Beth McNamara: Hello everybody and welcome to today’s conference audio training. A closer look at neutrality, documentation and the courts offered by the Office on Violence Against Women in partnership with Praxis International. My name is Beth McNamara I will be your host for today’s call.
Jane: Good afternoon everyone, we’re going to talk today about documentation. We’re going to start with a bit of real life. I’m going to take a few minutes to read this, this is a letter with the exception of names and identifying details was a report that went to the court. Familiar practice for just about everyone working in supervised visitation and safe exchange. Sometimes either routinely or on request being asked to provide information to court perhaps to a custody mediator to an official decision-maker who’s going to be making some decisions about what’s happening with the children, mothers, fathers, with a particular family, and sometimes if you spent time hanging out or observing what happens in court proceedings, you’ll sometimes see some of these reports actually read into the records, but either way they come to the court.
This is to the family court from the supervised visitation center regarding case number such and such, Amanda Moore, petitioner, custodial parent , Joe Brown, respondent, visiting parent, date 06/07/04. Number of children, two, Joe Jr., six y years old, date of birth, Jill, four years old and her date of birth. The date visitation started February third, 2004. There have been 15 visits the visits were scheduled for one hour every week, punctuality, mom did not show up for the first scheduled visit, when supervised center called her she expressed she forgot about the visit and was apologetic. Mom’s friend drops the children off ten minutes late on 06/06/04; mom was five minutes late for visitation, on 02/17/04 dad was 15 minutes late for visitation. He expressed that his lawyer advised him to start visits on 03/01/04; however, he wanted to see his children and arrived late to the visit. On 04/15/04 dad called and said he would be 10 minutes late because he was picking up his son Charles to visit with Joe, Jr. and Jill. Compliance, dad complied with all rules of visitation, however, mom was advised on 05/13/04 that her friend Mr. Smith was not to drop the children off for visitation in light of the restraining order against Mr. Smith. On 05/20/04 dad called police to the center and explain the restraining order, the police asked for the 05/13/04 letter to be faxed to them and center faxed the letter the same day to Officer Pine’s attention. Observation, Mr. Brown interacts with his children playing board games and outside play, Jill enjoys putting her head on her dad’s shoulders and hugging him while dad walks around holding her during the visit. Dad brought his son Charles to this visit, and Joe Jr. and Jill were happy to see him and enjoyed playing with him. Dad was very loving, caring and attentive to all his children during supervised visits. Also, Mr. Brown always displayed a positive attitude during the weekly visits with his children.
Now pretend for a minute that you’re the judge and this has come to you. I’d be interested to hear from many volunteers how this report would help or hinder you in figuring out what is safe for Amanda Moore, or Joe Jr., and Jill or Joe Brown. What is safe for all involved if you hear this report to the court? It’s daunting to be at the receiving end of every form and be thinking about what message is this carrying. Neutrality questions lead pretty quickly to thinking about the documentation and the practices of what is happening and what we’re reserving and what we’re thinking and the conclusion and opinions we’re reaching are recorded and where and how they’re replayed. So this letter when it came across the work that we were doing together in the community that was involved brings a lot of questions about the documentation practices of the center involved and some of those included from this how do you know exactly who’s at risk and in what ways. Do you even know why the case was referred? Form this report can you reach any conclusion? Do you have any idea if it’s safe for this mother to have contact with this father? Is it safe for Amanda Moore to have contact with Joe Brown? He’s repeatedly arriving in a way that he can observe who’s brining the children to the center and when, does that raise any questions or suggest a problem for her safety or for someone else’s safety? What way do the words and the observations carry? Words like very loving and carrying and attentive and positive attitude tend to say a lot and carry a lot of weight. So another question comes up when we’re looking at this is, can a father be all those things with his children? And still be a danger to them? Still be a danger to their mother? If you pulled out a report from your center what it read a lot like this one? And when you step back and begin asking questions about what messages is carrying? What kind of questions do you start forming and shaping?
