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Saturday, November 21, 2015
TASK FORCE TO STUDY THE STATE WIDE RESPONSE TO MINORS EXPOSED TO FAMILY VIOLENCE, MINUTES OF THE MEETING, OCTOBER 27, 2015!
Task force to Study the State Wide Response to Minors Exposed to Family Violence
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
10:00 AM in Room 2A of the LOB
The meeting was called to order at 10:00 AM by Garry Lapidus,
The following committee members were present:
Rachel Powlowski; Donald Frechette; Cynthia Mahon; Damion Grasso; Christine Rapillo; Kayte Cwikla-Masas; Sen. Marilyn Moore; Karen Jarmoc; Garry Lapidus; Stephen Grant; Nikki Richer; Mary Painter; Steve Grant; Elizabeth Bozzuto; Rep. Diana Urban; Karen O'Connor; Nina Livingston; Linda Harris; Sarah Eagan and Joel Rudikoff
Karen Jarmoc thanked everyone for coming and discussed the nature of the task force. She noted that the scope of the meeting today was to discuss judicial responses to family violence. She stated that the presenters at the meeting were invited to discuss their work regarding judicial training and coordinated community responses to family violence. The first presenters were members of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court judges, an organization established in 1937 with a drive to improve juvenile and family court system practice.
Karen introduced the presenters:
Hon. Janice Rosa sat on both the family court and Supreme Court benches while in New York, and was district supervising judge for matrimonial and divorce matters. Currently Judge Rosa is doing consulting work for the National Council.
Darren Mitchell is Co-Executive Director of the Resource Center on Violence Against Women. Both Judge Rosa and Attorney Mitchell have committed extensive time to training on violence and other family matters. Karen Jarmoc stated that later in the meeting the task force would be hearing from Connecticut judges through the State Judicial Department
Janice Rosa noted that neither she nor Darren worked directly for the Council, but they were happy to work with the Council as consultants.
Darren started by expressing his sympathy for the events that led to the convening of the task force and noted that many people had been affected by the effects of family violence. He commended the task force on its desire to do something in response to family violence.
Janice Rosa referred to the brochure that she and Darren had brought. The Council sits on the University of Nevada campus and was formed by judges for judges interested in addressing family law matters in a holistic manner. This is the largest judicial membership organization and has a network of over 2,000 judges, attorneys and other professionals of all disciplines. The Council is a national leader in providing judicial training and resources to courts, judges and administrators as well as to the communities that these judges serve in. She noted that the Council does not work in a theoretical academic manner but the emphasis is on how the philosophies can be applied in the daily activities of judges. She stated that the Council is interested in providing evidence-based and evidence-informed practices around all aspects of family law, including juvenile justice reform, child welfare reform and domestic relations reform. The Council advocates for judicial leadership and ethics to improve outcomes for communities and families. The Council has been conducting various projects regarding domestic violence, including the Green Book initiative which looks at improved outcomes and better ways for families to interact with child welfare programs. Most recently, the NJIDV -- National Judicial Institute on Domestic Violence—was formed, which hosts a very intense immersion for criminal and civil judges. Over the years, the national council has been able to train over 60,000 judges, court administrators and other people working in the field.
Darren Mitchell discussed other programs of the Council and stated that they had been working on a full faith and credit project to focus on enforcing restraining orders between states and at multiple levels of government. Darren also discussed the Green Book project as a means to focus court services around the effects of domestic violence on child protection. This focuses on practical decision making, such as custody and parenting time. The Council also provides resources around this training and has recently partnered with other groups to focus on family court through a demonstration initiative to help courts improve their methods for obtaining information around the family court context and making better decisions based on communications around domestic violence cases. He also mentioned that the Council was working on developing policy around firearms in domestic violence cases.
Janice Rosa highlighted the inclusivity of the work of the Council and stated that there were several staple policy areas that they worked on, such as elder abuse; adolescent partner violence; and domestic minor sex trafficking. She stated that any community that is looking to improve its response to domestic violence has to find ways to promote victim safety and better accountability, and insulate children from harm to protect their well-being. She noted that judges play a key role in this process and are at the apex of the various community systems. Judges are given the charge to protect communities from harm and must send a consistent message to the justice system that domestic violence is not to be tolerated. She noted that changes within the court system will need an understanding from the judges and these judges have to operate under a code that requires that they are removed from the social fray so that the public can expect that judges will be fair and partial. She noted that judges are often frustrated when cases are brought before them that are a clear indication of inadequacies in other social systems. This frustration spurred creation of national council in 1930's because judges had to know there would be a better way to deal with family violence issues.
Discussed the format of the trainings. He stated that the Council places an emphasis on evidence-based training with exercises that were highly interactive and based on adult education practices. The Council focuses a lot of its time on conveying information in the best way possible and brings in multidisciplinary perspectives of both prosecution and defense perspectives so that judges get to hear conflicting opinions. These trainings bring in different advocacy groups and academics to ensure that they integrate information from many different and possibly conflicting sources. He noted that Dr. Peter Jafee conducted a follow-up efficacy study which found that four times as many judges consider themselves to be leaders on domestic violence after the training as compared to before the training. Mr. Mitchell stated that trainings can be conducted either on-site at the Council’s headquarters, or these can be brought to different communities to focus on specific issues. He commended Connecticut on its judges’ training and invited the task force to comment on ways that the Council could help Connecticut.
Janice Rosa noted that they had conducted training for military personnel because they have done work with veterans, and that the trainings educated all professionals across multiple disciplines, not just judges. This helped to integrate the trainings into as many aspects of communities as possible. She noted that during the budget cutbacks starting in 2008, a lot of judicial trainings were eliminated to save costs. She noted that Connecticut has been able to maintain continuing ongoing and relevant training in domestic violence competencies. Judge Rosa noted the importance of this kind of training and that there will still be inconsistencies in the judicial system, but proper and consistent training of judges will reduce these inconsistencies. She also noted that there is a larger body of research on domestic violence than there was 20 or 30 years ago, and that there is more information on the impacts of domestic violence on children regarding lethality and risk assessment; firearms; adolescent relationships and elder abuse. She reiterated that training was an ongoing process and that judges would need to be consistently updated on best practices and the newest legal research on this issue.
Darren Mitchell discussed the role that the Council plays in technical assistance and its ability to bring experts in various fields to judges and other community providers. He stated that the Council worked to help communities build their capacities to address these issues, and that the Council tailors trainings to respond to individual community needs. This method has been very successful and very well-received. He noted the importance of involving different perspectives in these trainings, from those of decision makers to victims. When the Council approaches technical assistance, they examine things from both ends and works to empower people to obtain what they need and make better decisions to address safety concerns. The Council also conducts legal statutory reviews to look at how different communities have addressed different challenges. The Council also has a research arm that has done some work in family court contexts that can offer technical assistance to courts. Mr. Mitchell noted that the Council had conducted research in a tribal jurisdiction where they looked at every aspect of the system and helped the community identify different strategies to make their response to domestic violence more comprehensive. He noted that with firearms, there are different jurisdictions that come into play and that there needs to be a larger conversation about getting guns from people who shouldn’t have them. He stated that even though the law requires people to surrender their firearms, there are many reports that this isn’t happening and this is contributing to further problems.
