’ parenting strengths and advocate for child welfare-involved clients. Participants have also expressed that using the perpetrator pattern-based approach inherent in the Safe and Together Model and the associated practice tools, has empowered them to work more collaboratively with child welfare, and help child welfare focus more on effective interventions with domestic violence perpetrators.
A journal entry from one of the participants captures many of themes we are hearing from the participants:
“We are doing all of our staff trainings in April and then our trainings with Child Welfare in May. We did our first training this past Monday with our fellow advocates as part of our weekly meeting. I was feeling a little nervous. I think that I am gaining a better understanding of how to use the model, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to facilitate training on the model without getting stumped. The training was awesome! The staff was much more engaged than I expected and we had a lovely conversation on identifying a survivor’s strengths. Everyone had something to say and provided really good examples. I am really looking forward to next week when we will do Module 2.
In addition to the trainings, I also have been getting some really positive feedback from Child Welfare. My communication with (child protection investigators) is getting better because I feel more confident and I think that allows me to be more validating of their feelings and to work with them, instead of automatically having defenses up. In the past week, I have received emails from supervisors at our (community based care agency) who I communicate with regularly regarding client referrals. In these emails, they have thanked me for having such open and supportive communication. I feel that Safe and Together is allowing me to be better at my job. I am not only learning tools to better support and advocate for clients, but I am also learning how to work with agencies that have stereotypically been at odds with ours. It is very empowering to feel the unification of services happening to better support moms and their children. When I know that I have to reach out to a (child welfare) worker, I don’t get the nerves and anxiety that I used to. Instead of putting off contacting them, which doesn’t help anyone, I am able to be much more proactive because I can communicate my needs, my client’s needs, and address their needs/concerns without having to be defensive or without feeling like I get shut down. I don’t take the potential criticism as personally as I used to because I know how to speak in their language which allows me to use their tools to support and advocate for a mother.
I can also work better with the referred mothers. I understand the child welfare system better because of this training, which allows me to engage the moms in conversations about (Child Welfare) without having to only validate the survivor. I can also give moms the tools in the language (Child Welfare) will understand. Before I would lean more towards intervening and advocating because I wasn’t sure how to give the mom tools to work with them effectively. I can still intervene if needed or as additional support, but I am seeing that it is useful to talk in a language that remains consistent across the board. Obviously the survivors are just as concerned with their children’s safety as (Child Welfare) is. I have learned that by pivoting the behavior back to the perpetrator (and discussing it as a parenting choice), it really opens up conversation. I hear a lot that he is abusive to mom but that he loves the children. When I suggest that the way he treats her is also a parenting choice because it puts the children in danger even if they aren’t home, moms respond really well to this. It seems like a barrier goes down because it does not seem like they have to lie to protect their children (from being removed from the home). I am showing them that they are being protective and putting the focus on his behavior. It has really made me a better, more confident advocate. I am really excited to continue using this model with clients, other advocates, and child welfare. I am a little nervous about training child welfare but I am also excited to have this conversation with the confidence that I am gaining.”
Our next Advocacy Institute is planned for September 2014. The location is still be determined. If you have questions about participating in it, please contact Bridget Reilly at email@example.com. If you want to read more about the Institute: http://endingviolence.com/our-products/training/advocate-institute/