Stories to Inspire

Safe and Together session works on perpetrator patterns

A second session of Safe and Together domestic violence training for mentors and their mentees was held in January 2017—and this session focused specifically on “perpetrator’s patterns as the source of risk and harm for kids.”

Safe and Together training is being implemented in Manitoba amongst various child welfare agencies and the shelter system. It’s a specific domestic abuse model that is based on a “perpetrator pattern, child-centered, survivor-strengths approach.”

In fall 2016, the General Authority brought Heidi Rankin, national training coordinator for David Mandel & Associates, which developed the Safe and Together domestic violence model, to Winnipeg to begin the intensive mentor training.

For this second series of mentor training, which took place Jan. 19, the 40 mentors who had worked with Rankin in the fall were joined by those they were mentoring to work specifically on the patterns of perpetrators of domestic violence; and the impact their abuse has on family functioning. In all, about 125 people spent the day learning additional skills to use with families affected by domestic violence and developing an understanding and appreciation of this approach.

Attendees included representatives from the Child and Family All Nations Coordinated Response Network (ANCR) the Family Violence Prevention Program, the Southern First Nations Network of Care, the women’s shelter system and General Authority agencies. Representatives came from all eight CFS agencies: Western, Interlake, Central, Parkland, Eastman, Northern, Winnipeg CFS and Jewish CFS.

During an engaging afternoon mapping exercise, Rankin had the mentors and the staff they were supporting use a case example to map out perpetrator’s patterns, and to look at how that impacted child and family functioning.

Rankin also asked the mentors and mentees to think about “how the perpetrator’s choices are also parenting choices.”
In small groups, people were asked to list behaviours the perpetrator has engaged in, and to discuss ways the behaviour caused trauma to the children and to the other parent’s parenting.

They also examined the survivors’ strengths, that is, what behaviours or steps the adult survivor was engaging in to protect children and to keep the family functioning.

Lastly, the groups looked at what other issues the perpetrator’s abuse has caused or exacerbated—for example, substance abuse.
Participants were also tasked with developing a plan to intervene with the perpetrator in order to improve family functioning.

One of the key points Rankin made during the exercise was the more detailed the mapping, the better and more comprehensive the plan to intervene with the perpetrator and to improve family functioning.

“Doing it effectively [working with the perpetrator] you need to really spend time on these pieces,” she said.

Rankin, who has worked in the domestic violence field for 20 years in both the U.S. and Canada, spoke to the group about recognizing the ongoing challenges of working with domestic violence.

“What makes this work so hard is what number of cases have domestic violence as part of them. Between 30 to 50 per cent of [all child welfare] cases have some form of domestic violence,” she said.

“These cases are the most complex…it’s sometimes hard to filter out,” she said.

One of the best ways a jurisdiction can respond, she noted, is for various programs and agencies to work together.

“Collaboration is an important piece when you are working toward child safety.”

One of the goals of utilizing Safe and Together is to reduce the number of children in care, or length of time spent in care.