Does differential response make a difference: Examining domestic violence cases in child protection services

download file
Child and Family Social Work, 20(1), 83-95.

This study used mixed methods, statistical analysis and family interviews, to determine how Differential Response Models are reflected in child welfare practice and case outcomes that involve domestic violence (DV). In other words, they wanted to see how using a ‘not one-size-fits-all’ approach in assessment and intervention of families experiencing exposure to domestic violence versus other forms of maltreatment were faring. The study was conducted across five child welfare agencies across southern and eastern Ontario over 18 months.

Authors found that most DV cases were initially referred by police; first-time cases received longer and more intense intervention than re-opened cases; interventions tended to focus on parent-victims (mainly mothers), with little to none on perpetrators (mainly fathers). Children were referred for help with emotional harm less than the authors had expected, and non-white families were over-represented.

Systemic factors were stressed versus any shortcomings of child welfare workers (e.g. wait times for childrens’ mental health services; child welfare workers being empowered to initiate or follow up on DV perpetrator interventions). The authors’ conclude that much DV intervention is determined by the behaviour of the mother, specifically if she takes measures to remove herself or the children from the perpetrator. 

Additional information available for these authors
Canadian CW research
Journal article