Janice Rosa discussed the merits of community anonymity as it applied to the Council’s judges’ trainings. She noted that it was beneficial that the Council did not have any prior experience in the communities they worked in, and so were able to offer a fresh perspective to these communities through their training. She noted that the best court trainings and technical assistance cannot happen in a vacuum and that it is important to have a coordinated community response to these issues. Ms. Rosa went on to say that to obtain the best results from a judicial system, everyone in the community needs to understand their role in defining and reaching a solution. She noted the role of judicial ethics in these cases and the issue of insulating judges who address domestic violence cases every day. She again mentioned the economic crisis and its role in changing the scope of what judicial branches were able to accomplish within the financial parameters set by state governments during this time. She noted that the fact that Connecticut still has litigants after the financial crisis is a testament to the efforts to preserve justice in the state.
Darren Mitchell suggested that Connecticut focus on how to get information through volunteer litigants and lawyers. He noted that there is significant research suggesting that representation in court cases makes a difference in terms of protection and that representation yields better results for domestic violence victims. He noted that legal aid furnished many of these attorneys and reiterated that representation makes a significant difference in court proceedings in these cases.
Janice Rosa emphasized the commitment of the Council to advancing justice for domestic violence victims and welcomed questions from the Task Force.
Karen Jarmoc requested that task force members begin asking questions.
Cynthia Mahon asked whether there were any court systems with universal or centralized systems of delivery to avoid the problem of one family being involved in many court cases at the same time to make the process more efficient.
Janice Rosa mentioned that the National Council designed Project ONE to address this, which focuses on having One family one judge; No wrong doors; and Equal access to justice. She noted that various jurisdictions are struggling with the sharing of information given both legal and technological constraints. She noted that rural jurisdictions have less trouble with this as there are fewer intersecting judicial systems, and that the Council is focusing on urban areas to promote information sharing.
Karen Jarmoc stated that in Connecticut, courts are not permitted to share information.
Judge Bozzuto noted that in Connecticut, there are some jurisdictions that have different computer systems, and that they’re currently working on integrating these systems. She noted that there are significant financial constraints to integrate technologies, but the judicial branch is making efforts to do so. In family court, judges don’t have access to information regarding previous proceedings and there are significant confidentiality issues regarding this information as well. Working within these parameters, though, the court system could stand to benefit greatly from better information sharing.
Karen Jarmoc asked the Judiciary Department to give the task force guidance in terms of possible statutory fixes to alleviate this problem.
Judge Bozzuto voiced her support for this.
Karen O'Connor asked about the Green Book initiative and how this was facilitated.
Darren Mitchell stated that the initiative was a bit more of an historical project that communities have used to address the concurrence between child maltreatment and domestic violence. The Green Book sets out a number of principles for courts to adhere to in an effort to ensure that court proceedings don’t result in unintended consequences for children. He offered to share the Green Book and other tools the Council had developed as a result of this initiative. Though the Green Book isn’t still funded, there is a site with downloadable information.
Bernadette Conway stated that Connecticut had been using the Green Book Initiative for the last 15 years and that this brought judges and social workers into the same room to discuss cases. This laid the groundwork for the network between state agencies that presently exists and helped to build the protective order registry.
Janice Rosa stated that the intent of the Green Book Initiative was to shift culture and the supportive communities surrounding families changed the way they conducted themselves, which shifted the way these cases were handled and led to better outcomes for these families.
Karen Jarmoc asked whether there was a Green Book for Connecticut and Massachusetts and whether there was a time frame during which this was established.
Stated that the program is still functioning, but there is no ongoing funding. The philosophy behind this initiative was to integrate the principles into communities so that they would become part of the communal cultural response to these cases. She noted that not every case involves child welfare and that there are families that don’t fall under the purview of the Green Book.
Karen Jarmoc asked whether the collaborative effort went away when the funding dried up for this initiative.
Janice Rosa stated that the collaborative effort was still functioning, as the Green Book principles became part of the culture of how judicial departments conduct business. In Buffalo, New York, they took up the initiative, but after the funding went away, they still conducted business under these principles. The court system has a better understanding of how families should be served in the courtroom.
Karen Jarmoc asked whether there was an opportunity to revisit the Green Book and reconvene around this work.
Judge Conway stated that there were a lot of positive things that came out of this work and Connecticut was able to bring in Dave Mandell, a national expert, to write policy such as the Safe and Together Model, which became a national and internationally recognized program for child abuse. Mr. Mandell did work with DCF and started the program to teach about domestic violence, which DCF has incorporated into their corporate structure. She noted that this stemmed from when Connecticut convened the Green Book and brought together all relevant state agencies where they spent a year identifying the barriers to communication and networking, and working with the present institutional knowledge to improve practices regarding domestic violence.
Mary Painter agreed that there had been a philosophical shift in the work around domestic violence. The existing green book continues to offer guidance on moving forward on this issue.
Donald Frechette had the following questions about these trainings: What is offered from the National Council on training?
What is the length of the training?
What is the cost for one judge and who pays for the training?
Janice Rosa stated that the training doesn’t cost anything because the Council has a national grant to cover these expenses. Additionally, judges can use set-aside funds to cover travel cost. The Council also comes into different communities to conduct these trainings. Ultimately, the trainings are funded through various different methods to minimize the burden for individuals.
Darren Mitchell stated that the trainings vary in length, depending on the type of training and the specific needs of the community.
Janice Rosa stated that the trainings are available to all judicial educators across the country.
Joel Rudikoff asked about a study the presenters mentioned regarding better outcomes for people who were represented in court by an attorney.
Darren Mitchell offered to send the study to the task force and noted that the main component of the study had to do with restricted visitation provisions and the outcome for the children and families. This study concluded that representation made a difference.
Donald Frechette asked about the significant degree of noncompliance with regard to firearms. He asked if the data suggested a reason for noncompliance, whether this was a lack of judicial response; a lack of judicial initiative; a regulatory framework; or a combination of the three.
Darren Mitchell stated that the instance he is most familiar with is that statutory framework makes it clear that all protection orders similar to federal disqualifying factors include specific surrender provisions on a mandatory basis and a respondent must comply by surrendering their firearms and brining an affidavit of surrender or an affidavit of no possession of firearms. In a study conducted in Seattle, Washington, it was found that about 10% of these cases, a respondent would come back with an affidavit, which was typically an affidavit of non- possession, and there has been no documented instance where someone turned in an affidavit of surrender with their firearms. He stated that this data was consistent with anecdotal information he’s received from courthouses around the country which stipulate that people walk out of the courthouse with orders and don’t return them. There are significant issues with the laws surrounding guns in domestic violence cases. He voiced that the national Council is committed to addressing this topic and that he would be happy to help Connecticut move forward on this issue. Mr. Mitchell also mentioned that there have been some compliance systems that have worked.
Donald Frechette asked about areas where compliance systems have worked. Mr. Mitchell responded that he would be happy to share this information with the task force.
Judge Bozzuto asked a follow-up question about the study in Seattle, Washington as to the people represented and the type of case the study was conducted on.
Darren Mitchell stated that these were protection order cases.
Janice Rosa reiterated that these were civil protection order cases where women were asking for protection for themselves and their children. In these cases, legal representation for these women made a significant difference in the outcomes for their children.
