I am approaching my third year placement at a women's shelter in a rural area. I am very excited and have been doing research for the past month or so. I would like to use the help of this discussion group. I read it all the time and have been interested in learning the points of views of others in this field.
I guess my biggest question for those who have worked with children and mothers in a women's shelter is how I can make it the best for the child and mother? I have never worked with this type of dynamic but I want to be as prepared as I possibly can be.
My other question was, what resources would be good to look into in order to help me with providing the children, youth and families I will be working with the most beneficial experience or understanding?
I encourage you to embrace your learning experience and do more research about women and children of domestic violence. There is a plethora of literature in the field relating to the questions you posed. Additionally, the mission statement and mandate of the program you interviewed with will have identified how to best meet the needs of these women and children.
I have worked for a number of years now families who have experienced domestic violence. May of the families are currently in shelters. There is lots of positive work that can take place within the shelter with respect to processing their lived experiences.
It is a very challenging community to support but so incredible. The children need love, patience, and understanding. Come to think of it, so do the women.
It's amazing how far a non-judgemental and trusting relationship can take these women.
The program I work for is called Here to Help. It is an incredibly well designed program created by Child Development Institute. If you PM me (email is above) I can share some of the activities I have created for kids who have witnessed domestic violence.
I have had some past experience with women's shelters including more recent knowledge from staff at a local women's shelter. I also took courses for a minor in Family Practice and Community Services ( in one course I conducted an investigative two part assignment on the local shelter). What I found to be common, and of greatest value, is the fostering of a safe, supportive and caring environment. Also a non-judgemental listening ear. Not knowing the parameters/requirements of your placement, I would also suggest to strive to gain as much knowledge and experience as you can from this learning opportunity.
I am providing you with some sources that may be helpful:
Garfat, T. (2003). A child and youth care approach to working with families. New York: Routledge.
The Guiding Principles of Family Support - http://www.frp.ca/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&pageid=1242
CYC-Net Online has many relevant articles you can find by using the search engine.
FRP Canada has many resources through their website - www.frp.ca
(Family Resource Program)
All the best,
While I never have worked directly with women in a shelter setting, I have had opportunity to support moms and their kids in sheltered homes and in school and also in facilitating visitation of kids to their parent’s abusers. Not all victims of domestic violence are heterosexual so it’s not safe to make that assumption... though a rural setting may be different. What I found most enlightening was how the perpetrators of the abuse tried everything to make themselves appear the victim...telling me that their victim, the woman who was in hiding and had the order of protection, had abused them. Crazy! And of course the person who perpetrated the violence imparted this falsehood to their kids – confusing and terrorizing them. And the courts! Woah! They can be messy. Depending on the politics and worldview of the judge determines outcomes. Learn much about how the legal system supports and maintains domestic violence. Where I live there are many advocates and many resources for victims but so too are there becoming more legal rights organizations for perps. It’s fascinatingly a mess. Oh, and the multicultural aspects are tragically fascinating too. How different cultures view domestic violence versus what is acceptable behavior to maintain family integrity...
Good luck. Keep an open mind. But not too open. Domestic violence is an expression of patriarchy and domination orientation which is very prevalent our world.
All the advice from those who have responded thus far are very sound! I also highly recommend the book The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog by Dr. Bruce D. Perry. I cannot recommend this book enough. It taught me so much about reciprocal care and learning when engaging in therapeutic relationships with youth who have experienced trauma and abuse.
Also, have lots of activities on hand to engage the kids and even the parents – art activities, crafts, cooking, etc. Some fun 'get to know you stuff’.
All the best! I am sure you will gain a lot from the experience. I worked in a shelter for a summer right after high school. It was such a rewarding experience!
I have extensive experience in this area and the role you take on with women and their children will also depend on the role you have in the shelter. Some shelters separate the child and youth care staff who deal specifically with children and parenting, while other staff work more specifically with the women and their needs (instrumental and psychological). My guess is that if you are in a rural setting you will likely have a multiple role but please make sure you clarify. As others have mentioned there are many resources available and most are on-line. See also the article mentioned below, written several years ago now but still quite relevant in terms of trauma informed care. You should be able to access this easily on Google Scholar or your own post-secondary library. Hope it goes well for you in this practicum. Please also remember to practice self-care as this work can impact you deeply.
‘Using Perry's Brain Development Theory to inform interventions in a
domestic violence women's shelter’. Relational Child & Youth Care
Practice. Fall 2007, Vol. 20, Issue 3, p34-39.