Administration for Children’s Services expands ‘A Safe Way Forward’ to Brooklyn
The Administration for Children’s Services announced on Monday an expansion of the “A Safe Way Forward” program, which seeks to provide support to the survivors of domestic violence and intimate partner violence, along with the “persons causing harm” and their children.
Previously, the project offered services to families in The Bronx and Staten Island. The ACS is now partnering with three providers and will expand to serve families in Brooklyn through MercyFirst.
Other contractors partnering with the ACS through the expansion include Safe Horizon in Staten Island and the Children’s Aid Society location itself in The Bronx.
“In our mission to protect children and support families, ACS and our partners are working to address the root causes of family violence while we help survivors and children stay safe. That’s why ‘A Safe Way Forward’ provides services to survivors of intimate partner violence and the children in the household, including information about how to make an effective safety plan, as well as interventions for the persons causing harm so that they can work towards changing their behavior and end the cycle of violence,” said Commissioner Jess Dannhauser.
“I’m pleased by the results of our recent evaluation, which suggests that ‘A Safe Way Forward’ is having a positive impact on families affected by intimate partner violence, and I look forward to expanding the program to three boroughs: Staten Island, the Bronx and now, Brooklyn.”
“Today’s announcement of the expansion of A Safe Way Forward demonstrates the administration’s ongoing commitment to supporting the whole person and whole family,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Anne Williams-Isom.
“Thank you to ACS, to all our provider partners, and to every person served by these programs for reaching out for support. We look forward to having these services be more available across NYC.”
“We applaud the expansion of NYC Administration for Children’s Services ‘A Safe Way Forward’ program,” said Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender-Based Violence Commissioner Cecile Noel.
“MercyFirst is honored to partner with ACS to help expand this critical and innovative program in New York City,” said Renée Skolaski, President & CEO of MercyFirst.
“As a child welfare agency that has been working to strengthen Brooklyn families for over 128 years, we are committed to serving families experiencing intimate partner violence so that we can help break the cycle of abuse and trauma, support and rebuild strong and healthy families, and create positive outcomes for the children impacted.”
In 2019, A Safe Way Forward was launched for specifically families receiving court-ordered supervision. According to the ACS, the program was launched over 12 months of research including interviews with over 100 national experts and close collaboration with the Mayor’s office.
The program offers case planning therapeutic services to the survivor, children and person causing harm. The person causing harm being involved, if safe to do so, provides them a greater opportunity to “learn more about the triggers and how their behavior is impacting the family,” according to the ACS.
The goal of the program is to interrupt the intergenerational impact that domestic violence can have on families, specifically to create behavior change and protect the survivor and children. An evaluation by Westat, a research corporation, found that people involved in the program yields positive results and high levels of satisfaction.
- Nearly all survivors expressed confidence in their ability to make good safety decisions, and several spoke of learning to recognize the signs of emotional and physical abuse during their services.
- Survivors described increased self-esteem and self-confidence, a greater understanding of the dynamics of intimate partner violence, and furthering their own life goals and family goals.
- One survivor said, “I’ve learned how to manage being a single mother with two boys that were very attached to their dad and it’s hard for them to just wake up one day and he’s not over there because of certain situations. I think I’ve been doing good. I’ve been trying my best.”
- Another survivor said, “Everything that I went through, I learned from it. And with their [A Safe Way Forward’s] help, I am 10 times stronger.”
- Approximately a third of the survivors interviewed said they were working on improving their relationship with their partners and were making progress due to both partners learning better communication and emotional self-regulation through “A Safe Way Forward.”
- Referring to the program, one survivor said: “I have always said that I don’t know what would have become of me if they hadn’t helped me. So, I would recommend them and I would say that what helped us the most was that they provided us with counseling, which was what helped us the most to get ahead. So, I think their objective is that the families do not feel alone, that despite what they went through there are more people who can look out for them.”
Reported among those who caused harm included:
- Persons causing harm said they learned strategies for keeping their families safe by controlling their own negative emotions and attitudes that lead to violence and abusive behavior. Most persons causing harm said they had used these techniques in their daily lives, and found them useful in controlling their emotions and improving the quality of their parenting.
- More than half of persons causing harm said that the people around them had noticed a positive change in their behavior since they started services.
- Persons causing harm reported an increased ability to recognize emotional triggers and ask for help when they needed it.
- One person causing harm said, “They helped me learn my triggers…so it’s kind of easy. It seems hard in the beginning, but when you believe in it, it’s not hard at all. And it’s mostly who you surround yourself with.”
- Another person causing harm said, “Yes there are times that we’ve had words and when I see that the situation is becoming too much, I just say ‘okay’ and I turn around and go to the sink, wash my hands, take a breath and then go back.”
- Referring to the program, one person causing harm said: “I would recommend it to anybody that needs it. It has helped me a lot. Like I said, in the communication skills towards my kids and my family, friends, and understanding more about other people’s emotions.”
Another person causing harm said, “[Two Safe Way Forward staff have] been like a brother and sister to me, because…we’ve had so many emotional conversations that I feel like these people…I can actually call them part of my family because they’ve been there, and they haven’t…thrown me to the side. They never said to me that, “You’re the fault of this or this is the reason why things are going wrong.” They never made me feel like I was small. They always made me feel like there was something better that you can do and you can improve instead of just saying, “Well, you know what? You just failed…” or something like that.”
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