Planning for children's safety where there is family violence - advice

This advice provides information regarding planning with families where family violence concerns have been substantiated.

Document ID number 2457, version 5, 19 November 2019.


See procedure Planning for children’s safety where there is family violence for tasks that must be taken.

The presence of family violence is a common area of concern for families involved with child protection. The child protection practitioner’s response to family violence needs to address the risks posed to the child by the perpetrator of the violence and support the affected parent to provide for the ongoing needs of the child. The impact and effect of family violence on the family is complex, and frequently co-exists with other protective concerns such as drug and alcohol abuse, neglect and mental health issues. Planning with families to address these concerns requires particular attention to the perpetrator’s patterns of coercive control, and recovery needs of both the affected parent and the child. Family violence perpetrated on the affected parent is perpetration on the child.

Family violence is predominantly gender based, with men most likely to be perpetrators and women and children most likely to be victims/survivors. It is also important to acknowledge that family violence may exist in same sex relationships or involve adolescents or women who are perpetrators, and a gendered lens, while important, does not always apply. This advice, while acknowledging the gendered nature of family violence, uses the non-gendered terms ‘perpetrator’ and ‘affected parent’ in recognition that child protection works with various types of families and circumstances.

The information contained in this advice is additional to the general case planning information as detailed in Case planning – advice. It is recommended that this advice be read in conjunction with Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB) , which contains detailed information on family violence and its impact on children and families, and ways of working with families in responding to family violence concerns.

Specialist family violence workers and child protection senior practitioners (family violence)

Consultation with the specialist family violence worker or senior child protection practitioner (family violence) can assist practitioners with developing the case plan, actions table and referrals to appropriate services and programs including RAMPs. These positions provide expert knowledge and skills in engaging families impacted by family violence and how to navigate the family violence sector. For further information see the Family Violence Child Protection Partnership service description.

Assessing risk

Risk assessments using the Family Violence Risk Assessment and Risk Management Framework (CRAF) may be conducted with the affected parent and discussed with them to enable them to understand the level and nature of risk to them and their child. The CRAF aide memoire is located in the resource section of Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB) . Practitioners should consult the specialist family violence worker or the child protection senior practitioner (family violence) if they have not completed CRAF training or require guidance on how to use the aide memoire tool with the affected parent and child. If not previously completed, practitioners must conduct an L17 Family Violence historical search to understand the perpetrator’s pattern and history of family violence, frequency, the nature of the violence (i.e. significant physical or verbal abuse, including threats to kill). Gather information on the victim/survivor’s previous experience of family violence, specifically in the context of cumulative harm for the child/ren.

As well as the physical and sexual risks to the child, a perpetrator’s coercive pattern of control can have a significant impact on the child’s emotional wellbeing and development, either directly or as a result of harm inflicted on the affected parent.  These coercive behaviours (tactics) may include, but are not limited to:

  • stalking, surveillance and unwanted contact, including the use of smart phones, internet and social media
  • unreasonable and non-negotiable demands
  • blaming victims/survivors for the violence
  • cruelty, including verbal abuse and put downs
  • isolation from family, friends and supports
  • restricting daily activities, including a child’s education or childcare
  • treating victim/survivors as objects, possessions
  • economic control and exploitation
  • controlling access to information and services
  • threats and intimidation
  • extreme jealousy and possessiveness
  • ignoring family member’s needs, opinions and feelings.

In cases where there is a high risk of serious threat to the affected parent’s or child’s life, health and safety or welfare from family violence, a referral to a Risk Assessment Management Panel (RAMP) is required. Each area has a designated child protection panel member who attends the regularly held, usually monthly, meetings. RAMP referrals should be made to the family violence intake team at the specialist family violence service that employs the RAMP Coordinator.

Referral to RAMP is a secondary service response that follows referral to a specialist family violence case manager. A referral is appropriate when it is considered that the development of a coordinated multi-agency plan is essential to keep women and children safe and avert the high risk of serious threat posed by the perpetrator. Practitioners should consult the specialist family violence worker and RAMP coordinator to discuss the possibility of a referral, or where one has already been made, to provide relevant information and discuss meeting outcomes and actions required.

