As part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, State agencies and community partners are raising awareness about the impact of domestic abuse and available resources and initiatives to support survivors. DES houses the state Domestic Violence Program within its Aging and Adult Services Division to administer services and support for clients in need of assistance.
As a human services provider, many DES Divisions and programs serve the same clients and staff often encounter similar issues. Staff within the Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) work with families who are facing extremely difficult emotional circumstances. In 2016, the Division received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Procedural Justice Informed Alternative to Contempt (PJAC)), to break down support collection barriers like domestic violence, unemployment and substance abuse. As a result, DCSS conducted a review of its processes and identified an opportunity to improve how its employees address potential abuse observed or suspected among client families. A portion of the grant was used to create a robust domestic violence training for DCSS employees.
Instances of domestic violence appear within the child support caseload in many ways. The most common is through power and control in an attempt to take away the child(ren) and establish a child support order against the other parent. Prior to these efforts, case managers were not equipped with the tools or training necessary to determine with both sets of parents if family violence was an issue. With new training, DCSS employees will be better equipped to identify signs of domestic violence.
“The training walks staff through how to recognize, respond, and refer clients experiencing trauma,” said PJAC Manager, Jonell Sullivan. When case managers hear emotional stories time and time again, it has a long-term emotional impact. As a result, a portion of the training is focused on the trauma experienced by employees and gives them additional information on how to cope and address.
“It’s important that we continually look at our processes to align with best practices,” said DCSS Assistance Director, Heather Noble. “We want to ensure that both our clients and our employees are safe while receiving child support services.”
In addition to the training, the Division is also implementing changes to its IT system that will include an alert on the main screen. There will also be additional alerts at the top of the two most utilized screens to ensure proper precautions are taken when working cases such as discretion of certain information with sensitivity of the survivor/s in mind. With help from the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence, the Division has also produced desk aids to assist staff with situations that may arise during their time with clients.
The PJAC grant project is in its third of five years. This is just one of the benefits and outcomes. The Division has already implemented creative marketing techniques that include two-way text messaging and email with the goal of increasing parental participation. The Division will continue to review and implement principles and supportive services to evaluate efficacy against traditional processes.
For more information on child support services, visit the DES website.
By Isabella Neal