I’ll get you a little bit of the back-story, what the report omitted and the larger context in which it fits with respect to what was happening to this particular case and the different people involved. One of the reasons the supervised visitation it was because the visiting parent in this case, the father, had been arrested on domestic violence related charges four times in the six months prior to the visitation order. One of those for assaulting the mother and burglary of her residence. Three of the arrests for violation of the restraining order and he was on probation at the time the visitation order was issued. So in back of this is that reason for the referral and the circumstances of the visitation and the risk that being in proximity of having to negotiate changes, children, and all of the reasons that supervised visitation offered the framework for safety to victims of battering so the report has no connection to that reason for the referral. When you look closer at the whole bio, where this came from you find that in actuality the notes and the documents of the file didn’t really support the statement that dad complied with all the rules. In fact he had a pattern of arriving early and parking in a way where he can see when the children arrived and with whom and in this particular center the practice of having the custodial parent arrive first rather than the visiting parent which is different from center to center. He had been frequently arriving early enough to monitor her arrival; he brought his older son along who had not been authorized to visit in either the court order or the mother’s permission or the custodial parent.
Digging deeper into the wider picture from the whole files together you’re seeing that well the compliance of the rules that were there weren’t quite as clear cut or as faithful as suggested in the report. Throughout you can see over and over again ways in which you think of tactics of battering the ways in which battering can draw in different interveners whether it’s the police officer who responds to a house or in this case the visitation center. He’s making his presence known, he’s sending the message that he knows who’s coming, when and where, he tries to draw the police in around the restraining order. He’s actively trying to figure how his children are arriving and who’s bringing them to the center and trying to draw the center into the middle of all of that around the restraining order. One other piece of the picture that comes forward behind the letter is the center didn’t do any independent verification of the restraining order. Finally, when you feel back and start to ask more questions about this particular word there’s no disclaimer. There’s a lot of questionable subjectivity in the language, a lot of emphasis on interactions, not a lot of emphasis on what risks and danger might be relevant to the visit as they were occurring over this period. Without any disclaimer that behavior that’s described has occurred in a particularly artificial and supervised setting. It doesn’t carry any inference on what bad behavior might be in an unsupervised setting which is a practice that many centers have adopted in whatever they relay to the court or recipients of the report. This was an example that brought out a lot of questions to think back to this consideration of what gets shared, how it gets shared, how it’s length for the reason of a referral in the first place, and what kind of messages it carries.
Now I’m going to step back a bit and talk about records, courts, and documentations and all of that stuff that gets thrown under the title or heading of documentation. Often times our discussion goes to the reports that go to the court because of that relationship. The way supervised visitation has been drawn into court proceedings between one adult and another, between one parent and another, there’s a lot of attention to documentation in that context. Documentation is also part of what and how any kind of agency or institution manages the work that comes through its door. How we communicate from staff to staff person is how we define policies, how we organize information about who’s coming through the door and what kind of services or help they’re going to receive. So there are several purposes that have been met and in talking with centers around the country about how things are set up and for what purposes and what advice we can share with visitation centers about how to organize practices around documentation. We came up with about seven foundational pieces and this is going to be very frustrating for those of you who want the list of…do exactly this in this circumstance form, use this particular form in this setting. I think we’ve all got that dry force of please tell me what to do and provide the form and the framework and we’ll do it. What we found in talking with a range of centers was that in reality there really couldn’t be a single universal template for a single form. Across the centers that I talked with it was clear that there’s a continuum in looking at documentation right now and the centers that are firmly convinced and believe that in their commitment to safety for everyone who’s coming through the door more documentation means more safety.
