OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Transforming Victim Services in the 21st Century
Angela Moreland Begle, Jack Fleming, Charity Hope, Julie K Landrum, Jennifer Shewmake  -  2011/3/29
What can we do to help remove "politics" from victim services, or social services generally? The last thing a victim needs when seeking help is to be further victimized by "bias or discrimination" from the service providers. I realize that humans will always have biases, however we must make a great effort to limit its practice, and more importantly its harmful effect in the victim/ social services area.
1.  James
 Jack, if discrimination can be institutionalized then it's counter-part can be also (granted not easily). If the problem is at the top, then identification of the bad apple must be made and then a case made against hisher policies. What I have experienced however, is the staff level or public level employees discriminating as to the services offered and the level of those services. I believe that management has to do a better job a double checking the work of their front line employees, in all businesses, but especially in the victim social service area where the stakes are so high. It is very difficult or impossible at times to simply go somewhere else.
2.  James
 Jack, interesting responses. The politics involved with getting funding should not trickle to the general public seeking help however. Victims should not have to guess what political affiliation the service providers prefer, moreover the provider should never require group membership of a victim in order to receive help from a public organization. The turf war issue you mentioned may be what is creating that kind of environment, if that is the case it must be discussed often and deemed absolutely intolerable.
3.  Jack F.
 I think the second question you are getting at is the issue of discrimination against victims, for whatever reason whether it be race, sexual orientation, gender, immigrant status, etc. Again we have heard this many times and a common solution proposed is requiring non-discrimination policies at any organization that receives funding. What do you think? Do you have ideas about how we could institutionalize non-discrimination?
4.  Jack F.
 James, great question, actually I think you might be getting at 2 separate questions here so let me try and answer both. First, in terms of removing politics from victim services, the current state of the field is that the majority of the funding is coming from government agencies so we cant avoid the politics inherent in that relationship. One thing that has come out of our work so far is the issue of turf war and what we can do to be more open and collaborate with each other.
Many grants today seem to want us to go beyond helping victims (who may never file a police report despite your recommendation) and consumer education. They want to see behavior changes. We all know that awareness is a step but change only occurs when either a topic is hit hard (can't afford) or hits home due to victimization. I feel this is an emerging challenge for the victim advocacy field. With all the articles warning people about scams and crimes, there is a disconnect still. Some people may be more earthquake prepared now, but even in San Francisco and LA many don't think "a big one will hit" so why bother. We have the same problem with identity theft victimization or other crimes- don't walk in a dark parking lot alone. How do we make an impact?
1.  Jack F.
 Linda, great question. It is certainly one we are struggling with and that everyone we have been in touch with says is a concern. From what I have heard the general consensus is we need a more focused national message about victims rights but there is debate about who sets that message. Options suggested have included the Office for Victims of Crime taking the lead or forming a national association of victim advocates or a national coalition for all victims, much like there is for domestic violence and sexual assault.
Do the guest hosts forsee movement toward a decrease in juvenile offender confidentiality and an increase in rights of victims of juvenile offenders? If not, any recommendations to move the cause along?
1.  Guest Host
 As juvenile crime has increased, the juvenile justice system has become more aligned with the adult criminal justice system, leading to a decrease in confidentiality and increase in rights in some states. Each state works on striking a balance between accountability and punishment and many are adopting philosophies that include treatment and punishment.
Hello, A group of us got together at our hospital and implemented a victims of abuse team. The goal is to improve abuse/neglect recognition, screening, documentation, reporting and resource services to our patients who are the victims of abuse. We have met a lot of resistance across the system and multiple barriers from doctors who are not supportive to our hospital risk department. How can we change this culture and impact care across the system within the healthcare setting?
1.  Maria
 One thing that medical professionals in our area are doing is teaming up with the local domestic violence/sexual assault coordinating council to collaborate on approaches, training and ways to support them in their work to make positive changes in their field.
2.  Angie Begle
 This is an issue that has arisen across many of the forums, which has been reported as a problem beyond the hospital setting - but in multiple settings where there has been resistance to incorporating risk assessments. Many have responded that education of key parties has been essential to changing the overall culture. Finding someone within the orgainization that understands the importance of prevention and risk assessment has been very beneficial to changing culture. Once you are able to get some people on board, it sometimes takes awhile to change the overall culture and take education in various avenues.
