Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 21–31 | Cite as

“Getting Everyone on the Same Page”: Child Welfare Workers’ Collaboration Challenges on Cases Involving Intimate Partner Violence

  • Lisa Langenderfer-MagruderEmail author
  • Lucas Alven
  • Dina J. Wilke
  • Carmella Spinelli
Original Article


Child welfare professionals frequently serve families experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV). As such, collaboration with other types of providers as part of a larger network of IPV responders is often necessary, though can be challenging for various reasons. The present study explores child welfare workers’ perspectives on collaboration challenges specific to child welfare cases that also involve IPV. Data were drawn from the fourth wave of the Florida Study of Professionals for Safe Families, a longitudinal study of child welfare workforce retention. Authors explored qualitative short responses of 493 child welfare workers with active caseloads who reported ever working on cases with IPV. Participants cited communication, complexity of IPV cases, participation in the collaborative process, and competence as the most challenging aspects of IPV case collaboration. Tensions between child welfare agencies and victim advocacy services were noted throughout. Findings suggest opportunities for sustained engagement to facilitate understanding of responder roles and responsibilities may alleviate some collaboration challenges corroborated by previous research. However, local needs assessments inclusive of all responder roles would better identify community-specific challenges, leading to more tailored intervention strategies to improve responder collaborations.


Child welfare Intimate partner violence Domestic violence Collaboration Interagency work 