Janice Rosa stated that when legal aid represented these cases and presumed a certain proficiency, there were better outcomes.
Karen Jarmoc stated that there is some work being done with CCADV and CT Legal Services and private law firms. Robinson and Cole, for example, has been a leader in doing pro bono work to help applicants with restraining orders and create a comprehensive statewide initiative and capturing data to measure this initiative’s impact. She noted that there is an upcoming training on this and the study is important in developing an understanding of different outcomes for applicants. She asked whether there are national strategies being developed around this issue.
Janice Rosa stated that New York had to undergo a reverse process where they provided legal representation to respondents, not petitioners in legal court, so they had to put parameters in place to ensure that petitioners could get free legal help in court. She stated that both the respondent and the petitioner in these cases do better with legal representation.
Karen Jarmoc noted that there are people who are advocating for victims, and that there is an opportunity on the defense side. She noted that providing representation was not a requirement, but that it is being done because there is a gap. She advocated that victims should not be penalized in cases where respondents hire a public defender to help in their case.
Janice Rosa noted that there is a certain percentage of protective orders that have that criminal component where the defendant is going to be represented.
Karen Jarmoc asked if there had been reductions in judicial trainings as a result of the state budget. There have been efforts to create a more robust judicial training system. Karen noted that it would be helpful if there was more data on the relationship between judicial trainings and the state budget. She asked whether states have to apply as a state for judicial trainings. She asked whether the system focused on empowering people to ask for what they need. Karen noted that most applicants are pro se and not represented when they’re applying for protective orders.
Janice Rosa stated that in Buffalo before she left the bench, she became interested in providing information based on risk assessment and lethality with regards to protective orders. They did get some grant money to study this and studied Connecticut because the probation department is connected to the judicial branch. Connecticut has been doing well with providing this information. With regards to self-represented cases, Judge Rosa stated that they worked with a stakeholder group and decided to ensure that the information was provided in the creation provision so that the self-represented litigant had the opportunity to do their own risk assessment with someone who wasn’t a judge to examine the larger context of the case. They trained judges and domestic violence advocates to improve petitions with better evidence and a better picture of the whole story in these cases. This made petitions more robust in court and led to better outcomes. This also became part of a community discussion around domestic violence and New York designated judicial officers to answer questions for self-represented individuals. Changing the nature of how information was taken and used in one jurisdiction in New York allowed for better outcomes in these cases.
Rep. Diana Urban asked whether therapy animals had been used to help children when testifying in court to make the process less intimidating.
Janice Rosa stated that she hadn’t seen this in her courtroom, but that she has a therapy animal herself and that she is interested in bringing in more therapy animals to assist in these cases. She believes that the presence of therapy animals will make the courtroom experience better for children.
Rep. Diana Urban voiced her approval of Judge Rosa’s advocacy in this area, and stated that the child-animal bond could be used to help children recover better from these situations.
Linda Harris asked about the multidisciplinary training that the judges had mentioned earlier and what this entailed.
Darren Mitchell stated that the Council takes different approaches to multidisciplinary trainings depending on the needs of an individual community. This involves identifying stakeholders and thought leaders and understanding the specific problem, then formatting a training to respond to these needs. Sometimes, the Council will conduct pre-meetings where they talk with judges and then the Council enters the community to facilitate different conversations. The Council orients its trainings around problem solving and works to help communities identify problem areas then gives these communities the tools to solve their problems. Often, the communities complete the training then engage in more collaborative approaches which lead to better outcomes.
Janice Rosa stated that the Council custom-fits and tailors these trainings to address what the jurisdiction is asking for.
Joel Rudikoff asked about which branches invites these trainings.
Janice Rosa stated that the judicial department typically initiates the invitation because the National Council is a judicial membership organization, but invitations do come from different sources.
Joel Rudikoff asked whether the Council had conducted a training in Connecticut. Janice Rosa stated that to her knowledge there had not been a training here.
Karen Jarmoc asked whether the trainings were offered to probate judges. Janice Rosa responded that yes, the trainings are offered to probate judges.
Karen Jarmoc thanked the Council for their presentation. The meeting then segued into a presentation from Connecticut judges. Karen stated that it would be meaningful for the task force to hear from these judges with regard to the work being done in Connecticut.
Judge Bozzuto began with an introduction. Judge Bellis would be first to present on domestic training. The judges would then offer their perspectives on training and provide some recommendations for the task force.
Judge Bellis began by stating that this subject was very important to her. The State of Connecticut has robust and extensive domestic violence training for judges. This begins with a full-day pre-bench orientation. There is also an annual judges’ institute training and a transitional training for when judges change their assignments to work in family court. There’s an annual training session in each division and a yearly domestic violence roundtable. She discussed the areas that she had been involved in. The domestic violence training has been around for 6 years, which is comprised of a group of several judges who discuss a list of topics brought in for discussion. These conversations are kept confidential so that judges feel comfortable discussing these cases. There is an upcoming training where Jackie Campbell will be speaking. The program has brought in other domestic violence experts, such as Peter Jaffee, in the past.
The pre-bench orientation is a full-day domestic violence training for all judges. Judge Bellis then referred to the power point and went through each bullet point. She noted that in the criminal courts, the judicial system works to address behavior in hopes of reducing the potential for domestic violence. She noted that the Connecticut legislature has done a good job of recognizing the severity of domestic violence crimes. There is an opportunity to figure out where the issues are and how to address these. In Connecticut, there is a next court date arraignment so that cases aren’t continued for a few days after an arrest. Additionally, there is judicial monitoring available for defendants coming back to court more frequently so judges are checking with victims’ advocates to ensure that there aren’t any major problems.
Connecticut also has cap sentencing instead of probation, which means that defendants are reporting to judges before being sentenced. This helps to improve outcomes for petitioners. With regard to training, Judge Bellis stated that there is a heavy emphasis on role playing to ensure that judges interact with respondents in a manner that conveys the weight of the situation. Judges are trained to act in such a way that respondents leave the courtroom with an understanding that they are to comply with protective orders. This training is well-received and many judges are interested in this training.
Joel Rudikoff asked whether the domestic violence roundtable was mandatory.
Judge Bellis responded that this is voluntary but well attended. The roundtable is open to anyone, but typically criminal and family judges attend.
Joel Rudikoff asked about the duration of the pre-bench orientation.
Judge Bellis that the full pre-bench orientation lasts for several weeks, but the domestic violence training is one full day.
Joel Rudikoff asked how long domestic violence training has been part of pre-bench orientation.
Judge Bellis stated that this has been a part of training for at least 13 years. Judge Houser had done her domestic violence training and the training carries over into other areas of pre-bench orientation.
Joel Rudikoff asked whether there were many judges who had not undergone the domestic violence training.
Judge Bellis responded that she didn’t think there were any judges who did not receive this training. The domestic violence roundtable is also well-attended and in some jurisdictions dockets have been cancelled because so many judges want to attend this training.