A referral may also be appropriate for an adolescent client who is at high risk of serious threat from their partner.

Where a RAMP has already been held, the plan, including actions required by child protection should be incorporated into the safety plan. Practitioners need to be mindful that the holding of a RAMP is not to be disclosed to the perpetrator due to the high level of risk that this may pose to the family and services involved.

For detailed information on RAMP processes and functions, please refer to the RAMP Operational Guidelines located on The Lookout website.

Where there is threat to life, follow the Threats to kill - procedure and refer to the Threats to kill - advice.

Assessing needs

The needs of the family can depend on whether or not the family remains together in the family home. If the affected parent leaves the family home with the child, responding to the immediate needs for housing, financial assistance and possible disruptions to schooling or child care will need to be considered. In this situation, the family may be eligible for a family violence flexible support package to assist with their safety needs. Requests are assessed and delivered by family violence service providers and packages can only be distributed to victims/survivors who have a case management plan with a service in addition to child protection. For details on eligibility and referral processes, practitioners need to contact their local family violence service provider.

If the family remains together in the family home, planning with the affected parent and the child needs to be accompanied by strategies aimed at holding the perpetrator accountable for their family violence and related parenting practices, in ways that continue to support the affected parent’s and child’s safety. For details on these strategies see Working with adult perpetrators of family violence – advice.

Managing risk – safety plans

Safety plans may be developed by the affected parent or young person either by themselves or assisted by a specialist family violence or other support service.  How the plan is developed and what is included in the safety plan depends on the family’s situation and the level of risk posed by the perpetrator. This may include when the affected parent:

  • is maintaining their relationship with the perpetrator
  • is planning to leave the relationship
  • has left the relationship.

All these situations have particular risks for the affected parent and child and safety plans will need to include actions required to ensure their immediate safety in response to the perpetrator’s behaviours. These plans are usually written down and hidden from the perpetrator, however in some circumstances where the perpetrator remains in the family home, a plan may be devised without a written record being kept in the home, for safety reasons.

The perpetrator may be involved in the development of a safety plan identifying their role in making their family safe. However, this would be undertaken separately from the safety plan for the affected parent and be dependent on the level of responsibility the perpetrator is taking for their behaviour. See Working with adult perpetrators of family violence – advice.

Child protection may develop a safety plan or plans during the investigation phase, either during the first home visit or subsequently involving other services, prior to substantiation. The need for a safety plan is an indicator that the practitioner has determined that some protective concerns have been substantiated – that the child is at risk and a plan is required to secure their immediate safety.

Completed safety plans for the affected parent and the child need to be recorded on CRIS as a scanned copy attached to a case note titled family violence safety plan – < name of adult or child victim/survivor>( not to be provided to <name of perpetrator>). If completed with the perpetrator attach to a case note titled family violence safety plan - <name of perpetrator>.

Following substantiation of protective concerns, the affected parent or child should continue to use the safety plan to respond to immediate safety needs. The work already undertaken with the family and other services in relation to the child and affected parent’s safety can inform the protective concerns and significant decisions for the child as set out in the case plan. Goals and tasks for the perpetrator to address their coercive control behaviour can be detailed and recorded in the actions table, along with actions to address the other protective concerns and needs of the child.

See Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB) for detailed information on safety planning and Conducting the first visit - advice for information on safety planning in investigation phase.

Developing and implementing the child’s case plan to address family violence

Where there are family violence concerns, practitioners need to consider how family violence has impacted on the child’s connection to their culture, development (physical, emotional and psychological), health and education and what is needed for the child’s recovery, including therapeutic responses . The case plan should include the decisions made by child protection to address these needs, as well as the current protective concerns (areas of concern), care and contact arrangements and any other significant decisions such as housing issues or involvement in family court proceedings.

