New Toolkit – Domestic Violence Intervention

As part of the Provincial Domestic Violence Plan (PODV), the BC Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD) committed to develop an Early Years Toolkit to increase the capacity and competency among early years’ professionals to respond to children who are exposed to domestic violence, and to provide those children’s families with appropriate support.

Following an initial academic partnership with the University of British Columbia, in which graduate students created an early draft of the toolkit, in late summer 2016, PODV partnered with MCFD’s Child Welfare Policy team and the Provincial Office of the Early Years to revise and enhance the toolkit.

A working group with representation from the early years, anti-violence, and immigrant/settlement sector, and government delegates from the Ministries of Health, Education, Children and Family Development, and Delegated Aboriginal Agencies (DAAs) provided subject matter expertise and support to develop the content of Early Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence:  You Can Help.

The purpose of the domestic violence toolkit is to raise awareness and provide information about how to recognize the signs of exposure to domestic violence for children ages 0-5 and to provide tips for how to safely respond. It also includes key provincial resources as well as helpline contact information.

Early Childhood Exposure to Domestic Violence:  You Can Help is intended as a practical guide of helpful tips, but it is not exhaustive or meant to be used as a stand-alone training tool. A useful two-page downloadable summary is provided that highlights the key points of the toolkit.  The summary outlines the key messages of the toolkit, with references to the pages in the toolkit for further information on each item:

  • What is domestic violence?
  • How does domestic violence impact children?
  • Why you play an important role for children under 5.
  • Duty to Report (and how to report).
  • Warning signs that a child may be exposed to domestic violence (in toddlers and in pre-schoolers).
  • Three important things for children to know:
    • It is not your fault.
    • Never try to get in the middle or stop a fight – your only job is to stay safe.
    • You are not alone.
  • How to support a child affected by domestic violence, with e.g.:
    • Severe separation anxiety at drop off
    • Wandering and aimless behaviour
    • Re-occurring violent play themes
    • Needing to see siblings
    • Inattention
    • Anxious behaviour during nap time
    • A lack of focus during changes in activities
  • Supporting a victim of domestic violence: why it matters for children
  • What you can do to help a victim of domestic violence:
    • Call for help
    • Safety planning
    • Resources & referrals
  • Suggested provincial resources to get you started:

The toolkit also includes diverse community considerations:

  • For Indigenous Communities
  • For Immigrant and Refugee Communities
  • For People with Disabilities
  • For LGBTQ+ Communities

The toolkit stresses that domestic violence is everyone’s problem, and that by working together we can help to reduce the impacts of domestic violence on children.

Globally, about 1 in 3 women report being abused by their intimate partners at some point in their life. According to Statistics Canada (2017), 1 in 10 Canadians have witnessed violence by a parent or guardian against another adult in their home before the age of 15. Around 70% of these child witnesses also reported being the victim of childhood physical and/or sexual abuse. Those who witnessed violence between their parents also reported experiencing the most severe forms of physical abuse. A child who sees, hears or is aware of violence against one parent or guardian by another is being exposed to domestic violence.

While not all children are affected in the same way by exposure to violence in the home, there may be significant long-term impacts that can negatively affect these children’s physical, emotional, cognitive, behavioural and social development.  As well, it is not only exposure to domestic violence that can harm a child. They may be harmed by physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect. Any form of child abuse or neglect must be reported to the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) or a Delegated Aboriginal Agency (DAA).

The developers of the toolkit emphasize the valuable role early childhood workers can play.  Early identification of domestic violence assists in providing more effective interventions and supports for children and their families. Having supportive adults and stable environments in their lives can have a positive effect on children’s development, even if they are exposed to domestic violence. For this reason, the authors of the toolkit point out, individuals who work with children between the ages 0-5 are in a unique position to make a difference, and they offer their thanks for the work done in this field, every day, to support children and their families.