3.  Sarah
 I am somewhat surprised that there is resistance from doctors. I would think they would welcome a group to address a problem they often feel uncomfortable addressing. Is it a matter of SHOWING them how you can take a problem off their hands?
I would like to know how diversity will be addressed in this work and who will advise the author of the final document as to information relavent to the unmet needs in Indian Country/Immigrant porpulations/Language challanged etc
1.  Charity Hope
 Issues of diversity and providing services to a wide range of victims/survivors have been of central importance throughout the work of all of the Grantees on the Vision 21 Initiative. Each grantee has engaged a wide, diverse range of practitioners, researchers and those whose lives have been touched by violence, to inform their process including those with expertise in addressing the unmet needs in Indian CountryImmigrant Populations, etc.
2.  Jennifer
 In the emerging challenges component of the project, we are looking at the immigrant populations and their unique needs for crime victim services. We are looking at the needs of undocumented immigrants, guest workers, children of immigrants, refugees, etc. We are also looking at the need to adapt victim services so that they are more culturally and language appropriate. We are specifically looking at strategies that leverage technology to meet these unique needs.
Services/rights for victims of felony-level juvenile offenders appear to be differing from state-to-state. This is especially true for post-sentencing. Do you see a need to develop a national team to identify best practices throughout the country, current problems facing this victim population and begin proposing solutions to provide rights/services to this population ?
1.  Jennifer
 We are exploring the issue of how to reasonably provide services to victims who are also charged with a crime. We are specifically looking at the issue in the context of youth gang violence. There is a need to look at the unique needs of youth who are charged with crimes who are also victims (of sexual abuse earlier in their life, sexual violence, witnessing violence) and in critical need of support services.
What evidence-based intensive if any home-based interventions have been recommended for survivors/families of homicide victims. What qualifications are required of the service provider(s)? What experienced and/or licensure required?
1.  Angie Begle
 Great question, as interventions for working with families of homocide victims are newer to the field and there is not a lot of research to support many treatments. Drs. Katherine Shear and Holly Priegerson have developed interventions based on complicated grief and behavioral activation, so they may be good resources to find out more about these interventions.
Will this project explore victims involvement and victims rights during offender re-entry?
1.  Guest Host
 The Vision 21 project is focused entirely on the crime victim field and, while this cannot completely ignore offenders, the emphasis is on how the field can attend to the rights and needs of victims. The project will touch on the intersection between victims and offenders, including during various stages of involvement in the criminal justice system. This includes re-entry, such as participation at parole and probation hearings. There will also be consideration of the impacts of re-entry programs.
Howdo we assist survivor's from having a victim mentality after 30 days of a healing process? How to prevent survivor's in a shelter from turning on staff and victimizing the people trying to help them?
1.  Angie Begle
 Thank you for your question, Ms. Connie. Research shows that people heal from traumatic experiences at different speeds and that they may need differing services as they move through the healing process. Because of this, it is imperative that workers and providers within the shelter are very well trained and aware of the differing responses people have to traumatic experiences. Further, victim service providers should be prepared to work with various stages of complicated grief and reactions to trauma, so that they are able to meet victims where they are and ensure that effective services are provided.
I have started a non profit victim services agency in a rural community can you give me some ideas about how I can break through the barrers to estabish a 21st century agency.
1.  Jennifer
 Another idea: The Office for Victims of Crime Training and Technical Assistance Center (OVC TTAC) also provides a multitude of training opportunities for victim service providers. Feel free to check out www.ovcttac.gov for more information on how to seek out these opportunities.
2.  Jennifer
 There are many online resources to help you build your organization. The Foundation Center is a wonderful resource for searching for funding opportunities, learning best practices in grant writing, etc. The Independent Sector is a membership organization that works to strengthen and connect non profit organizations across the country. Also, more and more colleges and universities are offering non-profit management programs and might be a good resource for you. They often are looking for organizations to work with on class projects (marketing, strategic planning, financial management.) Hope this helps.
A local nonprofit organization who receives federal and private monies recently had to stop serving victims of human trafficking due to threats directed at the staff. I wondered why more is not being done to protect and fund the safety of the employees who serve victims of crime, so that closures like this do not happen in the future?
