(May 8, 2019) – Amy Chanmugam, associate professor of social work and department chair, served as the keynote speaker for the First 3 Years 2019 Regional Conference on May 3 at the Tripoint Event Center in San Antonio, Texas.
The conference’s focus was trauma and child development, specifically related to domestic violence and its implications on families.
Chanmugam discussed domestic violence dynamics and tools for early childhood practitioners interacting with families experiencing violence. Her research area includes child exposure to adult domestic violence and effective intervention practices with vulnerable families. In her keynote, she presented strategies for supporting families who have experienced adversity as well as tools for practitioners in helping professions who are themselves at risk of compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress.
The First 3 Years is a 501(c)(3) organization that advances the healthy development of infants and toddlers. The agency creates high quality training and education opportunities for professionals whose work impacts the emotional development of infants, toddlers, and their families.
Members are professionals working with infants, toddlers, and families such as parent coaches, home visitors, nurses, speech and occupational therapists, child-care providers, and early childhood intervention and development specialists.
“Pregnancy and the post-partum period is a time of heightened risk for domestic violence victimization,” says Chanmugam.
“Before they are even born, children whose mothers experience partner violence can already begin to experience adverse effects, which can contribute to pre-term birth and low birth weight.”
Professionals working every day to support vulnerable families benefit from attention to their own well-being. First 3 Years Conference organizers wanted to provide tools that would help both families and the helpers themselves. Chanmugam explains, “The two most important takeaways are, first, that even for a situation as difficult as domestic violence, help is possible and change is possible. Second, for professional helpers to take care of others, they first must take care of themselves.” An ongoing self-care plan is important for professional helpers.
The Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which provides critical funding for services for domestic violence survivors, is awaiting reauthorization by the U.S. Congress. It has passed the House and must now go to the Senate for consideration (GovTrack.us. (2019). H.R. 1585 — 116th Congress: Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2019. Retrieved from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr1585).
The reauthorization, if passed, will expand the law to update practices to combat online harassment, provide funding for training local police and first responders, make it easier for victims of domestic violence to get help, and revise the language to protect adults and youth.