PAThways and Research In Collaborative Inter-Agency practice (the PATRICIA Project) is an action research project focused on the collaborative relationship between specialist community-based domestic and family violence (DFV) support services for women and their children, and statutory child protection (CP) organisations. Drawing together a diverse range of participants from five states of Australia, it comprised five components of research, each with its own methodology, set within an action research framework that facilitated a process of changing things while simultaneously studying the “problems” of developing collaborative work and strengthening perpetrator accountability. The intended outcome was to use evidence to foster greater collaboration to support the safety and wellbeing of women and their children, and strengthen accountability for perpetrators of DFV.
Its key findings include:
- DFV and CP collaboration has not always been straightforward. The PATRICIA project found no silver bullet for making collaborations productive and constructive. However a range of factors were essential to engage in collaborative DFV partnerships. Specifically, the focus on the issues of safety and shifting attention to the risks of the perpetrators’ use of violence to the safety and well-being of children and their mothers. The project also found that an authorising environment is foundational to partnership work between statutory and non-statutory organisations.
- A Collaborative Practice Framework for Child Protection and Specialist DFV services has been developed to guide and sustain collaboration where DFV involving children occurs.
- The case reading project, based on Safe and Together principles developed by David Mandel and colleagues, highlighted practitioners’ inattention to the impact of DFV on children and family functioning. The case reading process provided a powerful tool to interrogate DFV practice and for statutory and non-statutory workers to work together using common principles and auditing template for review.
- The analysis of specialist case studies pointed to strategies for creating a differential response which ensured that notifications were only made for children who reached the threshold for an investigation. The studies also pointed to the need for stronger community based services for children and their families.