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New Website Offers Shelter Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors With Pets

The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) announces a comprehensive website that aims to help domestic violence survivors and their pets escape abusive situations. Launched during National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the newly revamped Safe Havens Mapping Project is a directory of more than 1,200 sheltering services in all 50 states and the District of Columbia that will assist individuals experiencing domestic violence in placing their companion animals out of harm’s way so that they may seek safety for themselves.

The listings, which are searchable by zip code and will be updated regularly, feature organizations that either provide sheltering services for the animals of domestic violence victims, have a relationship with an entity that does, or provide referrals to such facilities. They include humane societies, veterinary offices, foster homes, and domestic violence shelters that house humans and pets together. Pets’ exact locations will be kept confidential to protect them and their family members.

“No domestic violence victim should be forced to remain in a terrifying situation or abandon a beloved pet because there is nowhere else to turn,” says AWI President Cathy Liss. “This website not only offers the largest directory of safe havens nationwide; it is packed with useful resources for families in crisis, domestic violence shelter personnel, law enforcement, and others.”

The need for safe havens is clear. In multiple studies, roughly one-half to three-quarters of battered women report that their pets had been threatened, harmed, and/or killed by their partners. Other research has shown that as many as 48% of victims delay leaving a dangerous situation out of concern for their pet’s safety.

AWI established the first-ever Safe Havens for Pets database in 2011, when there were only partial listings available online. Since that time, the directory has been accessed tens of thousands of times each year; it is also listed on the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website. About 70% of those who accessed the database last year through the hotline’s website identified as female, mirroring national statistics on the percentages of female and male domestic violence victims that seek help.

Other tools available on the new AWI website include links to information on safety planning for pets of domestic violence victims, questions to ask about these pets during intake, and a map of states that allow companion animals to be included in temporary restraining orders.

With improved search features and functionality, the website is expected to build on recent efforts in Congress to better meet the housing needs of survivors with pets. The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act, which passed as part of an extensive agricultural appropriations package and took effect in late 2018, established a grant program for entities that provide shelter and housing assistance to this population. The legislation also takes the important step of including pets, horses, service animals, and emotional support animals in federal law pertaining to interstate stalking, protection order violations, and restitution.

— Source: The Animal Welfare Institute


New Tool Can Enable Effective Response to Child Maltreatment

Economic stressors likely pose a greater risk for family and child well-being than children’s lack of proximity to all mandatory reporters, a new report from Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago says.

Using a broad range of data sources, Chapin Hall looked at historic trends and the relationship between community-level stressors and child abuse and neglect. They found wide disparities in the levels of substantiation of child abuse reports. While educators submitted the most maltreatment reports, for example, only 11% of those reports were substantiated.

“The seasonal fluctuation that happens in response to school attendance largely affects the rate of unsubstantiated cases,” says Dana Weiner, PhD, lead author of the report.

Of greater concern is the potential impact of a large-scale economic crisis. The report, COVID-19 and Child Welfare: Using Data to Understand Trends in Maltreatment and Response, explains that economic hardship and its results are risk factors for child maltreatment. Research has shown that families experiencing poverty and economic insecurity have higher rates of child abuse and neglect.

“While the pandemic has disrupted child welfare systems, it’s also challenged us to reorient our systems,” says Bryan Samuels, executive director of Chapin Hall. “We need to move from focusing on surveillance and investigation to providing services that support families so that we can prevent child abuse and neglect.”

To support agencies in this effort, this report also introduces a dynamic new forecasting tool: the Latent Event Simulator. This tool was developed from analysis of multiple data sources, including seven years of child abuse hotline reports, unemployment and child poverty rates, and census and birth records. The tool allows agencies to estimate changing rates of abuse and neglect based on community-level stressors, to project unseen events, and to plan appropriate responses.

Latent event simulation allows agencies to shape adaptive responses to the families they serve. Adaptive changes that systems can make include the following:

  • distinguish and address poverty-related neglect from child endangerment or abuse;
  • broaden the array of community-based supports and partner with families directly to identify what they need to safely care for their children;
  • leverage technological and statistical tools;
  • shift the role of “mandated reporters” from surveillance to service; and
  • expand the responsibility for child and family well-being beyond the child welfare system.

“Creating service pathways is key for preventing child abuse and neglect,” Weiner says.

— Source: Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago