|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
||For More Information, Contact:
|October 19, 2005
||Coria Holland, Director of Communications
||617-727-5300, ext. 258
PROBATE AND FAMILY PROBATION OFFICERS HELP DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS FIND SAFETY AND SERVICES
Probate and Family Court Probation Officers play a vital role in identifying domestic abuse and neglect in families. The Probate and Family Court Probation Officers work with the victims to help them leave dangerous situations as well as assist them with finding services that will improve their lives and keep their children safe.
When litigants appear before the Probate and Family Court for issues such as divorce, paternity, guardianship proceedings, they are often sent first to the Probation Department for dispute intervention services. During meetings with a Probation Officer prior to a formal court hearing, allegations of domestic abuse and substance abuse often arise, according to Probate & Family Court Regional Supervisor Richard O’Neil.
“These allegations directly impact child access and custody issues,” O’Neil said. “Probation Officers are trained to intervene in these cases, gather appropriate information from the litigants and other sources and report back to the court,” O’Neil said.
More than 80 percent of offenders on probation have substance abuse issues, according to data maintained by the Office of the Commissioner of Probation (OCP). “Domestic violence and substance abuse are among the most common underlying issues among litigants in the Probate and Family Court,” O’Neil said. “Although there is no empirical data or statistics gathered by OCP that reflect the prevalence of these issues, many litigants appearing in the Probate Court also have active cases in our criminal courts which show a clear connection to domestic violence and substance abuse problems.”
Probation Officers witness first-hand the devastating effects domestic violence and substance abuse have on families referred to the Probate & Family Court Probation Department.
“When judges deal with the difficult situation of domestic violence or charges of neglect, they rely on Probate and Family Probation Officers to do important background checks and conduct investigations on the parties involved. We provide the judges with important information to help them make the best decision,” said Berkshire County Probate & Family Court Chief Probation Officer Alex Carnevale.
Barnstable County Probate and Family Court Probation Officers work in the interest of children who have witnessed or have been subjected to violence from the time they are born to their teen years, according to Chief Probation Officer Leonel Souza.
“Probate and Family Court Probation Officers make very educated recommendations to the judges based on information gathered during the dispute intervention/investigation process. They are adept at recognizing the nuances of the batterers who commit acts of domestic violence,” Souza said.
Hampden County Probate & Family Court Chief Probation Officer Bette Babinski said the cases, where there are no restraining orders between both parties, are very rare.
“Unfortunately, we see on a daily basis a magnitude of cases that have both domestic violence and substance abuse issues when meeting with litigants to discuss the issues of custody, visitation and child support,” Babinski said. “Our intake information sheets asks if there are past or present restraining orders between the parties. It is becoming the minority of cases in which the box is checked ‘no.’ We far too often find that when conducting dispute interventions with litigants that there are allegations of drug and/or alcohol abuse. Parents are struggling to deal with their own issues and are trying to take care of themselves, how can one expect them to adequately care for their children?”
Babinski added, “It is part of our effort to inform the court, assist the people in heading in the right direction, and at the same time try to ensure that the children are in a safe place and are being taken care of.”