Orange County Pilot Program Providing Child Care for Domestic Violence Survivors
In 2019, Mayor Demings reconvened the Orange County Domestic Violence Commission (originally convened in 2005) in response to higher rates of cases and incidents of domestic violence in Orange County. When it made its recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners in 2021, the outline for the Child Care for Victims of Domestic Violence Pilot Program was introduced, and it officially began providing services at the beginning of 2023.
“This program is designed to help survivors leave their abusive partners by providing convenient child care for their children,” said Angela Chestang, Division Manager, Orange County Citizens’ Commission for Children, a part of the Community and Family Services Department. “Children traumatized by domestic violence tend to go on to continue the cycle, so we want to remove them from the situation.”
The Citizens’ Commission for Children contracts with Community Coordinated Care for Children (4C), a private non-profit that works with domestic violence direct service providers in the community, including Harbor House of Central Florida, Nuevo Sendero, Stand Up Survivor, and Shakthi US. These providers work with survivors and identify families that qualify for child care services, and Orange County pays for these services through grant funding. The pilot program will operate for two years, at which point it will be assessed.
“A good outcome would be that the individuals who participate in the program are able to leave their abusers and establish a life in which they’re able to be self-sufficient and live in an environment where they feel safe and their children are able to thrive,” explained Chestang.
Research suggests survivors of domestic violence cannot leave their abusers because they cannot afford child care, plus when they go to work, they have to leave their children with these abusers. The program removes a major barrier to allow survivors to escape their abusive situations.
“Giving people the ability to leave so they don’t feel trapped empowers them, which is a critical factor in this,” asserted Chestang. “When people feel they’re supported, it gives them the ability to do things that benefit them in the long run.”
So far, the program has enrolled 10 children into child care, and Chestang believes it can be something long-standing. Once the pilot program ends, the County will convene with its partners to receive feedback on how to improve the process and massage the program to create a permanent service that is beneficial to the entire community.
“We care about every child in the County, and studies have shown these childhood traumas impacts the trajectories of their lives,” she said. “It shapes and molds them, and exposes them to violence, which leads to maladaptive behaviors, so we want to provide solutions and support them. Whether it’s tutoring, mentoring, sheltering, counseling or making them feel safe, it makes them better equipped to be well-adjusted adults. They’re our future, so we need to invest in them now.”
For more information on Citizens’ Commission for Children programs and services, contact 407-836-7610 or go to Citizens’ Commission for Children.
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