Missouri's Experience with the Safe Families Action Learning Lab

“Participation in the Safe Families Action Learning Lab was a valuable experience for the Missouri team.  Having access to national experts was a tremendous opportunity as we crafted our planning for the state.  Prior to this experience, the state pulled together local and state partners to address the issues of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect but in isolation of one another.  Through this Action Learning Lab, we pulled together all programs and partners addressing interpersonal violence and now have a State Team that is much richer in resources and expertise.”

--Melinda Sanders, MSN, RN, Missouri Title V Director and Section for Healthy Families and Youth Administrator

Missouri was one of four states involved in the AMCHP and Family Violence Prevention Fund’s Safe Families Action Learning Lab and Mini-grant initiative.  Since 2006, AMCHP and The Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPV) have provided funding and technical assistance to Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and New Mexico to form essential and non-traditional partnerships and to implement projects addressing intimate partner violence and perinatal health disparities.  The states have utilized this assistance to leverage their current work in this area and further improve services and resources for women around intimate partner violence. These four states have made impressive strides in partner violence prevention and intend for their efforts to be replicable for others working on this issue.

While each of the four state teams have done tremendous work, this article highlights the accomplishments of the Missouri team.  The goal of the Missouri Safe Families team was to increase provider knowledge and training for screening and referral services for domestic violence and perinatal health.  Missouri’s activities included improving and increasing the capacity of current programs, providing trainings, and increasing awareness by promoting initiatives such as Denim Day (see side bar or visit http://www.dhss.mo.gov/WomensHealth/DenimDay/) and the Healthy Marriage Initiative (http://www.acf.hhs.gov/healthymarriage/).

The Missouri team worked with home visiting programs such as Building Blocks of Missouri (http://www.southeastmissourihospital.org/womens/buildingblocks.htm) and the Missouri Community Based Home Visiting program (http://www.dhss.mo.gov/HomeVisiting/) to address intimate partner violence and health disparities.  The Building Blocks of Missouri program provides prenatal and early childhood home visits by nurses to low-income first-time mothers for up to two years after birth.  The Building Blocks program assists mothers by promoting healthy and safe parenting to reduce the risk for child abuse and neglect.  The Missouri Community Based Home Visiting program provides intensive sustained visits and case management by nurses and paraprofessionals to families at risk for infant mortality, morbidity, and child abuse or neglect.  The Missouri team also worked with Alternatives to Abortion, a program that provides services or counseling to pregnant women carrying their unborn child to term.  The program also assists women in caring for their dependent child(ren) for up to one year after birth. Services provided may include: prenatal care, medical and mental health care (including substance abuse treatment), parenting skills education, newborn/infant/child care, housing and utilities, educational assistance, food, clothing, supplies, job training and placement, establishment of responsible paternity, transportation, and DV protection.

In July 2007, the Missouri Safe Families state team trained staff from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ (DHSS) Home Visiting and Alternatives to Abortion on domestic violence, recovery, empowerment, understanding the abuser, screening, interviewing, and developing a personal safety plan.  The team also provided training at the Sexual Assault Prevention Conference – The Spectrum of Prevention in August 2007.  Assault and domestic violence advocates, nurses, social workers, and administrative staff from shelters and hospitals were trained on how to screen for domestic violence in a healthcare setting.

The team continues to have a strong commitment to reducing domestic violence and health disparities. During the Action Learning Lab, they formed sustainable partnerships and they will be meeting again to determine the next steps to effectively address domestic violence in Missouri. Stay tuned for a more in-depth discussion of Missouri’s activities in AMCHP’s Lessons Learned Report coming soon. 


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demin day logo

Denim Day has been internationally celebrated since 1999 in protest of an Italian High Court ruling that overturned a rape conviction because the victim was wearing jeans.

A not-for-profit organization in California first celebrated Denim Day in the United States in 1999. Since then several entities in other states have hosted events, but there is no organized effort. Missouri does not want to diminish any of the outstanding work accomplished by these organizations; rather, we propose to unite our efforts by branding Denim Day with a national logo symbolizing rape education and awareness (much like the red dress pin for women and cardiovascular disease or the pink ribbon for breast cancer).

To accomplish this mission the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services’ Office on Women’s Health and the Injury and Violence Prevention Program invited the Textile and Apparel Management department at the University of Missouri-Columbia to collaborate with us on this project. Each student in a computer assisted design class created a logo, and a panel was assembled to select the design that best represents Denim Day.  We believe this logo is an empowering symbol for rape education and awareness.

Students also designed bookmarks, fliers and posters for the Denim Day event. The stitching class designed and stitched denim bags, sought donations for t-shirts, flip-flops and toiletries. The Restorative Justice Program in the Missouri Department of Corrections stitched drawstring pants. The bags were filled and donated to the University Hospital Emergency Department to be given to rape victims.