Judge Devlin began his presentation by stating that he’d been a judge for 23 years and had domestic violence training at the beginning of his time on the bench. He discussed the issuance of protective orders, which start with arrests. There are 30,000 domestic violence arrests in Connecticut each year and each case comes to court. When individuals are released from a police department, they are assigned a court case within 14 days of the arrest, but in domestic violence cases, these cases are typically scheduled for the next day. When cases come into court, there is an array of professionals such as family relations officers and domestic violence advocates that conduct a risk assessment. These individuals have access to police reports and protective order registry and they can also look at dismissed cases that were family violence related. Family violence officers work to determine whether the case is appropriate for family violence referral. More serious cases are referred to a higher court. This information is acquired to protect a victim’s interest and determine what kind of protective order is required. The family relations officers are relied upon to determine the lethality factors in these cases. Typically, family relations officers recommend a protective order, which goes before a court and in the first court appearance of the person who has been arrested, the family relations officer will make a recommendation for a protective order to the judge. The case is then reviewed with the police report so that judges have the framework to make an assessment about the case as to the appropriateness of the family’s recommendation. These recommendations span a range of allowing people to live together and not have any violence between them to forcing them to live apart and monitoring both parties with GPS. In cases where children are endangered, there are opportunities to provide protections to the children as well. Judges typically rely on family relations officers to determine the proper protective order in these cases.
There is also a ceremonial aspect to these protective orders. Judges are trained to give these situations a certain amount of weight and importance to ensure that people understand the importance of protective orders to judges.
Judge Devlin stated that when an individual violates a protective order, they also violate their bond, which is subject to change and can become more severe. Violations of protective orders are punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Judge Devlin stated that judges take their time with these cases and the person is given a continuous date in court. Domestic violence cases are usually given specially trained prosecutors to handle the case. Court clerks put these cases into a protective order registry so that any police department in Connecticut can access this information immediately if there’s a claim that a protective order has been violated. Judges have an array of techniques and resources at their disposal for each individual case, such as family violence programs. There is also a longitudinal study going on right now to determine how many people in these cases are repeat offenders after they successfully complete the programs set forth by judges. 80% of people don’t reoffend after entering these programs.
Someone asked about the protections for children that family relations officers can offer.
Judge Devlin responded that these protections can be things like restrictions on visitation, such as supervised visitation. In cases where children are crime victims, they are given full protections. In cases where children are bystanders, the children are seen as crime victims and are given a panoply of protections. Even in cases where children are proximate to the criminal event, the children are still protected.
Donald Frechette asked about the right of confrontation. He asked how frequently children were able to testify outside of the vicinity of the accused. How often was this constitutionally permissible or fairly protected? What kinds of procedures are in place to accommodate this in Connecticut’s current system?
Judge Devlin responded that in sexual assault cases, judges use the Jarrs-Beckham procedure, which is very effective and codified in state statute. This involves a preliminary hearing where a judge makes the determination that having the child testify will have an adverse effect on the child’s testimony. If the judge makes the appropriate findings, the child is put in a separate room where they testify. This practice is currently limited to sexual assault cases and whether this practice will be extended to other cases is a policy question for the legislature, but the technical capability for doing this exists.
Donald Frechette asked how this could be done in a civil context.
Judge Bellis responded that she had only encountered a few cases where the minor was a respondent and these were typically sexual assault cases that are sometimes represented by an attorney. She noted that though there had been few cases like this, judges would need to prepare themselves better to handle these situations.
Donald Frechette asked whether this only occurred when a minor is a victim of sexual assault and not of other crimes where there is potential child could be a witness.
Judge Bellis responded that they hadn’t had this in civil protective orders or in non-abusive relationships.
Judge Bozzuto stated that in her experience, there have been very few actions where the respondent is a minor. There have been a few cases where the applicant is a minor and the action is brought by a PPA since minors can’t bring civil process. The process doesn’t differ that much from a criminal court. Her court has litigants that are almost always self-represented, so the rules of practice and evidence are relaxed, but it is uncommon to have minors filing 46B-15 (protective order) forms.
Judge Bozzuto went on to say that she would talk briefly about the 46B-15 protection orders. This is a statutory process that is a civil action brought between two private citizens and the state is not involved. There is a broad category of people who can bring an application for a restraining order in family court, and this extends to people related by blood or marriage, or roommates or people who have lived together. This also extends to people who have a child in common or are in a dating relationship. Last year there were 8500 applicants and 37% of these had children involved. The statute is exacting and this represents a civil process to quickly put an end to overt abuse. In order for the court to give rise to having the authority to pursue this order, there has to be a continuous present threat of physical pain or injury or stalking or a pattern of threatening.
Filing protection orders is a two-step process where first an application has to be filed and then the applicant must swear to an affidavit. The application is then reviewed by a judge that day and every single action is addressed on the day that it is filed. Should the court determine that there is an immediate danger; the court then enters an ex parte order. All cases are scheduled for a hearing within 14 days where only the applicant and respondent testify. There is no probation, bail or lawyers involved in these hearings. Typically family relations officers negotiate cases entering divorce. Occasionally courts will use shuttle diplomacy between two different rooms if the parties have a difficult time reaching a compromise. The applicant testifies first in these cases and has to demonstrate their case by evidence that they are subject to a present and continuous physical violence, stalking or a pattern of threatening. These cases are entitled to cross-examination by the accuser and the proceedings tend to be very uncomfortable for all parties involved. Typically the court has to get involved in the proceeding by asking the necessary questions required in statute and there are significant jurisprudence problems present in these proceedings. Rulings are made on the spot at these hearings, and children involved can enter temporary orders for visitation or no contact. These orders can last for up to one year.
Judge Bellis stated that the new civil orders of protection under 46b-16A are similar to those in family court. These orders are for victims of sexual abuse, sexual assault or stalking as assigned by statute where there are no other orders of protection and where victims don't qualify for relief under 46b-15. This law was implemented on January 1st of this year, and there have been over 1000 civil orders of protection filed. Judge Bellis then discussed some statistics on these protection orders. Victim advocates assist in the filing process, so they cannot interact with the court or advocate on behalf of the victim but they can assist in filing. When an advocate files these forms, 68% of these applications are for stalking; 6% are for sexual abuse and 26% are for other issues.
When the applicant files the affidavit, this is typically done with the help of the advocate and when these meet statutory requirements, the hearing must be scheduled within 14 days from the date of the application. 56% of the cases filed are given hearings and if the court finds that danger exists, the court may issue an ex parte order. Connecticut courts have issued 360 ex parte orders through October 4th of this year and these orders are typically filed with just an applicant and a respondent and no other evidence is presented. 94% of parties are self- represented and typically the cases only involve the applicant and the respondent with occasional witnesses. In cases where the applicant does not appear for the hearing, the court dismisses the case and any ex parte order issued.
If the applicant does appear at the hearing and the court finds reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent committed the acts and presents the potential for further harm to the victim. Approximately half of the cases that proceed to this hearing stage are granted an order of protection, and these can be granted for up to one year. Applicants can file a motion after the year is up that the protection orders be extended. While 94% of the parties are self- represented, as of October 21st, 25% of the cases had an attorney present and 3% of these cases involved minors. Most of these cases are extended domestic cases involving a former girlfriend and a current girlfriend. Sometimes there are landlord-tenant cases, but domestic cases make up the majority of the caseload.
Karen Jarmoc asked a clarifying question about whether these were family violence cases. She noted that the judges presented on information that was less relevant to the work of the task force, as restraining orders don’t always have an impact on children. She noted that ex parte restraining orders have over 9000 applications per year, with over 5000 of these being granted a hearing and 3500 being granted a protection order.