The areas of concern on CRIS need to be up to date to ensure that the case plan identifies the current protective concerns.  The substantiated family violence concerns will depend on the circumstances and may include:

  • physical injury - risk of or actual physical injury
  • emotional or intellectual development – emotional or psychological impact
  • physical development or health – physical development or health impact
  • parent or carer capability- family violence, concerns about the perpetrator’s parenting and concerns about the impact of perpetrator’s behaviour on affected parent’s capacity to parent*
  • cumulative harm – the continued and multifaceted impact that family violence has had on the child’s and family’s daily functioning.

* Consider how the violence perpetrated on the affected parent has impacted on the child.

The connection between trauma and family violence is a key consideration for practitioners. Focussing on addressing protective concerns such as parental drug and alcohol use or mental health issues without considering the possibility of family violence may lead to ineffective responses that do not address the underlining cause of the concerns.

Decisions and planning in relation to contact between the child and the perpetrator of family violence needs to be carefully considered, particularly:

  • Where the affected parent and child have sought refuge, consider how to manage the risk of the perpetrator locating the affected parent and child, and using the contact to indirectly harm or exert control over the affected parent via the child. For example, full supervision or suspension of contact may be needed
  • If the parents are separated, practitioners need to avoid placing the responsibility on the affected parent for supervising contact between the child and the perpetrator. A victim/survivor of family violence cannot be expected to exert control over a situation to protect their child during contact if they have been subject to violence themselves or are fearful of the perpetrator, especially where there has been a recent separation or changes to contact arrangements. Under these circumstances the perpetrator has opportunity to perpetrate violence and coercive control against both the affected parent and the child. In addition, the perpetrator’s focus will likely be on regaining control, rather than the child’s needs and wellbeing.

Information on what is included in a case plan is detailed in Case planning - advice.

Developing and implementing the actions table (goals and actions) to address family violence

Following substantiation of protective concerns resulting from family violence the actions table will need to address the future needs of the child, based on the current risk assessment and confirmed areas of concern. Each goal and task needs to be expressed in terms that can be understood by the family so they know what is expected of them.

For family violence matters, a goal in relation to protection of the child from family violence will be appropriate. The tasks and actions required to achieve this goal will relate to the perpetrator’s behaviours, including the use of violence and coercive control on both the child and affected parent. It is important that practitioners clearly articulate that the responsibility for protecting the child from family violence rests with the perpetrator.

Goals and actions for the affected parent

Goals and actions for the affected parent need to be confined to those that the parent has control over and this planning needs to acknowledge that the responsibility for violence and abuse can limit their capacity in some areas. Goals and tasks may need to be prioritised to reduce the possibility of overwhelming the affected parent as this may lead to disconnection from services and feelings of failure. As the more immediate needs are met, additional goals may be set. It is important that practitioners acknowledge when actions have been completed and goals reached.

Collaboration with other service providers supporting the affected parent may assist in identifying realistic goals and actions, and contribute to the affected parent feeling supported by the system.

Goals and actions for the child

Goals and actions for the child relate to the significant decisions set out in the case plan. Family violence can affect children in many different ways, depending on the nature of and exposure to the abuse, and their age and stage of development. Consideration should always be given to the need for the child to attend counselling or be provided with other therapeutic responses to assist with their recovery.

For detailed information see Working with families where an adult is violent (pdf, 1.17 MB) .

Goals and actions for the perpetrator

According to David Mandel’s Safe and Together TM Model, the effective development of a plan starts with a thorough assessment of the perpetrator’s pattern of coercive control and behaviour that harms or is likely to harm the child. This baseline helps determine the focus of behaviour change expectations and provides the best chance for determining real behaviour change.

