Story by: Nate Jackson

Three Rock County social service agencies agreed Friday to work together to improve the way they address family violence.

Representatives of the YWCA Rock County, Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, and the Rock County Children, Youth and Families program signed a “memorandum of understanding” acknowledging the overlapping needs related to domestic violence, sexual abuse and child maltreatment.

The detailed 20-page document addresses areas of collaboration and explains each program’s regulations and procedures.

Angela Moore, YWCA of Rock County executive director, called the document groundbreaking at Friday’s signing at the YWCA offices.

She said it was created after more than 20 hours of working together and “understanding how each unique agency works.”

Moore said confidentiality rules are a hurdle each program faces. Some YWCA clients are involved with Child Protective Services, which is a Rock County Department of Human Services program.

Moore said the document addresses confidentiality rules and finds ways for agencies to cooperate while continuing to work within the law.

Penny Nevicosi, a Rock County youth justice supervisor, said the county is modifying its intake process for Child Protective Services as a result of the agreement. She said staffers will do site visits at each agency and “make that warm welcome a little bit easier.”

The county’s intake process also will address confidentiality regulations for each agency. Understanding those laws will be a boon for the county’s programs and clients, Nevicosi said.

“In the past, not having that understanding would cause rub or friction between our agencies unnecessarily,” she said. “If we can get out in front of that and provide better education and understanding and better context, then we can prevent our system from being a barrier to our families having access to services.”

Adrienne Roach of Domestic Abuse Wisconsin said Rock County is the 10th county in the state to enter into such an agreement.

She said 30 percent to 60 percent of domestic violence cases also involve child abuse. That means Child Protective Services workers and domestic violence advocates are “on the front lines” in those cases.

“Knowing the boundaries they have, knowing how they need to navigate those boundaries, understanding the different rules each agency has to operate under, that really helps them improve outcomes for children,” Roach said.

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