We need to talk about the relationship between domestic violence and Florida’s foster care system.

It may not shock you to learn that reports of child abuse and neglect often go hand-in-hand with findings of domestic violence. But when a family is in crisis and a child’s safety is at risk, the chaos and trauma can make it difficult to identify and address the core issues within the home.

If domestic violence is missed or misaddressed with a child welfare case, families are at-risk of being separated and the compounding trauma can create years of heartbreak and pain.

We have a responsibility to do better.

As a leader in trauma-informed care, Children’s Home Society of Florida (CHS) partnered with domestic violence experts to develop a specialized program, which includes specific screenings and therapeutic support to keep families safe, strong and together after surviving domestic violence. The program also provides a domestic violence liaison and including connections to shelter and other critical resources.

Partners 4 Safe Families launched in Lakeland on October 1 (fittingly coinciding with National Domestic Violence Awareness Month) through a partnership with CHS and under the expert guidance of nationally recognized domestic violence expert Carol Wick and Sharity Global. CHS first piloted this innovative approach in partnership with Citrus Family Health in Miami. Thanks to the support of our legislature and advocacy leadership of Senator Ben Albritton and Representative Kaylee Tuck, we were able to bring it to Lakeland. Together, along with our partners at Heartland for Children, we will bring hope and stability to vulnerable families in crisis and provide a strong foundation for a brighter future.

In Miami, Partners 4 Safe Families was six times more likely to identify domestic violence and extreme danger in homes involved with the child welfare system.

By properly identifying and addressing domestic violence, we successfully change how survivors are seen and heard within the child welfare system, properly provide trauma-informed treatment and ultimately keep more children safe. Now, thanks to the advocacy of CHS partners and friends, we will be able to serve 100 local families with this life-changing support.

One of the most unique facets of the program is its comprehensive approach to also engage the offender in trauma-informed mental health care – working to treat the root cause of the abuse and break the cycle in their future relationships.

Words cannot express my gratitude for these partners coming together and making this possible. If this work is close to your heart, donations can help us reach even more families and continue to improve life-long outcomes for children. Visit chsfl.org to learn more and get involved today.

Jessica Davis is Regional Executive Director of Children’s Home Society of Florida serving the Greater Lakeland area.