D. Batterers Intervention and Prevention Programs

Opportunity exists to increase the expectations of the child welfare system around understanding and safely addressing the dynamics of domestic violence. This can include increased partnerships with domestic violence experts and making appropriate referrals for services when domestic violence is identified such as to a Batterers Intervention and Prevention Program (BIPP).

Many accredited BIPPs in Texas contract with DFPS and therefore are available free of charge to participants. TCFV can provide a list of these contracted providers upon email request to policy@tcfv.org. For accredited non-contracted BIPPs, please check the TDCJ website. If a BIPP is not available, individual counseling with a practitioner who specializes in working with individuals who use violence, power, control, and coercion is recommended. Ordering Anger Management classes is not recommended since perpetrators can use information from those classes to become more effective at controlling their intimate partners while minimizing the visibility of their possessive behavior, parenting choices, and coercive control.

Ordering domestic violence perpetrators to participate in BIPP sends the message to the survivor parent and the family that the perpetrator is accountable for their choices that impact the safety of their children and family. BIPPs are designed to give clients the skills to treat their partners and children with respect and handle conflict without violence. However, these programs cannot guarantee safety for survivor parents, or “fix” someone who has chosen to utilize abusive and coercive behaviors that harm and disrupt the family functioning of the survivor parent and their children.

Asking follow-up questions of the perpetrator about the parenting choices that they are making, and confirming their attendance, participation, and progress with the BIPP is critical.

Below are some suggested questions for judges to ask of the person enrolled in the BIPP:

Understanding Prior History:

•   Have you previously participated in services to address similar behaviors?

•   What services? How often? For how long did you participate in those services?

•   What behavior changes, if any, did you notice from participating in those services?

•   What helped you to continue those behavior changes?

•   How long did those behavior changes last?

•   Did you reach out for additional support if you chose to use tactics such as manipulation, coercion, threats, weapons, physical violence, emotional violence, and psychological violence against the survivor parent?

•   Did you think those services were beneficial?

Prior to Attendance of BIPP (or other court-ordered services):

•   What are two hopes that you have for your relationship with your children?

•   What are two behaviors about yourself that you would like to improve or change?

•   What are two things you are proud of yourself for?

•   What are two ways that you think your child's other parent supports your children to grow?

•   What are two ways you show your children that you care?

•   What do you think your children would say about how they know when you are upset, frustrated, or angry?

During Service Participation:

•   What are you learning from the services?

•   What is / was your role in creating an unsafe environment for your child?

•   What is your role in creating a safe environment for your child?

•   What is /was your role in disrupting the safe environment for your child?

•   Can you give me three examples of ways that you are making different choices? What would you have normally done and what did you choose instead? What supported you in making the decision?

•   Can you share with me two examples of your behaviors that you are worried causes safety concerns or fear for the survivor parent? How about for your children?

•   How do those behaviors impact your child's health, well-being, and relationship with you, their other parent and other family members?

After Completed Attendance of a Batterer Intervention and Prevention Program:

•   Did you think those services were beneficial?

•   What did you learn that you did not know before or understood differently this time?

•   How has the program impacted your behavior choices?

•   Can you share one example of a choice that you made but did not take responsibility for this week?

•   If you had another opportunity to make that choice, what would you do?

•   Can you share about some of the decisions that you made and the impact they made on your family?

Judges can order service plans that are “designed to hold batterers accountable for the domestic violence, not the adult victims of domestic violence; goals/strategies in service plans should focus on the batterers changing their violent behavior as opposed to the adult victims of domestic violence controlling the batterer's behavior."[225]

For more information about how to inquire about and support safe parenting choices by the perpetrator, judges might access resources available through the Safe and Together Institute.