The other end of the continuum, are centers who firmly believe that less documentation equals more safety. So at either point of that continuum the documentation practices aren’t shaped by, oh wow we don’t particularly care about safety in this instance therefore we are either going to have more or less but everyone is coming from the same interest, in making the time that a family spends in a supervised visitation center as safe as possible. These are the things centers have been learning as we begin to talk into this continuum and any point on that continuum could be problematic, centers that are very committed to more documentation have that, that allows us to provide accurate reports to the courts and further the safety interest of battered women and their children. Same argument on the other end of the continuum into what that leads to I think is really shaping and out of this discussion is many centers identifying several foundations that supervised visitation and safe exchange can be thinking about in building documentation. I’m going to review those seven and then we’re going to spend some time actually talking about two in particular. One that I think will offer a very practical idea that you can think about using in your own center to start this questioning and thinking about how all your documentation practices are put together.
Those seven foundations which are ones to build documentation on an equal regard for safety and while that can tend to tear down the amount of documentation primarily because there is less emphasis on parent/child interaction, less emphasis on writing down minute by minute the recording of playing games and sitting on the sofa and reading a book, and the kinds of interaction that are in the reports. At the same time that equal regard for safety is also encouraged some centers to more documentation and act as one said a video camera, but by building documentation on an equal regard for safety comes back to the framework that enables us to begin to question what kind of message goes when that information leaves the center and goes to a court, what message is it carrying? How does it account for safety of adult victims and children? What does it represent and link to the reason for the referral in the first place? So that’s foundation two that was foundation one, foundation two; begin with a guided reading of the center’s file and we’re going to talk about that in just a few minutes. But that guided reading is a way of stepping back and really looking with a lot of questions about what do we have put together here, what does each point of documentation in each form in each record what purpose does it serve? How does it link back to our regards for safety? What does it communicate? What does it do? How does it change some action? How does it link one worker to the next?
The third foundation is recognizing that there is not a single recipe or a single formula; documentation practices are going to be shaped in part by how a center has defined its role in relation to the courts and what expectations in that relationship as well as in some instances of the statutory provisions that govern family law and requirements for different kinds of reporting and evaluations.
Which links to the fourth foundation, which is the importance of understanding your state’s legal framework and having some kind of legal advice and support in context with all of the center’s particular needs? It is the important to have somebody who can help guide you through what does the law say, how it works in terms of confidentiality, what do we need to know about all of that in order to shape the way in which we record and record and share information that’s taken in a visitation center.
The fifth foundation is stepping back and questioning the impact of each documentation practice and the center’s time and resources.
The sixth foundation and this links very directly with the first session in this series, which is thinking about and questioning neutral, objective to very familiar concepts and assumptions that have gone into building supervised visitation and safe exchange. To step back and look at what are the implications of those who function when we’re accounting for battering and the kinds of on-going coercion, control, risk and danger that go with that behavior.
Finally the seventh foundation is to build an on-going dialogue; it cannot be defining a certain form or certain practice and leaving it there but building in a process of talking both within a center and with community partners and of course battered women programs, with bringing that perspective into the mix as well. There’s a whole layer of looking at how we construct and keep kind of tell the story of someone’s experiences of supervised visitation that also relates back to many ideas about how mothers and fathers and children relate to each other and aspects of culture and identity and how all of that comes into the mix as well and what we write down and what we report and what we see as appropriate behavior or appropriate parenting. So there’s a whole line of examination of documentation practices that connects up with really thinking about the ways in which centers account for and understand the complexity of culture and identities that people bring with them as workers and as those using the center. We’re going to take a little shift here and have a conversation with Beth McNamara. I want to talk with Beth; I’m going to interview with her about her experience when she was working with the California demonstration site about this process of using a guided reading of the center files. One reason that we pulled this up framework attentive to this particular ATC is that it is a very practical thing that any center can do and it’s also something that all of the nine centers that were operating at the time that were involved in the demonstration site project really got a lot of out of in looking at how their work was put together and in raising questions about what kind of changes and practices they might want to make. Those of you who were on the last call heard about one of those examples in looking deeply into the case file the bill case that Ellen was talking about in how that raised so many questions for those involved about what their understanding of the dangers were and how that deter and not get communicated to the court.
So Beth are you ready?
Beth: I sure am.
Jane: One of the things I thought would be helpful is to frame a bit about a couple of things about a technical piece on how this was set up. How many files did you look at? What did you have to do to find those?