The following suggested goals and actions directed to the perpetrator to address their behaviour are drawn from Mandel’s model:

  • no further physical violence towards any member of the household
  • no further intimidating behaviour towards any member of the household (verbal threats, destruction of property, throwing objects, punching wall)
  • all weapons removed from the premises
  • will seek out, engage with and complete family violence counselling such as a men’s behavioural change program
  • will not use physical discipline with children
  • will be able to acknowledge a majority of past abusive and violent behaviour towards affected parent and children
  • will seek and follow recommendations of substance abuse evaluation and actively engage in a program of recovery
  • will seek and follow recommendations for mental health evaluation, stay involved with any mental health counselling, and follow doctor’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications
  • will not deny affected parent access to a phone, vehicle or other forms of communication and transportation
  • will share with affected parent all relevant information to income and family financial circumstances
  • will disclose to affected parent all information relevant to child abuse and family violence, including prior arrests
  • if separated and there is a no contact order, will not make unwanted or unexpected visits to the partner’s home or office
  • will respect all existing court orders, including protective orders, intervention orders, parenting and contact orders, and child support requirements
  • in the absence of Family Court orders, will maintain financial support for their children regardless of whether or not they reside with them
  • will support all reasonable efforts to provide their child with appropriate services including childcare and healthcare and will not interfere with the affected parent’s efforts to seek out services for themselves and the child (Refer to Mandel and Associates, 2012).

Planning with other services and programs

Achieving positive outcomes for vulnerable children and families requires the broader system around the family to flexibly and creatively engage the family, in a solution-focused process that is timely, respectful, and culturally appropriate.

Due to the insidious nature of family violence, establishing and maintaining communication and a shared understanding of the risks and plans with other services and programs involved with the care and support for the family is vitally important. Where there are multiple services involved, holding a case conference will assist with everyone being aware of their role and responsibilities in implementing and monitoring the case plan as set out in the actions table.

Making an effective referral to another service goes beyond a phone call or completion of a referral form. For child protection, there are four distinct stages of the referral process.

  1. Assess the child’s needs in relation to safety, development and wellbeing. A good match between the child’s and family’s needs and the service will enhance the potential for positive outcomes.
  2. Locate and match services. Practitioners should contact the agency or service regarding the services provided, the specific type of service required and the appropriateness of the referral. Practitioners should also obtain information regarding intake processes, waiting times, the manner in which the agency or service may work, and how they perceive their role.
  3. Connect the family and the service. Practitioners should meet with or contact the family to discuss the outcome of the discussion with the agency or service to establish that the family agrees to access the agency or service and has a clear understanding of the nature of the service to be provided. Information sharing requirements should also be discussed.
  4. Provide ongoing support and direction. Practitioners should where possible and appropriate contact the family or individual family members after their contact with the agency to receive feedback, provide encouragement and recognition for progress made, and to identify any potential problems that may develop. Where the case remains open, practitioners should set a review date to discuss whether the work undertaken has addressed the identified concerns and whether further or other work needs to be undertaken, by the current service or another.

Practitioners need to be aware of what services are available for children and families responding to and recovering from family violence in their local area. The specialist family violence worker and senior practitioner (family violence) can assist practitioners in building an understanding of relevant service networks and the type of assistance the various services can offer.The Lookout website includes extensive service listings by area and service type.

For further information see Making effective referrals – our approach and Family violence services including perpetrator programs – service description.

Reviewing safety plans, the child’s case plan and actions table

Safety concerns can quickly escalate and change. Ongoing monitoring in relation to safety is required, through discussion with families and others, as the situation evolves. A safety plan is a ‘live’ document that needs to be regularly reviewed and updated to address changes in risk levels and dynamic factors.

The child’s case plan should be revised when there has been a change to a significant decision, the permanency objective or a significant change to the child’s circumstances including safety. The actions table is to be regularly reviewed with the family and services and updated as required to track progress towards goals and make any necessary adjustments, or issues with implementation of the case plan.

Closing the case

If a decision has been made to close the case with support services and programs in place, a case closure meeting will assist in clarifying responsibilities after child protection involvement ceases. This will also assure the family that support and monitoring will continue and make clear what actions need to be taken if circumstances change and risks increase. For example, where there is a risk the affected parent and child will be required to seek safe accommodation through the integrated family violence system, the closure plan needs to document how this will be managed to promote a consistent understanding among the services remaining involved with the family. Mechanisms for ongoing communication between the services remaining involved and how they will go about modifying the plan where required should be agreed and documented.

