College Response to the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee Report – August 2023

The Office of the Chief Coroner has informed the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers (the College) of the outcome of a review by the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) and sought the College’s support in actioning one of its recommendations. This eBulletin is intended to address the DVDRC’s recommendation by:

  • Sharing the findings of the DVDRC with registrants.
  • Reminding registrants of their professional obligations with respect to competence, currency and scope of practice – particularly on family violence and coercive control dynamics.

The DVDRC Report

The DVDRC’s findings are published in the Report on the Matter of the Deaths of (names removed) (DVDRC’s Report). The deaths referred to in the DVDRC’s Report occurred on February 9th, 2020.

In a letter accompanying the DVDRC Report, the DVDRC describes its primary goals for the review as follows:

The purpose of this committee is to assist the Office of the Chief Coroner in the investigation and review of deaths of persons that occur as a result of domestic violence, and to make recommendations to help prevent such deaths in similar circumstances.

By conducting a thorough and detailed examination and analysis of facts within individual cases, the DVDRC strives to develop a comprehensive understanding of why domestic homicides occur and how they might be prevented. Information considered within this examination includes the history, circumstances and conduct of the abusers/perpetrators, the victims and their respective families. Community and systemic responses are examined to determine primary risk factors and to identify possible points of intervention that could assist with the prevention of similar deaths in the future.

Recommendation 2 of the DVDRC Report is directed to the College of Psychologists of Ontario, the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. It suggests:

  • A requirement that any professional involved in parenting evaluations/assessments for the court (e.g., reports developed under Section 30 of the Children’s Law Reform Act, 1990 or Section 112 of the Courts of Justice Act, 1990) undertake at least 16 hours of professional development on family violence and coercive control dynamics in family law.
  • Mandated four-hour refresher training on the above training on an annual basis.

This recommendation is consistent with the guidelines published by the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts:

Registrants’ Professional Obligations

To support the DVDRC’s recommendation, the College is providing the DVDRC’s Report to all registrants. Registrants are reminded of their obligation, in accordance with The Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice Handbook, Second Edition, 2008 to provide services only within the boundaries of their competence. Principle II: Competence and Integrity, states that:

2.1 College members are committed to ongoing professional development and maintaining competence in their practice.

2.1.1 College members are responsible for being aware of the extent and parameters of their competence and their professional scope of practice and limit their practice accordingly. When a client’s needs fall outside the College member’s usual area of practice, the member informs the client of the option to be referred to another professional. If, however, the client wishes to continue the professional relationship with the College member and have the member provide the service, the member may do so provided that:

  • he or she ensures that the services he or she provides are competently provided by seeking additional supervision, consultation and/or education and
  • the services are not beyond the member’s professional scope of practice.

Recommendations for particular services, referrals to other professionals or a continuation of the professional relationship are guided by the client’s interests as well as the College member’s judgement and knowledge.

The Standards of Practice also require registrants to maintain their competence and engage in continuing professional development in the areas in which they provide services. Registrants can achieve this by:

  • Demonstrating their commitment to ongoing professional development by complying with the Continuing Competence Program (CCP).
  • Maintaining current knowledge of policies, legislation, community programs and issues related to practice.
  • Ensuring that current, credible sources and evidence support their professional recommendations or opinions.
  • Engaging in an ongoing process of self-reflection and evaluation of practice and seeking supervision and consultation when required.

All areas of social work and social service work practice require a comprehensive knowledge base, effective and professional use of self, and mastery of specific skills. Registrants’ knowledge and self-awareness are critical to ethical and professional practice. When assessing their competence, registrants should:

  • Consider their levels of education, training, and experience.
  • Explore practice challenges within the context of supervision.
  • Use the CCP to focus on the skills and knowledge required for new activities or areas of practice.

Registrants working with clients who are experiencing family violence and coercive control dynamics should also:

  • understand the difference between conflict situations and family violence.
  • recognize the risk of domestic homicide for victims of domestic violence.
  • ensure they have the competence to complete intimate partner homicide risk assessments and develop client safety plans.

Additional resources:

For more information, please contact the Professional Practice Department