Judge Bellis noted that the difference between civil orders of protection and the 46B-15 orders of protection is that in civil orders of protection, judges are only permitted to consider the information that’s available to the public and is not permitted to access the protective order registry.
Judge Bozzuto discussed the judges’ recommendations to the task force, and recommended that the task force amend 46B-15 to allow family courts to have access to lethality assessments in cases where there are children. She suggested granting authority to the family courts to review the protective restraining order registry and have access to criminal records to give information to family judges that criminal judges currently have access to.
Judge Bellis noted that in the criminal context, they have the criminal record and know if there has been a history of domestic violence and also have information on whether it is the same victim as previously or if it is a different victim. This is information not available to the public and if perpetrators have used programs in the past, the court’s bail commissioners or family relations commissioners will be able to determine whether the perpetrator is going after the same victim. It is important for the court to know whether the same person has been victimized in the past, as this helps with sentencing and developing protective orders.
Joel Rudikoff asked how many judges are hearing the 8500 civil restraining order applications.
Judge Bozzuto responded that there are currently at least 14 judges that take on family cases, but these judges do so on a rotating basis.
Joel Rudikoff asked how judges rotate in and out of courts. He noted that this was in a civil arena where 85% of the time, at least one of the parties is not represented.
Judge Bozzuto stated that in TROs, it is different and in other cases over 90% are underrepresented. There are very few lawyers in these cases, and there are lawyers they are representing respondents.
Joel Rudikoff asked about the nature of the challenging environment for judges. He asked when the pre-bench training occurred for family court judges regarding restraining orders and whether this was an immediate training.
Judge Bozzuto responded that she conducts the training for new judges coming into family court and this training includes 46B-15 and domestic violence training. She noted that in addition to this, there’s an additional half-day training that covers the actual process of filing these protective orders. This happens for each judge that comes into family court.
Karen Jarmoc noted that it could be helpful to include people from different disciplines in the domestic violence roundtable conversations, as the roundtable is currently limited to judges only.
Judge Bozzuto responded that there is currently a Connecticut judges’ institute which covers various topics, but brings in people from different disciplines. This doesn’t always cover domestic violence, but it is available to judges and other individuals.
Karen Jarmoc asked whether the judges were hearing from people practicing in the field with domestic violence. She noted that there are close to 30,000 arrests each year, and each of them are a circumstance where family violence is coming before the courts. She asked whether this element included an opportunity for more work in this area.
Judge Bozzuto agreed that there could be opportunities for greater inclusion.
Judge Bellis noted that victim services training is included as part of new judge training. They have brought in national experts as part of the roundtable and from the Connecticut Judges’ Institute so they present things from multiple perspectives including judicial, advocacy and defense. There was a multidisciplinary panel in 2007 where they discussed affecting change through dialogue, which was very effective.
Cynthia Mahon asked whether there is a mechanism in place to find existing orders in probate or juvenile court for judges issuing orders during a TRO hearing and if not, whether this would be helpful.
Judge Bozzuto responded that there currently was not such a mechanism and that it would be helpful to gather juvenile records because these are confidential and could have important relevant historical information for judges. Currently, these judges only have access to 46B-15 cases and orders in custody and dissolution cases.
Cynthia Mahon asked whether the judges would be recommending a statutory change so they could access these juvenile court or probate court records.
Judge Bozzuto responded that this is something to consider, and there is a current protocol in place between the juvenile and family courts. Typically, the people filing these orders aren’t familiar with the court system and it’s difficult for the judges to obtain all of the information they need. If judges had access to the protective order registry, it would be good to know if there are some other cases pending.
Karen O'Connor discussed the role of law enforcement in these cases. She noted that law enforcement does place a condition of release order on domestic violence arrests and in 2014, they gave juveniles the same protection as any other victim. Law enforcement uses all of the information available to them to issue the conditions of release. They have a standard document that they use then add things to which become modified by the judge once the document becomes a protective order. Perpetrators are then given two business days to turn over any firearms. With regard to restraining orders, if these are issued ex parte, law enforcement asks people to turn over their guns voluntarily and creatively. This represents a significant area of concern for law enforcement when they’re trying to protect children and keep them safe. She then asked if there are requirements that firearms be turned in under 16A.
Judge Bozzuto responded that she would look for this information.
Rep. Diana Urban asked about the connection between child abuse and animal cruelty. She mentioned that there have been several cases where there has been a link between animal cruelty and future violent behavior. In these cases, sometimes a pet is used as a way to control children or domestic partners so that information about domestic violence doesn’t leave the home. She mentioned her previous work to get this aspect included in domestic violence training and asked whether judges were given information on animal cruelty convictions and issues.
Judge Devlin stated that judges were informed of any conviction regarding animal cruelty and factual information regarding whether pets were involved is brought to the judges’ attention.
Rep. Diana Urban noted that these records were previously purged and that since 2000, they had been archiving records on animal cruelty.
Judge Bellis stated that judges are given a list of lethality factors and animal abuse is on there. Judges are also trained to respond to reports of animal abuse where a perpetrator abuses a pet and then tells the victim that they’re next. With regard to firearms, in the criminal court, they get input from the victim if the contact has been made and it has been reported to the family relations officer if the respondent has firearms. This typically applies in cases where there is threatened or actual use of physical force. In orders of protection that she has drafted, if the respondent has firearms it is made clear that this is unacceptable. Judges are very careful to make sure that defendants understand the ramifications of these proceedings and feel comfortable asking questions. She does not ask whether someone has a gun, but emphasizes that people can’t have any guns or permits.
Judge Devlin stated that they had done a program with their criminal judges that emphasized the link between animal abuse and domestic violence.
Sarah Eagan asked for a clarification as to whether minors can petition for restraining orders.
Judge Bozzuto responded that restraining orders have to be brought forward by a parent or guardian.
Sarah Eagan asked about 46A, which states that anyone can bring an application for a restraining order and the stipulations of this.
Judge Bozzuto responded that everyone is able to file an application, but these have to be brought forward by a PPA or under the legal capacity of a parent.
Sarah Eagan stated that she wanted to be sure that youth can seek protection.
Garry Lapidus noted that the GPS monitoring system is intended to increase compliance on protective orders. He asked if the judges could share their experience with this system.
Judge Devlin responded that they ran a pilot of this a few years ago and the system seems to be working. The system monitors people under the protective order and in instances where respondents come from within the buffer zone, local police departments are notified.
Steve added that over the four years that judges have employed this system, there have not been any injuries to victims.
Karen Jarmoc stated that the system is working well, but it is expensive relative to the outcomes. She added that the state should be looking at other options that are less costly to protect victims. She added that at the next meeting on November 10, the task force would be hearing from the child welfare system and discussing policy and practice.
A motion was duly made and seconded to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 12:13 PM.
Sara LeMaster Task Force Staff
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
TASK FORCE TO STUDY THE STATE-WIDE RESPONSE TO MINORS EXPOSED TO FAMILY VIOLENCE, MEETING MINUTES, TUESDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2015!
