Navigating the Systems
Working with systems can be confusing for anyone, but if you are a victim of domestic violence, it can be even trickier to navigate. Below are some basics about the systems you may need to work with. A domestic violence advocate can help you navigate these systems step by step.
Child Protective Services and Foster Care Services
If you are a victim of domestic violence and involved with Child Protective Services or the Foster Care System:
- You have rights
- You aren’t mandated to speak to CPS
- You may revoke a release at any time during the investigation
- You have the right to have someone present to support you while speaking to CPS
- Your domestic violence advocate from your local domestic violence program can help you navigate and support you throughout the process.
- You can request a Fair Hearing if your case is indicated or founded
If you feel you are not being treated fairly by any system or professional, you have the right to contact that worker’s supervisor.
The job of the police officer responding to domestic violence incidents is to:
- Conduct an investigation
- Gather evidence
- Establish reasonable cause
- Enforce the law
If the police are called for a domestic violence incident, they must respond even if you or someone else calls back to cancel. The police should:
- Separate you, and any children who may be present, from your abuser
- Keep you out of view of abuser
- Ask you and your abuser what happened after they separate you
- Ask you about this incident and any previous incidents
- Ask to see and speak to your children
- Ask your children about this incident and any previous incidents
- Complete a Domestic Incident Report (DIR)
- Ask you to complete a statement about what happened. The police will ask you to sign your statement. Read it very carefully before signing it to make sure that it is accurate. They are required to give you a copy of this statement for your records. Keep it in a safe place. You may need it to apply for crime victim’s compensation.
- Provide you with Victim’s Rights Notice and 3 pink copies of the DIR
It is important to remember that filing charges or getting an order of protection may not end the abuse. Only the abusive partner can make you safe by stopping their behavior.
If the abusive person in your relationship is on parole or probation, you can provide a confidential report about the abuser’s behaviors to the parole or probation officer. It is helpful to have a domestic violence advocate with you.
If police have been called, the probation or parole office should be aware of it, because the police are required by law to send it to them.
When you speak with the officers, ask them what information they would be able to keep confidential. They may need to report information if there are safety concerns. Make it clear that it is very important for your safety that they do not let your abuser know that the information came from you.
Parole and Probation officers have the power to conduct random, unannounced home visits and office appointments to monitor offenders under their supervision.
Officers can to do a random visit trying to "find" the information you provided (e.g. weapons, drugs, etc.). If the officer finds the necessary evidence, they can file a violation of probation or parole without connecting it to you.
Parolees/probationers know from the beginning that these random visits will be happening throughout their supervision term. The abusive person in your relationship may not necessarily know that you went to their probation or parole officer.
Department of Social Services
If you are a victim of domestic violence and are struggling financially, you can go to your local DSS office for help with a variety of needs. Some services include:
- Help getting child support
- Welfare benefits and cash assistance
- Food stamps
There are requirements and programs that you will be asked to participant in. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please let the worker know right away. You should be given a screening form when you apply for cash assistance. It is important to ask to speak to the Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL) who can assist you with your case and talk about your options.
If you need services but cannot comply with DSS requirements:
- DSS can provide a waiver. A waiver is a temporary delay from participating in certain assistance program requirements. If you are a victim of domestic violence and participating in those requirements puts you and/or your children at further risk of harm, the Domestic Violence Liaison (DVL) can grant you a waiver from certain program requirements that apply.
- You can claim good cause. Good cause is a specific circumstance or reason why you cannot comply with DSS participation requirements. If you are a victim of domestic violence you may be able to claim good cause for not complying with Child Support requirements.
Domestic violence harms your health. If you are a victim of domestic violence, please share that information with your health care provider. Your health care provider may be able to help you. You have a right to be healthy and safe.
- Screening: All health care providers should ask you about domestic violence. They should ask you privately and respectfully, so that you feel comfortable enough to share with them.
- HIPPA: Almost everything you share is confidential between you and your health care provider. If you tell your health care provider that you have been victimized, they should not report this to the police. However, the health care provider or ER must report gunshot wounds, burns and life-threatening stab wounds. This is New York State law.
- Affordable Care Act: Screening and counseling for domestic violence are covered under the Affordable Care Act as preventive health care. Your health care provider should ask you questions about domestic violence during your visit. If you share your story with them, they can share information with you.
- Resources and Referrals: Your health care provider can make sure that you get the help you need by referring you to the appropriate provider.