Practice considerations

Supporting the affected parent in planning for the child’s safety

Working with the affected parent to address risk and family functioning is fundamental in achieving and maintaining safety for the child. Understanding the impact that violence has on the affected parent’s capacity to provide adequate care for their child will assist in building trust and decrease the likelihood of victim-blaming and placing an over reliance and responsibility on the affected parent to stop the abuse from occurring.

The affected parent may find it difficult to work with child protection due to the perpetrator’s pattern of coercive behaviours, such as instilling fear and threats of further violence or removal of their child. Practitioners need to work with the affected parent recognising they have also experienced violence and abuse and are dealing with their own safety issues as well as their child’s. Validating the affected parent’s experience of family violence and its impact, and sensitively asking the affected parent how the family violence has affected their parenting and relationship with their children will assist with building a supportive relationship.

Working with a parent who denies or minimises the violence can present challenges in the child protection context. It may adversely impact the affected parent engaging with support services that would assist with protecting them and their child. The initiation of service engagement is a point at which there is a heightened risk of violence and the affected parent may sense this. An affected parent may act in ways that appear non-protective to practitioners, but for the parent serve an immediate protective function. They will need reassurance that the heightened risk can be managed safely in order to feel it is safe to engage with services. It is important to understand the perspectives of the affected parent and how the experience of violence has impacted on their ability to parent, and to explore decisions and actions taken by the parent that may seem counter-intuitive.

The following tips may be helpful in this situation:

  • Have a support person to discuss the concerns with the affected parent. This may be with someone who already has a relationship with the parent, such as supportive family or community member.
  • Assist the affected parent to access practical assistance with achieving safety, such as through applying for a family violence flexible support package.
  • Utilise the expertise of the specialist family violence worker or the senior child protection practitioner (family violence) worker in engaging with the parent.
  • Address the issues in terms of the impact on their child, connecting the child’s functioning and needs with the perpetrator’s behaviour.

Engaging the perpetrator in planning for the child’s safety

To sufficiently address the safety needs for the child, an assessment of risk posed by the perpetrator is required. Engaging the perpetrator is essential in this assessment even when the perpetrator is separated from the family. If the perpetrator is not held accountable for their behaviour, it is unlikely that the risks to the affected parent and child will be reduced. The perpetrator is responsible for the violence and the case plan needs to identify this in the protective concerns section. The actions table will need to include what is required of the perpetrator to address their behaviour.

The use of coercive control over the family by perpetrators typically continues, and often escalates, after separation. Their pattern of behaviour may include stalking, manipulation of the child against the affected parent through contact, and ongoing financial abuse. Separation and other key events that may undermine the perpetrator’s sense of control, such as Children’s Court or Family Court proceedings, can heighten the risk of further violence.

There are circumstances where the perpetrator may refuse to engage with child protection or there is unacceptable risk from involving the perpetrator in planning processes. In these instances information may be gained from family members and other services, including police and corrections that will assist the practitioner to understand the perpetrator’s behaviour and level of risk to the family. Where the perpetrator is subject to a correctional order, practitioners should contact the community corrections case manager to advise of child protection’s involvement and to include them in case planning processes.

Engaging the perpetrator through their role as a parent and partner can provide motivation for changing their behaviour, however this should be from the perspective of their responsibilities as a parent to provide safety and care for their child, rather than any perceived rights or privileges as a parent. It is may be necessary to assist the perpetrator to understand that family violence perpetrated on the affected parent is perpetration on the child.

