Journal Issue: Domestic Violence and Children Volume 9 Number 3 Winter 1999
Betsy McAlister Groves
Conclusions and Recommendations
The costs to children and to society of children's exposure to domestic violence are enormous. The tentative good news is that there is growing recognition of the importance of reaching out to these hidden victims of domestic violence. To reach these hidden victims, however, all agencies, institutions, and providers who serve children (particularly schools and pediatric practices) must increase efforts to identify children who are exposed to domestic violence. Identification guidelines must be developed that balance these children's need to be identified with family privacy. In addition, professionals in the mental health, health, and educational fields must consider whether children who come to their attention for psychological, learning, or developmental problems might be responding to domestic violence exposure. Those who serve the needs of battered women must make appropriate referrals so that the women's children can be assessed and treated. Building the expertise necessary for professionals to recognize when children have been exposed to domestic violence will require training for service providers.
Expansion of service-delivery locations and networks is necessary, in that available services are not sufficient to meet the needs of the population. If professionals succeed in identifying greater numbers of children affected by domestic violence, the need for such expansion will be even more pressing. Mental health providers treating children exposed to domestic violence must learn how to work with this population, developing expertise in child development and crisis intervention, and learning about the effects of trauma on individuals and appropriate assessment and treatment approaches.
Evaluations of treatment programs will contribute important information about the standards of good treatment, the differential use of individual or group intervention, the effect of age on the type of service needed, successful parent-involvement strategies, and the long-term benefits of treatment. Long-term follow-up data are important as well in light of research findings indicating that the effects of witnessing domestic violence in childhood extend into adulthood. In addition, clinicians and researchers must continue their efforts to develop and evaluate assessment techniques helpful in determining how best to meet the individual needs of these children.
Furthermore, the establishment of a data collection system will allow service providers and agencies to pool information about the children they serve, how they are serving them, and the results of intervention. In this way, the field can significantly improve its knowledge base about basic epidemiological issues, as well as the availability, use, and success of various intervention approaches.
Finally, increased funds are needed from both the public and private sectors to create and maintain the expertise, the services, and the data necessary to help these children. It is hoped that public attention to the plight of children who witness domestic violence will lead to greater commitment of financial resources.