10:00 AM in Room 2A of the LOB
The meeting was called to order at 10:00 AM by Karen Jarmoc, The following task force members were present:
Karen Jarmoc (Co-Chair); Garry Lapidus (Co-Chair); Donald Frechette; Cindy Mahan; Linda Harris; Damion Grasso; Stephanie Janes; Chris Rapillo; Steve Grant; Dr. Nina Livingston; Faith Vos Wenkel; Cheryl James; Mary Painter and Jennifer Celentano
Karen Jarmoc brought the meeting to order at 10:00 AM. She noted that the task force had a very full agenda and that the task force appreciated people coming in from various areas of practice to present.
Judge Paul Knierim gave his presentation on the role of the probate court in domestic violence cases. He noted that probate courts do not have jurisdiction over the criminal aspect of these proceedings, and take on cases assigned by the legislature to help Connecticut’s most vulnerable citizens. The probate court also handles areas of incapacity, or situations where individuals are unable to care for themselves, and the probate court’s role is to determine the degree to which an incapacitated individual needs assistance. Probate courts also deal with various miscellaneous issues that can be related to domestic violence, such as name changes and restoration of federal firearms rights. Probate courts also deal with removal of parental rights and appoint guardians of minors when a parent is unable to care for their child. Judge Knierim also noted that DCF is often involved in various aspects of the probate court—in the voluntary services programs, issues concerning child protection, Regional Children’s Probate Courts and other areas of Probate Court jurisdiction dealing with children and families. Probate Courts and Juvenile Courts of the Superior Court share jurisdiction in a number of matters and work together to determine which court is the best venue to hear the case.
Judge Beverly Streit-Kefalas thanked the Co-Chairs for inviting her to speak to the task force. She noted that often times, families come into the probate court with proposed solutions to problems they are facing. She noted that the probate courts often deal with substance abuse issues and restraining orders obtained from the superior court. Often times, an aunt or other relative will petition for protective orders and for custody of a minor child through the superior court if a parent has been arrested. In these cases, the child is immediately appointed their own attorney, and the probate court and superior court determine where the case would be best heard. She added that encountering domestic violence perpetrators in these cases is of significant concern, as the probate courts are housed in municipal or commercial buildings and don’t have marshals staffing the court systems. In these cases, the courts work diligently to ensure the safety
of parties involved in the proceedings of the case. In these cases, an attorney is appointed by the court to represent the desires of the child and the courts order therapeutic services for minor children.
These court-appointed attorneys advocate the position of children involved in the case, even if this is not always in the best interest of the child. The courts will also appoint Guardians ad Litem to represent the best interests of the child. These individuals have psychiatric, psychological and other child development expertise and training. Under the Guardian ad Litem program, courts are able to determine the best outcome for the child, sometimes leading to the appointment of a long-term guardian.
Stephanie Janes discussed her role at the New Haven Regional Children’s Probate Court. There, she addresses domestic violence as well as intergenerational patterns. In her role, she looks at histories of violence or trauma and works to ensure the safety of parents and children. The probate court connects the family to various therapies in different scenarios to help them process traumatic events and respond responsibly when confronted with dangerous situations. The court also develops a case plan and collaborates with different departments.
Judge Keyes, the Administrative Judge of the New Haven Regional Children's Probate Court discussed the significant impact of domestic violence on the relationship between parents and children. He highlighted the importance of case workers having the proper training in dealing with children involved in domestic violence cases. He stated that there is a need for clearer protocols on how to handle these cases, and advocated that children need representation from attorneys at every level of these cases. Judge Keyes also pointed out that oftentimes, perpetrators can increase their sense of empathy through counseling, and that courtroom dynamics are altered significantly when victims and perpetrators are in the same room. He also expressed that children should be able to petition for restraining orders so they can protect themselves even when a mother and father have restored their relationship.
Judge Knierim noted that Judges Streit-Kefalas and Keyes had postulated that in probate court proceedings, a minor child is provided with an attorney and sometimes a Guardian ad Litem, which are both paid for through the probate court funds. He noted that this poses significant costs to the probate court system and that there is a greater need for funding for these attorneys. He also noted that it is not always directly apparent that domestic violence is an issue in every case, and that it’s important that the interests of a child are adequately represented in court. He noted that there have been several efforts made to ensure that children have access to attorneys, and that the judges often collaborate on children’s issues so that specialists are working together and developing best practices in these situations. The Regional Children’s Probate Courts have specialized social workers called Probate Court Officers that have backgrounds in social work and marriage and family therapy, and probate courts will appoint an officer to conduct case conferences with the family. The probate court system also funds kinship and respite grants and in cases where necessary, directs children into DCF care.
Karen Jarmoc noted that she had many questions, but would defer to other members of the task force first.
Cynthia Mahon asked whether the probate courts have access to the protective order registry in their locations.
Judge Knierim responded that he administers the central office for probate courts, and they have access to the registry.
Cynthia Mahon also asked about the role of marshals and other protective officers in these courts. She expressed concern over how these courts handle individuals with a history of violence, noting that there aren’t always metal detectors in these buildings.
Judge Streit-Kefalas stated that in the New Haven Regional Children’s Probate court, there is a security officer who separates parties from perpetrators and also escorts people to their vehicles for protection purposes. She noted that local courts handle this on a case-by-case basis. She also noted that much of the demands of the court on the security officers go beyond the qualifications of the security officer, and that the vulnerability of local courts was something that needed to be addressed.
Cynthia Mahon asked Judge Knierim how probate courts handle cases where there is an overlap of a case with the juvenile court.
Judge Knierim responded that the probate courts work with the superior courts to determine what aspect of the cases should proceed first, as the courts don’t want to have inconsistent results. Typically, probate courts will dismiss cases that have already been filed in juvenile court. In instances where a case is subsequently filed in juvenile court, the courts will work together to determine which venue is most appropriate.
Cynthia Mahon asked whether there was a mechanism that dictated whether there are two concurrent cases for the same individual.
Judge Knierim responded that the probate courts will rely on parties for this information. He added that legally, there could be an electronic database where this could be set up, but the funds for a project like this haven’t become available.
Mary Painter asked about workforce development and the training of staff on domestic violence issues. She asked if there was a standard training that the presenters would recommend. She also asked about the protocols that the courts use to recognize domestic violence.
Judge Knierim responded that the probate court system dedicates enormous resources to continuing education, and that they have resources for judges and staff. The courts frequently bring in experts from other disciplines to discuss domestic violence with court staff. He added that the probate courts were looking for input from community providers on what kinds of training would be most effective for those case workers in the probate courts.
Mary Painter also asked about specific recommendations for protocol.
Judge Knierim pointed out that Judge Streit-Kefalas was speaking with regards to restraining orders, and noted that currently there are guidelines for judges to address these issues. He also noted that he had information to share regarding the safety of the courts, and that the courts tend to rely on local police departments for additional support in these cases.
Donald Frechette asked about the divergent interests between court-appointed attorneys for children and Guardians ad Litem. He asked what standards were in place to address this issue.
Judge Knieirm responded that the probate court had specific procedures for these issues, and that all children are appointed an attorney but not always a separate Guardian ad Litem. In some cases, a child may be so young that they don’t have strong wishes, and it is the job of the attorney to determine the wishes of the child and present these in the context of the child’s best interest. If there appears to be a conflict between the stated wishes of the child and the best interests of the child, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem.