Beth: We had three centers coming together to examine. We examined them all together; we pulled together multi-disciplinary teams to do this so we had someone from government entity from county council, we had center a center director, we had a director of the domestic violence program, and we had a family court director, so they made up our team of who’s really going to examine all of these files. We had each of the centers pull together about eight files from each of the centers that we had; we had a combination of about 24 files that we were going to swift through.
Jane: With that, number of outside people involved; did that require a certain level of changing names and identifying information and putting safe guards around confidentiality in place?
Beth: We had the centers before they released all the files to us, we asked them not to hand pick the files that they were supposed to be a random sampling of their case files so they did it by computer. Just a random sort and then they took the actual file made a photo copy of it and went through with a black marker and redacted all confidential information, birthdates, ages, names, school names, and hospital references, any little kinds of identifying pieces of information and then they copied it again so that was anybody’s case file.
Jane: So that’s frankly a bit of work.
Beth: Yes, and it was a really powerful process and it gained at the end of this process actually came back to each of the centers and shared what we had found but yes it was the fact of going through the files and doing that piece was a bit of work but possible.
Jane: You could have done this to each center where you wouldn’t have had to go through that painting of names and copying and that sort of thing.
Beth: Although there was one caution, though I think it was hard for people who were familiar with the practices of particular center to look at it with fresh eyes. It took a bit of reframing coming into it, so I think it was important to acknowledge that you have to try to look at things with fresh eyes instead of looking at what you know is always in your files and brush over things.
Jane: That was part of the advantage that having other centers looking at each other’s works in having other partners come in. Ok, what were your assumptions going into this when you got all of this stuff together?
Beth: We were at a place in this work that we began to question absolutely everything from start to finish that our centers were doing. We were coming to this project with the intention that we were going to find some things that we really wanted to change. We were in the mode of really acknowledging the view if we wanted to change practices and examine what would be a valid reason for making changes and moving the safety piece to the forefront of everything, we did. So we came to the table with a team of people who were really willing to examine and critically look at things. But I don’t think any of us were ready for what we found. We had 24 case files in front of you and you start looking at some collectively as a group and we had system in place. I can talk about too but we had our eyes wide open after this process it was a really powerful experience and knowing that we wanted to examine our files and we needed to do this and then figuring out what we found out along the way was really surprising.
Jane: So what kind of questions did you ask because you were going through the files from the different centers?
Beth: I think what was helpful for us is to really figure out a system of our way in which we were going to look at these 24 files and filter through information, otherwise you’re just paging through files and things would stick out or missing pieces would stick out or inconsistencies would stick out but really we wanted to have a way in which we, the entire team, filtered through what we were looking at. So we framed several questions on what we were all going to be looking for when we read all these 24 files. So we wanted to figure out first who’s at risk and how? So when you’re reading one file can you determine that? What was the purpose of what was written down and collected? Who benefits from that piece of information? Who can be harmed and figuring out why you are asking? Why the center was asking particular questions in getting particular pieces of information. Why they needed it? How that information was related to safety and why was the family being referred in the first place. That was how we framed our approach to what we were doing.
Jane: Where would you have put and I know there was three different centers involved but we talk about this continuum of documentation, were would those centers be on that continuum when you started your review of the case files?
Beth: So all three centers were independent of each other but when we’re looking at these case files, we shuffled them up and couldn’t tell one center from another really. The documentation practices looked very similar. I would say that we also really did our documentation as the report of what the outcome of the actual visit was typically the definition the centers gave us of what their documentation was. They had case file of a lot of stuff and so the documentation piece I think all centers came from this place where they either adopted it from other centers or it started from this place of being very child focused or came from a place of reporting for CPS. So, the more theory was in place only around the parent/child interaction so really getting minute by minute almost sometimes when you read all these files picture of what happened during that parent/child interaction time during the visit time.
Jane: Where does this all lead then through this process taking a look at the case files and the documentation in that and all the different kinds of forms and reports?
