Attorney General Pam Bondi News Release


January 5, 2012
Contact: Whitney Ray
Phone: (850) 245-0150

Agencies Collaborate to Prevent Domestic Violence and Protect Children

PANAMA CITY – Recognizing that everyone in each community has a role in
keeping domestic violence survivors and their children safe, Attorney
General Pam Bondi, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Secretary
David Wilkins and Tiffany Carr, President of the Florida Coalition Against
Domestic Violence, today launched the Northwest Florida Regional Domestic
Violence and Child Welfare Initiative.

This groundbreaking initiative brings together the leadership of the
Attorney General’s Office, DCF, local law enforcement agencies, community
leaders, child welfare agencies and the local certified domestic violence
center to create a comprehensive approach to enhance the safety of domestic
violence survivors and their children in Bay, Gulf, and Calhoun counties.

"This initiative will establish a coordinated effort among agencies to
reduce domestic violence and better protect our children,” stated Attorney
General Pam Bondi. “By tailoring our response to each unique situation, we
can ensure that we look after children's best interests and hold
perpetrators accountable."

Employees in DCF’s Northwest Region and the Salvation Army’s Domestic
Violence Program in Panama City recognized the need for a new,
community-driven solution to meeting the needs of children and families
impacted by domestic violence. Months of collaborative planning with the
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence and local partners led to the
creation of the Northwest Florida Regional Domestic Violence and Child
Welfare Initiative.

“This type of initiative is a perfect example of public and private
partnerships, state and local elected officials, and community leaders
joining together to address a significant state issue. I’m pleased that the
Legislature created a funding policy that provided for this type of program
that promotes safety for survivors of domestic violence and permanency for
children,” said Rep. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), Chair of the House
Appropriations Committee.

The initiative uniquely mobilizes state and local partners to build a
system that enhances family safety, creates permanency for children, and
holds perpetrators accountable for their actions. This coordinated
community response seeks local solutions, rather than a one-size-fits-all
approach to ensuring that children remain safely in their homes with the
protective parent rather than being placed in the foster care system.
Maintaining permanency and safety for children in their own home decreases
their risk of mental health issues, homelessness and drug or alcohol
dependency as adults.

“Children who are exposed to violence need safety, healing, and a nurturing
environment,” DCF Secretary Wilkins said. “Our goal as a child welfare
community is to work together with the protective parent to evaluate the
family and develop plans to keep children and victims safe while ensuring
the perpetrator is held accountable. When children can remain safely in
their own home, and when families are provided the proper support, then
nurturing and healing can begin.”

Studies have shown that people who abuse their partners often abuse their
children as well. If a child and a parent are victims of abuse, the focus
must be to change the behavior of the offending parent and hold that parent
accountable. This collaborative initiative will place domestic violence
advocates as liaisons between the court system, State Attorney’s Office,
Big Bend Community Based Care, law enforcement agencies, and the Northwest
Region of the Department of Children and Families. These advocates will
help coordinate efforts to enhance survivor safety and increase batterer
accountability.

“No one organization can effectively respond to the needs of domestic
violence survivors and their children,” said Tiffany Carr, President of the
Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “But when community members
and local agencies engage in a strategic, collaborative effort to help keep
families safe, they are on the road to creating a future without violence.”