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Journal Issue: Domestic Violence and Children Volume 9 Number 3 Winter 1999

Community-Based Domestic Violence Services
Amy J. Saathoff Elizabeth Ann Stoffel


Community-based domestic violence services have grown significantly since their emergence in the 1970s. Now more than 2,000 in number, domestic violence organizations have expanded their range of programs. In addition to crisis-oriented services, such as telephone hot lines and temporary shelter, many of these agencies provide legal, health, mental health, or vocational services or referrals, and assistance in finding housing, relocating, and planning for safety. Most recently, in response to increasing knowledge about the deleterious effects of exposure to domestic violence on children, community-based service providers have developed programs addressing children's mental health, health, educational, and safety needs.

This article describes and analyzes trends in service delivery by these community-based organizations to children affected by domestic violence. It concludes that, although there has been significant growth in services, substantial segments of the target population still are not reached, and most organizations do not yet have a sufficient range of services to meet children's diverse needs. Challenges posed by inadequate funding, needs for specialized staffing, and a dearth of data on the efficacy of current intervention programs hamper domestic violence service providers' ability to meet children's needs.

However, this article highlights promising new directions in service delivery. Community-based domestic violence organizations increasingly are using innovative strategies to address children's service needs. These agencies are expanding community outreach efforts and attempts to educate the public and professionals about domestic violence and children. In addition, these organizations are building important collaborative relationships with other agencies concerned with children's welfare, such as child protective services, law enforcement, schools, and health care facilities. These and related developments suggest cautious optimism that future years will see continuing progress in attempts by community-based organizations to address the needs of children whose well-being is jeopardized by their exposure to domestic violence.