Beth: Overwhelming, but it also led to a whole bunch of more questions. You know you frame this going into these case files and diving into them with these questions in mind and what it created was a whole lot more questions. So we didn’t do it all for all 24 cases but we just handpicked a couple and we talk to center staff about what is in this file? You can’t really tell why they were coming in the first place it was a generic form, filled out with the center, the visitation reports that went on and on but we lost sight in some of them of why they were coming to supervised visitation in the first place and then when talking to the center staff they knew a lot more about those families then we read about them. In some cases, that was a good thing. I think that they carried information that they didn’t feel like belonged in the visitation file but they said we see these families day in and week in week out and we gather a lot of information about their families and a lot of information. We also figured out when we started questioning particular pieces of information we saw a lot more in the file around the business aspect of the visitation center practice. When we talked to staff about particular things that were in the file and why it was there and the level of details that it was there about living full messages and he left messages and when they got returned and all of those things actually reported that was their way that they acquired to keep track of that business access of their job and also was a way which they communicated to each other particularly with centers that had multiple staff and staff that weren’t always there every day of the week. So a lot of part-time, per-diem help and we did a lot of investigation about why particular pieces of information got into a case file and why it didn’t.
Jane: Probably at the end of that it sounds like you needed a good nap.
Beth: Well it was really interesting process it also led to a lot of on-going conversations with our team about what it is that we found out, a lot of talking through what could be different, what should be different, and then this bigger conversation that needed to happen around how we can bring the visitation providers, the domestic violence providers and the court partners together to have a conversation about documentation because in looking at the files and in talking with staff there was a lot of assumptions made about what expectations of the visitation was, what they thought the courts expected of them this whole issue of not knowing and having an on-going communication with the court about why a family was coming in the first place was this huge uncovering pretty consistently across the board so that led to really good conversations with our judges just about documentation and some things the visitation center could potentially collect, what they do collect, what the courts have been receiving, when they ask, and how that’s helpful and how that’s not helpful. We move to this place of recognizing what the judges really needed to be this recognition of on-going communication between the center and the courts and the judges committed to communicating to the centers directly.
Why they as a judge were referring supervised visitation, which was key information that was missing almost every time. With that information and that conversation with the courts about reminding them of why supervised visitation was ordered in the first place and how that relates to this minute to minute it’s a little bit of exaggeration but it’s a huge focus on during the visit time how that relates on to why they are coming in the first place and that reframed all of us sitting at the table together, core partner and our visitation providers have this really big aha moment of oh my goodness how did we get this far down the road without recognizing this together and what can we do differently. The other piece that we also immediately recognized was visitation centers in California have no legal protection which meant that there couldn’t be this confidential case file ever and I think the centers that we’re working with were very lucky and they were in this place of feeling protected because their files where never really consistently subpoenaed. Pieces of information where asked for during the visit time and where asked for by the court but never this humiliation of what was contained in this case file, never was really asked for by anyone and so I think that role of the centers into this place where they got to a place where they were creating client files as a place to remember certain things to manage their job duties as a visitation monitor for example to communicate with each other if they weren’t going to be there the next day they were waiting for a return call from this person in that level of detailing. We also recognize really early on that we needed to figure out a better practice because that wasn’t just going to change part-time staff would probably going to be a part of these centers always. Paying full-time for staff, when you couldn’t force people like that, a better way. So we really moved to that place of creating a legal advisor and key attorneys who were well versed in domestic violence coming together to talk about what we could do differently. That was a really powerful piece, talking to the courts, making some decisions there about what can change in talking to attorneys about what can change and what we could clearly do different to help us move to a different place as well. The ongoing conversations about how this is shaping up, what are this doing what path is we going down; we maintained that team of people who looked through all of this work.
