October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and according to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 105,668 crimes of domestic violence were reported to Florida law enforcement agencies in 2016. While many of the domestic violence cases reported in Florida are related to intimate partner violence, there is a number of cases of family violence  that happen each year, cases where a youth resorts to violence on a guardian or sibling.

The Florida Network works in conjunction with the Department of Juvenile Justice to provide youth arrested for domestic violence a safe alternative to secure detention. Services are provided through short-term residential placements for youth ages 10-17 at one of our 28 shelters statewide. Youth are referred by their local Juvenile Assessment Center (JAC) or on call screener following an arrest for domestic violence on a household member.

In the past several months, this program has expanded to serve youth in a nonresidential setting through a program called Family Youth Respite After Care services (FYRAC). This allows youth and families to continue to work on reunification following their stay in the shelter. It also provides families another option for services if a bed is not available or if a child is too young for shelter. FYRAC is provided by all 29 agencies statewide.

The Florida Network has searched for many years for resources that work with the family violence population and recently has identified the Adolescent Domestic Battery Typology Tool  (ADBTT) as a resource for a greater understanding of the youth and families we see. The framework provided by this tool will help service providers implement the appropriate intervention and treatment. Allowing a youth and his/her family the support they need to resolve the conflict that resulted in the youth’s arrest with the goal of providing families the appropriate tools and coping mechanisms to prevent the use of further violence.

In our effort to better serve this population of domestic violence offenders, the Florida Network is working with the National Youth Screening and Assessment Partners to collect data which will assess what services families need based on the typology identified by the ADBTT. Through the pilot of this program, the Florida Network will gain a better understanding of these families and be able to connect them to the appropriate service(s) within their communities that will work to eliminate the use of violence. As ever, it is important to keep in mind the importance of gender specific programming and, in addition to gender, the intersectionality of issues such as race, ethnicity, religion  and the socioeconomic realities facing youth and their families. This tool will help us to do that.

During the 2017 legislative session Senate Bill 1694: Support for Parental Victims of Child Domestic Violence  was passed to develop information and materials regarding specified services and resources. Additionally, it requires all law enforcement officers to be trained in child-to-parent battery cases. There are many community partners involved in addressing family violence and we are thrilled this legislation will make it possible for resources and information to reach stakeholders in the community such as schools, law enforcement, churches and other organizations that will be able to connect families in crisis with resources. It is our goal that with more information and interventions, families will not wait till it escalates to a crisis to reach out for help.

In honor of all those impacted by violence, the Florida Network and its member agencies are committed to working to unite families and communities across Florida.