This project had its genesis in the need to develop effective and safe ways of working with fathers who use violence in order to better support women and children living with domestic and family violence (DFV). The DFV system, in particular, specialist women’s DFV services, developed from interventions focused largely on supporting women and children living with DFV to separate from men who use violence. Separation has also been a key priority for the statutory child protection (CP) system that has often required women to leave violent men for the sake of the children, in spite of the danger and likely impoverishment of doing so, for many women and their children.
At the same time, family law with its “pro-contact culture” (Humphreys & Campo, 2017, p.5) presents potentially dangerous situations for adult and child victims/survivors alike in supporting fathers’ involvement with children despite their use of DFV (Hester, 2011). Further, intervention with men who use violence and control occurs mostly through justice responses and/or specialist men’s behaviour change programs (MBCPs) neither of which focus on fathering issues. While significant intervention with fathers occurs through CP and generic family service programs, workers’ practice with fathers who use DFV and control is neither documented nor evidence-based in the way it has occurred, for example, with MBCPs. In other words, to date, the nature of these practice interventions have been largely “invisible”.
In researching a current practice lacuna, namely the skills required by CP and other statutory and non-statutory service workers to work with fathers who use DFV, the project sought to develop the workforce capacity of practitioners to intervene with fathers who use DFV. In doing so, it proposed to utilise and integrate three elements: existing research, the expertise of practitioners in four states brought to the project, and the technical skills and knowledge of the USbased Safe & Together Institute’s consultants (David Mandel and Kyle Pinto) to develop guidance for practitioners and their organisations.
The project aimed to:
- increase workforce capacity for statutory and nonstatutory services in participating states responding to fathers who use DFV;
- support the development of evidence-informed guidelines for frontline practitioners, their team leaders and managers in participating states; and
- strengthen the Australian evidence base for the DFVinformed Safe & Together approach.
The research questions that drove the project were:
- What do practitioners require from their organisations and/or other organisations to support them in working with fathers who use violence?
- What evidence is there that the capacity building of Communities of Practice (CoPs), supported by coaching and supervision from David Mandel and colleagues from the Safe & Together Institute based in the US, provides increased experience of safety and support for practitioners?