When you think of the word safety, different ideas and images may come to mind. Perhaps you think of fire safety, safety on the road, or even “stranger danger”, but what if the person you are attempting to stay safe from, isn’t a stranger at all? This is often the case for children in homes where domestic violence is present. For these children, safety is finding a place to hide when the abuse is happening, safely getting to a neighbour who can help call 911, or leaving their homes, schools, cities or provinces for fear of being found and hurt.
As an agency that services women and children leaving domestic violence, we understand that the risk that a mother faces as a result of a violent partner is undoubtedly linked to the risks placed on her children. Children are not only at risk of trauma through witnessing domestic violence, but they are also at risk in terms of their physical safety and well-being. Teaching children personal safety is at the forefront of the services provided within our shelters, and as an agency we strive to ensure that each child that enters the shelter leaves with a personal safety plan.
In an effort to strengthen the current safety plans that are completed with children in shelter, the Child and Youth Team have come together to update and improve the plans to ensure a more thoughtful and safe transition for families back into the community. Children continue to take part in safety planning groups to discuss strategies for staying safe in unsafe situations, with situations discussed being centered on issues related to domestic violence. The children are also asked to identify adults in their lives who they can turn to in case of an emergency, and learn detailed steps in calling 911.
In our endeavour to solidify these safety plans, we will now be facilitating a second portion of the safety planning process where we will bring Mom and children together to complete the plan. With Mom’s help, the children will discuss safe places to go within the home in case of emergency, safe adults to ask for help from, and pre-arranged meeting places outside of the home should the situation warrant this. By bringing the family together, we hope to create a comprehensive plan which will keep the entire family safe!
Child & Youth Worker