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.”