Garry Lapidus asked Judge Keyes about the dynamic of having a domestic violence perpetrator and a victim in the same room, and asked whether courts could structure this interaction differently.
Judge Keyes responded that the courts had attempted to use different structures, but noted that the rules for adjusting these dynamics need to be agreed upon by both parties.
Garry Lapidus asked if other states had tried different measures for this.
Judge Keyes responded that the superior court has tried to do electronic hearings in the case where confrontation is an issue, but that the probate courts hadn’t yet started doing this.
Karen Jarmoc asked whether both parties needed to agree to the format of the court proceedings.
Judge Keyes responded that yes, both parties needed to agree.
Faith Vos Wenkel asked about the role of substance use in these cases, and noted that often domestic violence crops up as a co-occurring factor with substance use. She asked if there were statistics kept on this.
Judge Keyes responded that there were not statistics kept on this specific issue.
Faith Vos Wenkel asked about the presentation and the number of cases where domestic violence leads to homicide or murder where children are left with one deceased parent and another that is incarcerated. They asked if these cases come to the probate courts as well.
Judge Keyes responded that there were many cases where the mother is killed by the father and that this leads to a very complicated family situation.
Judge Streit-Kefalas noted that she had a case a few years ago where a father murdered the mother while she was driving. The father was incarcerated and the daughters went into the care of grandparents and have received substantial therapy and counseling, but have still opted to live with the father after his incarceration. She noted that the courts can’t stop things like this from happening, and that in this case there had been a long family history of substance abuse and violence.
Laura Daleo asked about a previous situation mentioned where a parent petitions for guardianship of a child. They asked about what the statistics were when parents come to probate courts pro se versus being represented by an attorney. They asked about possible barriers when a pro se family member comes forward on behalf of a minor child.
Judge Knierim responded that he didn’t have immediate data on this, but noted that the vast majority of these cases are self-represented, and noted that probate courts frequently assist parties who are self-represented. The chief justice and judicial branch have made significant efforts in developing pro-bono attorneys for exceptional cases. He noted that probate courts have entry fees to initiate matters, but in the vast majority of cases, these fees are waived because the petitioner doesn’t have the available financial resources.
Dr. Nina Livingston asked about the role of probate court officers. She asked what type of domestic violence training probate court officers receive and the kinds of caseloads they have. She asked whether there was adequate time for probate court officers to handle the multiple aspects of their cases and whether probate courts have family violence victim advocates with the specific role of addressing family violence within the courts.
Stephanie Janes responded that with regards to domestic violence, all probate court officers bring in a wealth of experience and background in various areas of family therapy and social work, so they have experience in addressing domestic violence. She also noted that the probate courts have trainings on domestic violence where they train with a consultant from DCF, and noted that because of the experience that probate court officers have, they need more advanced training in handling domestic violence. She stated that case loads can vary, but probate court officers can have as many as 30 active cases at one time, and that they do have jurisdiction over these cases until the child reaches the age of maturity or until the parents have been reinstated as guardians. Cases can have a range of intensities, and probate court officers will vary their involvement depending on the severity of the case. Probate court officers will also collaborate with social service providers and other professionals involved in the case and ensure that judges are aware of the sensitivity of domestic violence in these cases. Probate court officers will stress preserving the parent-child relationship in the safest way possible.
Linda Harris asked about fees associated with having an attorney represent a minor, and which entity pays this fee.
Judge Knierim responded that the attorneys are compensated at $50 per hour, but that there are also daily caps on this amount. Additionally, professionals are only compensated in the case that courts have statutory authorization to do so. He added that the courts don’t have statutory authorization to have attorneys do anything outside of the probate court system.
Jennifer Celentano asked whether attorneys file restraining orders on behalf of minors and do we need legislation authorizing the attorney to file this restraining order because they are not the guardian.
Judge Knierim responded that sometimes the parent or guardian can’t file a restraining order because of the complicated dynamics of the case. Attorneys can also petition on behalf of a minor child parallel to the framework of the superior court. Probate Courts lack jurisdiction to impose a restraining order. The petitioner would have to file for a restraining order in Superior Court even if their case is being heard in a Probate Court.
Cheryl Jacques asked about the mental health trauma in these cases and noted that this work is being done with a base in developmental trauma. They noted that Judge Keyes highlighted that a child should have an attorney at every level of the process, and asked how he visualized this.
Judge Keyes responded that in the court’s process, when someone applies for a restraining order, an attorney is generally required to be appointed to execute this restraining order.
Karen Jarmoc asked the judges to provide the group with any data that would be helpful in this process. She asked what kinds of volumes they were experiencing, and noted that the cases were very complex. She asked if there was any way to understand the volume of cases the judges were basing their decision around.
Judge Knierim responded that the probate courts can try to collect this data, and noted that presently the probate courts don’t systematically collect data. He stated that they could work with probate court officers to get some better information. He also noted that they would have to collect this data from courts that have probate court officers, and offered to take this beyond the anecdotal data presented in the meeting and have the probate court officers work together to provide information that is more quantitative.
Karen Jarmoc added that she only wanted this data if it would be authentic and helpful, and noted that she wanted to know how prevalent domestic violence cases were in the current probate system.
Stephanie Janes stated that she believed there is a high incidence of domestic violence in probate court cases.
Karen Jarmoc asked about the costs of domestic violence on the probate court system, and noted that it would be meaningful if the group could capture the cost of domestic violence as a state so that we could identify opportunities to make wiser investments.
Judge Streit-Kefalas noted that they often see domestic violence arise out of conservatorships; in the context of name changes; and in DCF voluntary services where a child is being treated for psychiatric issues and the family has a history of violence that is causing the trauma. She stated that having statistics in children’s cases is helpful, but domestic violence is expressed in many cases that deal with family matters.
Karen Jarmoc stated that she was glad that the judges touched on training. She noted that on October 27th, the task force would be hosting the national judicial institute on domestic violence to present a training initiative that they conducted. They’re a federally-funded institute that trains on family violence. She wasn’t sure if this was open to probate courts and that if it is, it would be helpful for the judges to attend the training. She noted that there was an opportunity to have stronger lines of communication between the probate court and other aspects of the system. She asked what tools the probate courts were utilizing around family violence matters.
Stephanie Janes responded that when their probate court officers conduct family violence assessments, there are at least two family conferences, which are used to work with a family to develop a plan for placement of a child and assessing the family history. Probate court officers are not using an actual assessment tool, but do come with clinical skills in various arenas and so are able to work with families.
Karen Jarmoc asked about cases where it may be better to not have the child around either parent, or if the probate court stressed the preservation of the parent-child relationship.
Judge Streit-Kefalas responded that the probate court system stresses the reunification of a child or children with their parent or parents in a safe, healthy relationship and that the court works to preserve this relationship.
Karen Jarmoc thanked the judges for their time and presentation and added that the task force would continue to reach out as they drafted their recommendations. She then welcomed the next presentation by Suzanne and Lillian Ankrah from the Greenwich YWCA.
