Host: Legal Aid Society of the District of Columbia
Mary Kate will improve outcomes for child and adult victims of domestic violence through the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) training and policy review and legal representation for victims in custody and protection from abuse (PFA) cases where domestic violence and child abuse co-occur.
About 15.5 million children in the U.S. grow up with domestic violence in their homes. Domestic violence is a major factor in 25-50% of contested custody cases. Further, abusive parents successfully obtain custody 70% of the time, despite research showing they are likely to abuse the child or children. DHS addresses allegations of child abuse in Philadelphia. Because of the co-occurrence of domestic violence and child abuse, it is essential that DHS effectively responds to domestic violence. DHS workers often assume that victims and their children can be adequately protected through pro se petitions in protection from abuse and/or custody court. However, victims are left to navigate these complicated systems on their own and all too often, lack of legal knowledge and attorney representation leads to negative court rulings. With unprecedented support from Philadelphia’s DHS, the timing is right for this urgently needed project.