  1. Banks, D., Dutch, N., & Wang, K. (2008a). Collaborative efforts to improve system response to families who are experiencing child maltreatment and domestic violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(7), 876–902. Scholar
  2. Banks, D., Landsverk, J., & Wang, K. (2008b). Changing policy and practice in the child welfare system through collaborative efforts to identify and respond effectively to family violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(7), 903–932. Scholar
  3. Blacklock, N., & Phillips, R. (2015). Reshaping the child protection response to domestic violence through collaborative working. In N. Stanley & C. Humphreys (Eds.), Domestic violence and protecting children: New thinking and approaches (pp. 196–212). London and Philadelphia: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.Google Scholar
  4. Casanueva, C., Smith, K., Ringeisen, H., Dolan, M., & Tueller, S. (2014). Families in need of domestic violence services reported to the child welfare system: Changes in the National Survey of child and adolescent well-being between 1999–2000 and 2008–2009. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(10), 1683–1693. Scholar
  5. Cerulli, C., Trabold, N., Kothari, C. L., Dichter, M. E., Raimondi, C., Lucas, J., et al. (2015). In our voice: Survivors’ recommendations for change. Journal of Family Violence, 30(1), 75–83. Scholar
  6. Clough, A., Draughon, J. E., Njie-Carr, V., Rollins, C., & Glass, N. (2014). ‘Having housing made everything else possible’: Affordable, safe and stable housing for women survivors of violence. Qualitative Social Work, 13(5), 671–688. Scholar
  7. Coulter, M. L., & Mercado-Crespo, M. C. (2015). Co-occurrence of intimate partner violence and child maltreatment: Service providers’ perceptions. Journal of Family Violence, 30(2), 255–262. Scholar
  8. Darlington, Y., Feeney, J. A., & Rixon, K. (2005). Interagency collaboration between child protection and mental health services: Practices, attitudes and barriers. Child Abuse & Neglect, 29(10), 1085–1098. Scholar
  9. Evans, S. E., Davies, C., & DiLillo, D. (2008). Exposure to domestic violence: A meta-analysis of child and adolescent outcomes. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 13(2), 131–140. Scholar
  10. Fleck-Henderson, A. (2000). Domestic violence in the child protection system: Seeing double. Children and Youth Services Review, 22(5), 333–354. Scholar
  11. Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence (FCADV). (2014). Child protection investigations (CPI) project standards manual. Retrieved from Accessed 31 Aug 2018.
  12. Fusco, R. A. (2013). “It’s hard enough to deal with all the abuse issues”: Child welfare workers’ experiences with intimate partner violence on their caseloads. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(12), 1946–1953. Scholar
  13. Green, B. L., Rockhill, A., & Burrus, S. (2008). The role of interagency collaboration for substance-abusing families involved with child welfare. Child Welfare, 87(1), 29–61.Google Scholar
  14. Hazen, A. L., Connelly, C. D., Kelleher, K. J., Landsverk, J. A., & Barth, R. P. (2004). Intimate partner violence among female caregivers of children reported for child maltreatment. Child Abuse & Neglect, 28(3), 301–319. Scholar
  15. Hughes, J., Chau, S., & Poff, D. C. (2011). “They're not my favourite people”: What mothers who have experienced intimate partner violence say about involvement in the child protection system. Children and Youth Services Review, 33(7), 1084–1089. Scholar
  16. Jenney, A., Mishna, F., Alaggia, R., & Scott, K. (2014). Doing the right thing?(Re) considering risk assessment and safety planning in child protection work with domestic violence cases. Children and Youth Services Review, 47(1), 92–101. Scholar
  17. Johnson, S. P., & Sullivan, C. M. (2008). How child protection workers support or further victimize battered mothers. Affilia, 23(3), 242–258. Scholar
  18. Jouriles, E. N., McDonald, R., Slep, A. M. S., Heyman, R. E., & Garrido, E. (2008). Child abuse in the context of domestic violence: Prevalence, explanations, and practice implications. Violence and Victims, 23(2), 221–235. Scholar
  19. Kantor, G. K., & Little, L. (2003). Defining the boundaries of child neglect: When does domestic violence equate with parental failure to protect? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(4), 338–355. Scholar
  20. Kimerling, R., Alvarez, J., Pavao, J., Mack, K. P., Smith, M. W., & Baumrind, N. (2009). Unemployment among women: Examining the relationship of physical and psychological intimate partner violence and posttraumatic stress disorder. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 24(3), 450–463. Scholar
  21. Kitzmann, K. M., Gaylord, N. K., Holt, A. R., & Kenny, E. D. (2003). Child witnesses to domestic violence: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 71(2), 339–352. Scholar
  22. Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lapierre, S., & Côté, I. (2011). “I made her realise that I could be there for her, that I could support her”: Child protection practices with women in domestic violence cases. Child Care in Practice, 17(4), 311–325. Scholar
  24. Lloyd, S., & Taluc, N. (1999). The effects of male violence on female employment. Violence Against Women, 5(4), 370–392. Scholar
  25. Magruder, L. N. (2018). Working the front lines of intimate partner violence: Responders’ perceptions of interrole collaboration (Order No. AAI10286123). Available from PsycINFO. (1968544594; 2017-43826-054). Retrieved from Accessed 31 Aug 2018.
  26. Malik, N. M., Ward, K., & Janczewski, C. (2008). Coordinated community response to family violence: The role of domestic violence service organizations. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 23(7), 933–955. Scholar
  27. Pence, E. L., & Shepard, M. F. (1999). An introduction: Developing a coordinated community response. In M. F. Shepard & E. L. Pence (Eds.), Coordinating community responses to domestic violence: Lessons learned from Duluth and beyond (pp. 3–23). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, Inc..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Police Executive Research Forum. (2015). Police improve response to domestic violence, but abuse often remains the “hidden crime.” Subject to Debate, 29(1). Retrieved from
  29. Postmus, J. L., & Merritt, D. H. (2010). When child abuse overlaps with domestic violence: The factors that influence child protection workers' beliefs. Children and Youth Services Review, 32(3), 309–317. Scholar
  30. Postmus, J. L., & Ortega, D. (2005). Serving two masters: When domestic violence and child abuse overlap. Families in Society, 86(4), 483–490.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.Google Scholar
  32. Selleck, K. (2011). The Safe and Together model: Using the Safe and Together model for community based care organizations [PowerPoint presentation]. Retrieved from the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence website: Accessed 31 Aug 2018.
  33. Smith, S. G., Chen, J., Basile, K. C., Gilbert, L. K., Merrick, M. T., Patel, N., Walling, M., & Jain, A. (2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010–2012 State Report. Retrieved from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website:
  34. Sudderth, L. K. (2006). An uneasy alliance: Law enforcement and domestic violence victim advocates in a rural area. Feminist Criminology, 1(4), 329–353. Scholar
  35. Ward-Lasher, A., Messing, J. T., & Hart, B. (2017). Policing intimate partner violence: Attitudes toward risk assessment and collaboration with social workers. Social Work, 62(3), 211–218. Scholar
  36. Wilke, D. J., Radey, M., & Langenderfer-Magruder, L. (2017). Recruitment and retention of child welfare workers in longitudinal research: Successful strategies from the Florida Study of Professionals for Safe Families. Children and Youth Services Review, 78, 122–128. Scholar
  37. Wolfe, D. A., Crooks, C. V., Lee, V., McIntyre-Smith, A., & Jaffe, P. G. (2003). The effects of children's exposure to domestic violence: A meta-analysis and critique. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 6(3), 171–187.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zannettino, L., & McLaren, H. (2014). Domestic violence and child protection: Towards a collaborative approach across the two service sectors. Child & Family Social Work, 19(4), 421–431. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Social WorkFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

Personalised recommendations