Originated as a partnership between the Yale Child Study Center and the New Haven Department of Police Service in 1991, the Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) program continues to serve the city of New Haven as the national theory and practice development site for law enforcement-mental health collaborations to respond to children and families exposed to violence. In addition, the CD-CP program has been replicated and adapted in numerous communities across the country.
In CD-CP communities, mental health professionals are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to respond immediately to police calls involving child victims or witnesses to violence. Working together, police, mental professionals, child protective service and other providers, coordinate multi-system interventions that re-establish safety, security and well-being in the immediate wake of violent events. CD-CP has served as a model for law enforcement-mental health partnerships around the country.
Police officers play a central part in the intervention, capitalizing on their roles as representatives of control and authority in the face of violent and traumatic events. In the CD-CP model, clinicians and officers set the most vulnerable children and families on the path to recovery, interrupting a trajectory that frequently leads to increased risk of psychiatric problems, academic failure, encounters with the criminal justice system, and perpetuation of the cycle of violence.
The program is based on three premises deeply rooted in the day-to-day experiences of both law enforcement and mental health professionals serving children exposed to violence:
- Police officers are the most significant first responders to violent and catastrophic events that affect children’s lives, yet they frequently lack both the specialized training and necessary partnerships to meaningfully respond to the children exposed to violence whom they serve.
- Conversely, mental health and other social service professionals are often unlikely to come into contact with the vast majority of children “at risk” of developing negative outcomes as a result of their violence exposure at a time when early intervention could make a real difference in those children’s lives.
- Without effective early identification and intervention strategies police officers too often will see the same children continue on a trajectory from child victim/witness to juvenile/adult offender. Without effective early identification and intervention strategies, mental health and other social services providers are frequently hampered in their ability to render meaningful support to these children and aid in the interruption of the cycle of violence.
CD-CP partners law enforcement officers with mental health and other social service providers at the earliest opportunity and offers multi-disciplinary acute and follow-up services that provide the early identification of, and the early intervention to, at-risk youth that are so critical to making a meaningful impact on children’s lives and keeping kids and communities safe.
The New Haven CD-CP Program involves the following core components:
- Cross training for police, mental health and other professionals involved in the program model including training in Human Behavior, Trauma and Community Policing Procedures for police officers and other professionals that includes regular ride-alongs with patrol officers for clinicians.
- Acute response and follow-up service , where Childhood Violent Trauma Center faculty and trainees are available to respond with police colleagues to calls involving child victims or witnesses to violence in their homes, schools or the broader community, as well as other potentially traumatic events, such as serious accidents, sudden deaths, fires or animal attacks. Follow-up home visits are also provided to help provide support and ensure the safety/security of families following a traumatic event.
- Weekly interdisciplinary program conference , a forum for police, domestic violence advocates, DCF representatives, juvenile justice professionals and clinicians review cases and coordinate their follow-up plans for the children and families referred to the program.
- Childhood Violent Trauma Center Trauma Clinic , which provides trauma assessment and trauma-focused treatment, including the Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI), for children and families who are at high risk for psychological and functional impairment due to exposure to violence and other potentially traumatic experiences.
- Collaborative Follow-up , which pairs officers and clinicians to conduct home visits with children and families affected by domestic violence, with the goals of increasing safety and security, increasing parents’ understanding of children’s responses to domestic violence and increasing children and families’ access to community services. A comprehensive evaluation of our joint follow-up strategies was conducted in 2006-7, with funding from SAMHSA and the Ethyl Donahue Foundation, with promising results (see Trauma Research Section for further details).