The final piece that really helped us tremendously is that we had this ongoing conversations through focus groups and interviews and check-in times with survivors about documentation and it was really good but it was really hard during the time because we would hear from survivors all the same things that we’ve probably all have heard or talked about previously. Coming with this assumption that to show is true colors in supervised visitation for example or anything will help me because I have nothing else and then coming to us later saying, that wasn’t my expectation, I didn’t think it would be used against me or I thought the judge would read it or all of those things. Some women at the beginning say they don’t want anything; he has a really good attorney, I don’t have an attorney, I don’t trust anything, so we’re having all of these voices of women saying different things; it’s really hard to say you know where we’re going to take this information and what we’re going to do with it and how can we really keep their voices at the forefront is what we really wanted to do so that process really helped guide us all the way through the place where we ended.
Jane: Well that really sets the foundation of an ongoing dialogue with documentation. As you’ve been describing this process I just really been hearing it’s really reinforcing this collective ways of so many centers that contributed to thinking of this is that you just can’t go with it single recipe by using this process in a way of thinking about what is happening and that length to looking at the communication you have with the court and the legal frame work and that’s ongoing. One of the other things to is that it struck me was you mentioned the size of some of the files being so huge and I thought it would be interesting in this ACT to talk a bit about questioning the impact of practices on the centers time and intention and resources because I think it’s easy to get caught up in that practice of recording a lot of detail and a lot for each visit. It almost loses sight of this single visit over several months for weeks and sometimes even a couple of years you start multiplying particularly into putting a lot of detail you can have five or more pages just of observation notes for each visit and pretty soon that file grows and grows to one hundred, two hundred pages.
Beth: we were talking to staff about why particular things where contained in these files their intention was that it would make things easier, the communication easier, people would know where someone left off and somebody else could pick up pieces that they didn’t want to lose but in reality when all of that was multiplied and resources were so limited that staff didn’t have hours to go through a file before they had a family for a first time. sometimes it was helpful for the two-week period of time when this was being sifted out like a schedule change something like that but accumulation of that for in some files who were a couple of years long not typical but a handful of that more and then that alone of information was overwhelming. What do you do with a file that’s five inches how could you possible go through that and get any sense of what it is? It wasn’t organized in a way that was helpful but it was incredibly time consuming to maintain this level of keeping information.
Jane: The larger the quantity the more difficult it is to really attend to what is in there. In the ways information can get lost or buried in the middle or the back of a folder, in thinking about all the time that goes in to both constructing and reviewing and raising some questions about does it accomplish what we want to…
Beth: The other piece to that is, does it give us a picture, so if you’re taking all this time to capture this information what we found is that the information related to safety and her experiences, that as a battered woman and these kids wasn’t in that file it was carried with staff and they could talk about these files and these families where we had these files that was information that was nowhere to the reader. It was because they had spent so much time with these families that they had a lot of information and they had a lot of gut feeling, a lot of new talk, you know like this guy is creepy or scary you know and all of those kinds of conversations happened but in the context that you had to sort out and you didn’t have that separate, only had this case file to figure if there was issues of concern and safety you couldn’t do what was said documentation and so that reframing and needing it to take place is a major shift in how we were thinking about what it is that we’re documenting and reporting for the purposes that we were doing really had to be carefully considered.
Participant 1: Hi, I’ve got a question about documentation and I know you’ve spoken a little bit about very detailed documentation and about this of minute by minute detailed of the interaction between the parent and child and how that could be a little overwhelming sometimes and not that beneficial but I wanted to know what your recommendations were then for a more ideal way of documenting the key aspects of a visit?
Jane: So, on the less is more and those centers that tended to go towards making clear of date, dates of visits, how long they lasted, who attended, and any interruption or intervention or action that needed to be taken by staff member related to safety, related to one of the centers operating rules or the agreements that parents using the center had agreed to so very focused on not the minute by minute account of what’s happening between a visiting parent and a child or children but the visit happened on this date, this length, and we had to intervene or interrupt or there was some type of safety or security problem that would be noted or the nature of it. One of the centers that falls more on that in their continuum also ties any specific intervention with a particular part of their rules or visited agreement and so they intervene because Mr. Jones was asking John where his school was located and rule agreement parents are not to inquire location of where children are living or going to school. So really focusing not on recording and acting as a video camera for what’s happening minute by minute but here’s the visit took place, the reason for the referral was this and here’s any interventions that occurred for this reason, Beth do you have anything to add based on your experience?