When working with perpetrators, practitioners should keep in mind:

  • safety for the child and affected parent underpins the conversations with the perpetrator
  • not to rely on a perpetrator’s own account of events to determine the level of risk as they will commonly understate the amount of violence, as well as focusing on physical violence and overlooking other behaviours such as psychological and financial abuse
  • all information provided by the perpetrator should be verified against information provided by the affected parent, the child and other sources such police and court records and other services involved including men’s behaviour change programs and drug and alcohol treatment services
  • do not to rely on the perpetrator’s statements about their parenting or relationship with their child as perpetrators commonly overstate their qualities as a parent
  • perpetrators who are not taking responsibility for their behaviours will shift the blame onto the affected parent or the child
  • attempts by the perpetrator to influence the practitioner’s impression of themselves by appearing very cooperative and agreeable, as a coercive tactic against the affected parent.

For further information on engaging and working with perpetrators see Working with adult perpetrators of family violence – advice.

Cultural considerations

Aboriginal Families

The causes, presentation and impact of family violence in Aboriginal communities are complex. Interrelated factors such as the grief and trauma of dispossession from land and traditional culture, past institutionalisation and child removal practices (including the Stolen Generations), and current factors such as economic and social disadvantage have resulted in high rates of family violence in Aboriginal communities. It is critical to understand that these factors, especially past policies of state-sanctioned oppression, forced assimilation, and child removal, have resulted in profound levels of mistrust by Aboriginal peoples in the child protection and justice systems, and this may colour Aboriginal parents’ interactions with child protection practitioners. Referrals to Aboriginal community controlled legal and other services are important to assist protective Aboriginal parents to understand and effectively work with child protection practitioners in the best interests of their children.

Consideration and understanding of these factors provide practitioners with cultural context and represent a first step towards developing the cultural competence required to engage, work with and provide Aboriginal families with culturally appropriate support and assistance to address the risks and impact of family violence. It is also important to be mindful of cross-cultural challenges in communication and interpreting behaviour, especially trauma-based behaviours, and practitioners are encouraged to seek out further training and advice in this regard.

Recognising the strengths and resilience of Aboriginal people and culture is also important when planning for the child’s safety and future needs as kinship systems and cultural connection to community and spiritual traditions can assist the affected parent to care for their child and recover from violence.

While statistically the majority of Aboriginal victims/survivors of family violence are women and children, Aboriginal communities recognise that perpetrators of family violence may not only be intimate partners but can also include any familial or domestic relationship or other relationships of mutual obligation and support, including mothers, fathers, children, aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins (Humphreys 2007), as well as non-Aboriginal partners as perpetrators. Traditional Aboriginal culture is inherently inter-relational and inter-dependent. It is important to see child and family needs holistically and seek the family’s definition of who should be involved in assessments, interventions or activities.

Aboriginal victims/survivors of family violence, face multiple complex barriers to disclosing family violence and accessing safety and support. Those barriers include:

  • inter-generational trauma
  • lack of understanding of legal rights and options and how to access supports when experiencing family violence
  • poor or discriminatory police responses that deter Aboriginal victims/survivors from seeking assistance (for example, police responses that misbelieve, minimise or trivialise the violence occurring)
  • fear of child removal if disclosing family violence
  • mistrust of mainstream support services to understand and respect the needs, autonomy and wishes of Aboriginal victims/survivors
  • in some instances, community or family pressure not to go to the police or break up the family unit
  • poverty and social isolation
  • lack of cultural competency and indirect discrimination across the support sector, including lack of culturally appropriate housing options, therapeutic and healing programs; and alienating communication and client/patient approaches by mainstream medical, legal, community services and other professionals (Djirra, formerly FVPLS Victoria submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, p 23).

The following considerations may assist practitioners in developing a plan to address safety concerns by discussing with the child and affected parent:

  • how to maintain their confidentiality
  • the sources of safety in their community, including kinship networks and services
  • whether they have safe and secure (lockable) accommodation
  • how effective mainstream interventions or safety measures such as intervention orders are likely to be, and the importance of obtaining culturally safe, independent legal advice in relation to intervention orders and interactions with police
  • whether referrals are culturally appropriate and relevant to their needs, and ensuring that the affected parent is aware of culturally safe and Aboriginal community controlled services available
  • whether they are at risk of family retribution or ostracism from the community due to involvement of child protection (Department of Human Services 2013).

