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The Second Generation Project to stop the inter-generational transmission of domestic violence



Domestic Violence services have historically been provided to victims and on occasion perpetrators, but never children.The Kaiser/CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE Study) uncovered a stunning link between childhood trauma and the chronic diseases people develop as adults, as well as social and emotional problems. This includes heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes and many autoimmune diseases, as well as depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide. In addition, the Office on Violence Against Women reports that domestic violence predisposes children to numerous physical problems and also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life, “therefore increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2010). This research clearly indicates a significant need for a program to address the impact of family violence on children. Stopping the inter-generational transmission of family violence and dealing with the effects of the trauma children suffer growing up in a violent household led us to create The Second Generation Project, the very first of its kind in the state of California and likely the United States. A team of Center staff comprised of child educators, program evaluators, mental health therapists, and graduate student interns worked for over two years designing the program, creating the curriculum, identifying appropriate participant assessments, program evaluations, and determining what outcomes we wanted to achieve and the measurements to show that we had met our goals. Once completed, the curriculum was sent for peer review to 12 experts from across the nation who specialized in the treatment of children exposed to trauma. Based on their evaluations, The Center made changes to the initial program, recruited participants, and launched the first 12-week pilot. The pilot was completed in October 2012. The Second Generation Program is a 12-week group Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program for children ages 8-12 who have lived in homes where there has been domestic violence. The SGP program consists of two groups, the children’s group and the non-abusive parent group. The parent group focuses on developing and refining parenting skills and learning to be the child’s main support person when dealing with the lingering effects of domestic violence. In a healing environment, children learn how to talk about their experience, develop positive coping skills, meet other children with similar experiences, and participate in group activities that foster growth and development. The curriculum for this program is based off of the Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) model where children learn to manage stress, heal from problematic memories, and communicate their experiences to a supportive adult, often their parent. The sessions are facilitated by licensed therapist (LCSW), and also include an intern therapist and a certified domestic violence counselor. There is a comprehensive assessment process with the parent prior to enrollment and at the end of the program to measure change within the family system as well as behavioral change in the child’s functioning. The children’s group, in addition to addressing the child’s mental health needs, also provides an educational component to give participants skills and tools to use in navigating conflict, other than using violence and power over strategies. The program takes several standardized assessments, specifically UCLA’s PTSD index and the Youth Outcomes Questionaire, at the beginning middle and end of the program to measure for statistical effectiveness. After five graduating classes, the outcomes achieved have been spectacular. The average PTSD score dropped by 38%. The YOQ scores decreased by 56%. The six individual components involved in formulating the YOQ are markedly better. The social problem score dropped significantly indicating that these kids are no longer having many problems at school. Somatic issues such as stomach aches, headaches, and dizziness have decreased by 65%. The positive implications based on all of these numbers are life changing. We have attained huge success with our Second Generation Project. It is our hope to scale this program to be offered 4 times a year with the potential to reach many more children and their non-abusing parents. As our aggregate outcomes widen we are striving to publish a white paper and eventually share this program statewide and nationally to help other children affected by domestic violence and stop the inter-generational transmission of family violence.




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