Beth: Yes to follow up on what you were just talking about in terms of tying it to rules the other thing that we also talked a lot with our court system was the fact that when we report something like failure to comply with the visitation center rules it didn’t have the impact that the actual rule violation and why it was unsafe or created a safety concern for the survivor and her children and so we took a lot of time in thinking about how we can reframe this to make it impactful because when we step back and look at all of the policies that we had in place around what kind of the expectation and boundaries they were all of the safety and we put a great amount of care and time into thinking through what was important at the visitation center to follow and so we really felt like it was important to have this clear connection for anyone who was reading that to say that it wasn’t a center violation of a rule but it was because her safety was at-risk him coming five minutes earlier, five minutes late whatever the case may be of the arrival time impacted her safety and this is why so there couldn’t be dismissed as easy so that was one of the cases that was helpful the other part that was helpful was this communication with the court; the court can establish with the center why they’re sending the family in the first place but they also can communicate and send their concerns and related back to the courts about why they were coming and what their concerns were. So what they were reading and applicable to this case because some judges will say “well sometimes I do send the family because she’s telling me that he doesn’t know how to feed the kids, change the diaper and hold them, so that is my reason for the referral,” so you know we didn’t want to make this light sweeping decision around every case and this is what would happened, we had a lot of conversations with courts around very specific things about what they would be looking for, why and when. This end result of having the judges have the ability to communicate directly to the centers about what it is that they are looking for then impact the documentation so that we can’t say that this is what we always document for every case and that makes a difference and it also makes it more complicated because you can’t have a form it definitely has made it different how cases are seen.
Jane: Centers that we talked with that are more on that less is more one of the other comments that they made is in not wanting to overwhelmed the courts with all of this repeated reporting but they want to make sure that when something does go from that center to the court that the very fact that the report has come is saying hey pay attention to this because you know that we don’t give you a lot of things that aren’t very helpful to you to the decision-maker and when we do it carries weight, meaning pay attention to what we’re sharing with you.
Jane: I thought that it might be helpful to conclude with a practice example again a way another center is approaching thinking about in working in this question of what do we collect and record and write down and in this case they’re asking themselves how do parents understand what our center collects and records and writes down they’re always finding disclosures and releases of information but do they really understand what that means, do they really know what’s going to be released and so they’re looking at these kinds of questions and taking a look at their overall documentation practices and the quantity and the kinds of information they collect and looking at if maybe moving away from this more intent root me to what they describe a minute by minute account of the visit might be to a different way to also building relationships where parents that may be help ease some of the patterns of coercion and control. These are some of the questions that they’re asking and they’re looking at all of this practices around documentation, if we put together an actual copy of a file, changed all of the names, maybe even combined a couple of family experiences, but put together a copy of the documentation and showed it to each parent and explained this is what we document and why, these are some of the questions that they’re asking us now, how could we talk with a survivor, with a woman who’s being battered about the information that’s there and whether it would help or harm her, how do we look at things that we would never want to live with, can we even do that, what’s in the file that should be protected and not be available so they’re kind of both looking at their practices across the purposes, the business needs of the center but also thinking about how a parent using the center really understands what’s here and how information gets collected and used.
So it’s another facet. The stepping off point I think is in also thinking about the ongoing basis that level of accountability, we are accountable for that because why, how does it link back to why a family is there in the first place, how does it link what one of the participants and one of the reasons of ACT trainings in talking about her own experiences of how it relates back to legal safety and get caught up in this way in which a center is used and protracted form of legal battering so we’re leaving you with probably more questions then perhaps answer but I think that the key point is having that ongoing dialogue and discussion in consideration of how to begin to look at the way in which center practices around documentation are laid out and requested that raises for you.