Because of the barriers faced by Aboriginal victims/survivors and the significant level of mistrust (noted above) the affected parent should be encouraged to have an advocate or support person present for these discussions.

Where protective concerns have been substantiated, Aboriginal families are offered an Aboriginal family-led decision making meeting as part of the case planning process. Participant’s safety during the preparation phase and the meeting will need to be planned for and managed, in addition to providing the affected parent with culturally safe supports to enable them to have their views heard in the process. See Family-led decision making program guidelines – advice.

The involvement of Aboriginal services and programs in developing a plan with the family will help provide a culturally informed response. These services may be located within an Aboriginal community controlled organisation, or may be provided as part of an Aboriginal program or unit within a family service or specialist family violence service. Aboriginal services are best placed to respond to the unique needs (including cultural needs), perspectives and barriers experienced by Aboriginal people and to build the trust necessary to work effectively with Aboriginal people. Moreover, Aboriginal people have a right to be offered the choice of accessing a culturally safe service.

Any referral should firstly be discussed with the affected parent to identify any issues or concerns they may have about the referral. To locate and contact Aboriginal family violence services in Victoria see 1800Respect website. To refer an Aboriginal parent experiencing or at risk of family violence to culturally safe legal advice and support contact Djirra (formerly the Aboriginal Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria) which operates services across Victoria and can facilitate further referrals as required.

CALD families including refugees

Cultural values and immigration status can place CALD families at a higher risk of family violence. For children and families from CALD backgrounds there are additional traumas, experiences and challenges that increase their vulnerability. Some of these factors may include:

  • exposure to violence in their homeland, including civil wars
  • spending time in refugee camps or immigration detention
  • a change in family power dynamics and gender roles which may challenge the pre-existing family dynamics
  • exposure to a diversity in cultures and practice that may challenge family norms and pose a threat to family values and customs
  • leaving the family unit is a foreign concept
  • coming from a culture or community where family violence is tolerated or having a different perspective regarding what constitutes family violence
  • feelings of shame and fear of losing culture
  • loss of family networks, extended family and friends
  • isolation due to language barriers impacting on seeking assistance
  • lack of social capital
  • experience of discrimination and racism
  • limited or restricted access to resources and supports if they do not have permanent residency
  • distrust of people in positions of authority
  • lack of knowledge and understanding of Australian legal and support services.

Planning with families from CALD backgrounds is more likely to be culturally responsive if it:

  • is informed by a good understanding of the relevant cultural values in relation to children and child rearing
  • mobilises and draws upon the child’s and family’s narratives and values
  • provides a space for the child and their family to contribute their perspectives on what will work for them in their cultural context, and to talk about their experiences of racism, racist violence and cultural stereotyping
  • uses cultural concepts and language familiar to the child and family
  • addresses barriers that the family might have encountered in using the services system, including provision of information about Australian laws.

Multicultural services such as inTouch can provide secondary consultations and case management to address cultural complexities and assist practitioners to work with families which is culturally responsive.  It is important to note that the introduction of bi-cultural workers could be either a positive or negative experience for the family due to the possibility of the worker knowing the family, gender issues or differences in faith and politics. These situations need to be navigated with care.

For young people, the Centre for Multicultural Youth can provide specialist support services, training and consultancy, knowledge sharing and advocacy.


Department of Human Services 2013, Assessing child and young people experiencing family violence: a practice guide for family violence practitioners, Victorian Government Department of Human Services, Melbourne.

Family Violence Prevention and Legal Service Victoria 2015, FVPLS Victoria submission to the Royal Commission into Family Violence, p23.

Humphreys, C 2007, Domestic Violence and Child Protection: Challenging Directions for Practice, Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse, UNSW. p.24

Mandel, D and Associates LLC 2012, Case planning with Batterers in Child Welfare Cases.