Kelly Annelli presented on the programs offered by the Greenwich YWCA. Specifically, she highlighted the work that child advocates do in her program and in the shelter that she helps manage. She elaborated on the specific qualifications of child advocates as well as the various duties these advocates take on as part of their work. These advocates are certified domestic violence counselors and advocate for families in court. Child advocates have a set of standards for best practices and work to develop age- appropriate information for children and youth. There are several programs that the Greenwich YWCA offers to help combat the cycles of violence these families are exposed to. These programs are heavily reliant on fundraising for support, as the state only supplies a portion of the salaries for family advocates. She added that family and child advocates attend many trainings to ensure that they’re using the most up-to-date methods for various therapies.
Karen Jarmoc thanked Kelly for her presentation and added that the on-the-ground view that she presented was very valuable to the task force.
Kelly Annelli stated that she had been working in domestic violence for 15 years, and that child advocates work with every aspect of the system. She stated that Lillian was one of her hardest-working employees who works with everyone involved in the various cases from supporting children in shelter to accessing community resources for families. She stated that CCADV did a wonderful job of training child advocates to work on long- term counseling and other services.
Karen Jarmoc asked about the scope of what Lillian was witnessing in the field.
Lillian Ankrah responded that there were many examples, but that she had been working with one particular family where the mother had chosen not to go to the police after a violent incident with the father, and the mother had a hard time supporting her family. Lillian helped the family find host homes and was eventually able to get the family into public housing in Greenwich and help the mother find stable housing. She noted that the children are now doing very well and have been able to handle their feelings and the situation in a very mature manner.
Karen Jarmoc asked about the relationship between the Greenwich YWCA and other agencies and how the task force might make these connections stronger and better.
Suzanne Adam responded that all of the systems work very well together. She noted that employees at the shelter all worked together to help different families. She also noted that one of the issues they had faced was that collaborative efforts aren’t always easy because not everyone working on certain cases have an understanding of domestic violence. She noted that it was very important for counselors to have an understanding and sensitivity to domestic violence and that this was what the collaborative effort could take away.
Karen Jarmoc asked how support is offered to children and families that come into shelter given the constraints of being in a shelter.
Jennifer Celentano also asked about how the shelter handles situations where the mother isn’t addressing the needs of the children and what is done when there is a problem with a parent in the shelter.
Lillian Ankrah responded that the shelter is a mandated reporter to DCF.
Suzanne Adam noted that there is a lot of counseling and that shelter can be a stressful situation for a family because there can be many parents in a shelter, and each family is reacting to a traumatic experience. She added that there are a lot of intersecting dynamics and that the shelter works to reconnect the parenting relationship and gives the parent their authority. She noted that the shelter works very closely with DCF and other service providers.
Garry Lapidus asked how children are assessed for behavioral and mental health needs in shelter.
Suzanne Adam responded that the job of the shelter is not to diagnose these problems but work holistically with the family and keep them safe. She added that they do a danger assessment for adults.
Lillian Ankrah stated that she is a certified art therapist and she works with a certified play therapist, and children frequently reveal things through their art and their play in terms of their fears and worries.
Suzanne Adam stated that children experience their life through play, and it’s beneficial for her to work through metaphor. She added that the shelter does a few assessments that focus on resilience and protective factors, and that negative factors will decrease over time.
Mary Painter asked what kinds of data the shelter collected and about the standards used for children, youth and families.
Karen Jarmoc noted that data is very important, and stated that they collected this through Efforts to Outcomes. She asked what kind of data Ms. Painter was looking for.
Mary Painter asked how the shelter demonstrates unmet need and noted that there was probably a considerable amount of work the shelter couldn’t do because of limited resources.
Karen Jarmoc added that the task force can try to break down some of the data
Suzanne Adam stated that the shelter kept statistics and standards. She noted that there needed to be more training on domestic violence, as the shelter couldn’t carry the child through the whole process, and case workers down the line needed to be better trained in domestic violence. She noted that pediatricians and other community providers don’t always experience things through the lens of domestic violence.
Karen Jarmoc asked about the role of teachers as first responders, and asked who provides this training for teachers and whether this training is adequate.
Lillian Ankrah responded that the shelter doesn’t play a role in this, but that there is someone in her agency that provides training to the board of education. She noted that teachers are first responders because they work with children during the day.
Cheryl Jacques asked if this is part of the teacher training in the educational system and in the educational process itself.
Karen Jarmoc noted that this topic had been on the agenda for years, and stated that family violence is among the topics that school systems can train educators on, but that it is not funded, as there is a list of things that can be selected from to do trainings on, but family violence is not a required training, as this would make it a mandate.
Suzanne Adam noted that there is a strong program across the state, and lots of teachers are inviting programs into their schools, but we don’t have a statewide systemic response.
Cheryl Jacques noted that she represented DMHAS and that the organization had done collaborative training with DCF on trauma, as family violence is very specific, and not always in the same context as general trauma.
Suzanne Adam noted that the perception of trauma may be different, and that there tend to be a lot of myths and stigma around domestic violence.
Cheryl Jacques asked if there was a recommended curriculum.
Suzanne Adam said that there are many curricula that are based on research and that she would get back with regards to curriculum outcomes.
Cheryl Jacques said that this would be helpful, and added that there is often an over- saturation of training, which can be overwhelming.
Suzanne Adam stated that there are screening tools that can be used by age, and agreed that there can be an over-saturation of training on this issue. She offered to help the task force navigate through the different trainings.
Karen Jarmoc noted that unless educators have the background, it can be difficult to understand what to do when there may be a positive screen, or what tools may be helpful.
Cheryl Jacques asked about nurses providing treatment in the school system and where they refer children in the case of positive screening results.
Karen Jarmoc stated that from training, they would have the capacity to build on this. She stated that she had developed a 3-phase approach with domestic violence providers.
Damion Grasso asked about the shelter’s approach to treatment of domestic violence victims in terms of trauma and other psychological issues, such as PTSD and anxiety.
Suzanne stated that her shelter uses several assessment
tools that focus on domestic violence as it relates to other psychological issues.
Damion Grasso asked how often the shelter works with other agencies and how they could reach out to these agencies to better prepare them for working with domestic violence victims.
Lillian Ankrah responded that they often work with outside
agencies that provide private psychiatric therapies.
Damion Grasso asked if Lillian did work ahead of time regarding referrals and CBT.
Lillian Ankrah responded that they did a lot of psychoeducation around relationships and stressed that the family build a strong relationship with their care takers at the shelter, and use this as a template for building future healthy relationships.
Suzanne Adam noted that they do have staff trained in CBT and DBY and that typically their clients are looking for housing and schools. She stated that the shelter makes significant efforts to connect these families with long-term care and community-based resources. She stated that the shelter works to provide resources from both ends of the spectrum.
Karen Jarmoc thanked the shelter presenters for bringing up the assessment piece, but noted that the shelter is not a clinical situation. She asked if it would be better to address shelter situations from a clinical perspective, and noted that there were meager resources for child advocates, so this type of setting would not be feasible. She also noted the difference between screening and assessment and that this required extra work on the part of providers.
Kelly Annelli followed up with Mary Painter’s question about standards. At the shelter, every aspect of the child’s well-being is woven into their standards and best practices.
Karen Jarmoc noted that on October 27th, the task force would be meeting with the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges. On November 6th, the task force would be hearing from DCF regarding their response to family violence.
Sara LeMaster Task Force Administrator