Screening for Domestic Violence in Massachusetts
Bureau of Family and Community Health
The Massachusetts Division of Violence and Injury Prevention is working with a number of other units of the Bureau of Family Community Health (the Massachusetts maternal and child health agency) to protect women and children from domestic violence.
Carlene Pavlos, Director of the Division of Violence and Injury Prevention (DVIP) reported that preliminary work on the 2000 Massachusetts Title V Needs Assessment revealed that MCH service providers wanted more information on identifying and responding to domestic violence. Based on this information, the Bureau developed surveys to find out what Family Planning and WIC staff needed and - ultimately - the Domestic Violence Screening Care, Referral, and Information Project (DV SCRIP) which teaches MCH staff to identify and help clients who are victims of intimate partner violence.
The Division of Violence and Injury Prevention worked with other MCH programs - including WIC, the Early Intervention/Prevention Program, and the Family Planning Program - to train their staff in DV SCRIP. The collaboration with WIC proved especially successful. Initially, 35 WIC Programs in Massachusetts received DV SCRIP training. Four of these WIC programs served as pilot sites for the routine domestic violence screening of pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women. As part of the DV SCRIP training, staff from local domestic violence programs and state agencies such as the Department of Transitional Assistance Domestic Violence Unit, were invited to speak at these trainings. This helped WIC staff to learn about the programs to which they can refer victims of domestic violence - and it was a great opportunity to meet the individuals who would be accepting these referrals. DV SCRIP also teaches staff to care for their own emotional health - a critical skill for service providers addressing domestic violence. The pilot program was later expanded into an effort to train all staff in every WIC program in Massachusetts to routinely screen pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women for domestic violence. The success of DV SCRIP prompted WIC to add a domestic violence section to the WIC Operations Manual. This section includes policies and procedures on screening, the role of staff, referrals, and self-care.
Working with victims of domestic violence can be intimidating. Alicia High, Assistant Health & Human Service Coordinator for the WIC Program, reported that her first reaction when she first heard about DV SCRIP was "We're going there?!" She felt a similar resistance from WIC program staff. But Alicia and other WIC staff have come to understand how DV SCRIP can contribute to their program - and how they can contribute to stopping domestic violence. Alicia underwent extensive training in domestic violence issues so she could offer WIC staff the expertise, technical assistance, and support they need when working on such a traumatic issue.
DV SCRIP has proven wildly popular with WIC staff. Carlene Pavlos reports that the Division of Violence and Injury Prevention (DVIP) "doesn't have to sell the importance of DV SCRIP to WIC anymore. WIC sees training about domestic violence as a priority and views DVIP as the partner that helps make it happen. Local WIC providers are banging on our door for training." In fact, the expansion of DV SCRIP to all WIC programs in Massachusetts was made possible through WIC financial support of a DV SCRIP training consultant. DVIP would like to move to a "train the trainer" format allowing WIC's own trainers to implement DV SCRIP as part of the standard WIC training for all staff.
DV SCRIP also proved popular with other MCH programs in Massachusetts. The demand from the Family Planning Program, for example, outstripped DVIP's training capacity. Fortunately, the Family Violence Prevention Fund, a nonprofit organization, offered a member of its staff as a DV SCRIP trainer for the Family Planning Program.
For more information about DV SCRIP, contact Beth Nagy, Domestic and Sexual Violence Integration Initiatives, at (617) 624-5420 or Beth.Nagy@state.ma.us.