1.  James
 This is a common problem at social service organizations, including shelters and government benefit providers. The organizations may not get shut down, but staff and other clients are harassed and bribed by criminals in order to coerce staff not to provide needed services. These criminals often behave like slave masters seeking their run away slave. The result is often that the victim client is refused needed service, often unaware of the real reason, and they end up homeless, enslaved, criminals, incarcerated or dead. Safety and integrity of the staff is a major major issue, that must be evaluated on a regular bases. Staff will often not report incidents that very much need reporting...
2.  Alissa
 Although training is important, even with all the training in the world on safety, lethality, and resources -in my opinion, there are barriers to this being the resolution to the entire problem. I don't think traffickers would care about a nice security system or a secure location. There are some states who have safe-address programs (not mine -not all states) for crime victims, and then nothing that I know of federally for those who don't have one. There things that federal agents can do to get a drivers license under a different name and own property under that name, but not law enforcement or NGO advocates. There are unmarked armored cars that law enforcement drive, not victim services. There are intensive safety trainings given to law enforcement, nothing very detailed that I know of for advocates as a LE academy is. It's unfortunate that the traffickers get to win this battle.
3.  Jennifer
 This is a very important issue. What we have heard through various discussions regarding the area of human trafficking is that service providers who have established strong partnerships with local law enforcement are better able to serve their clients. They report that it is easier to gain intelligence, build trust with difficult to reach communities and provide critical training to their front line workers. Please feel free to reference the Anti-Trafficking Task Force Informal Discussion Summary Report that was released by OVC in 2010 for more information.
4.  Angie Begle
 This question speaks to the importance of effective training and education to project staff working with human trafficking to ensure that appropriate safety measures are in place and that all parties understand potential issues when dealing with certain types of crime.
When dealing with victims of crime and abuse, it is sometimes hard for them to open up to a victim service worker who has not experienced anything similar to them. I was recently on a call for an hour with an older victim of abuse who mentioned that if she had been younger when she called, she probably would have hung up knowing that I had not experienced abuse like she had. She said that it was a matter of trust, being able to open up to someone, and that if victim service workers do not have similar experiences to victims then it is too difficult for us to help them. Is there a way to get past this belief? How do we make victims feel more comfortable talking to us if we haven't walked in their shoes?
1.  Charity Hope
 Throughout the Vision 21 process the issue of cultural competency and proficiency has come up throughout all of the individual projects which I think relates to your broad question ofhow do we meet victims/survivors where they are while recognizing that every victim/survivor may have unique needs, including a preference for how they receive services/supports. A couple of ideas have been generated through the forums that relate to your specific example of how to better work with older victims. For example, partnering with community agencies that have experience working with older adults or recruiting older adult volunteersall for the purpose of increasing the comfort of older adult victims who come into your agency. Also, some practitioners have shared that letting victims know that even though you may have not walked in their shoes, but that you have worked with victims who have similar needs, may also be reassuring.
2.  Joan
 I think this is an issue that comes up in many helping professions,clients in substance abuse ask workers if they have had similiar problems, folks with parenting issues ask if workers have children. I thinks its helpful to inform clients of the workers training, education and experience in the field. I have used the analogy with a client , if they had a serious illness, would they prefer a Dr with a serious illness or a really well trained Dr?
How do you see shelter services for victims of domestic violence changing over time? Are shelters going to be a viable resource in the next couple decades?
1.  James
 I would like to add that without sufficient DV shelter or emergency shelter generally, real stability and healing can not be attained. You can have great counseling and great career planning but if you don't have a clean safe place to rest, then no healing can ever take place.
2.  Jack F.
 Kristi great question. One thing that has come up many times is a greater need for long-term transitional housing to supplement the short-term emergency housing that shelters provide, and the need to build partnerships with local housing authorities or whichever agency handles transitional housing so that when victims seek transitional housing they are treated with respect and care.
3.  Scott
 I think this question goes to a deeper question of creating a new model for alternative housing for victims of domestic violence. The shelter model does not work for the vast majority of victims. What alternatives can we offer? What community placement options can we create that are safe alternatives to the shelter model?
4.  Kristie
 What current research are you seeing about shelter services? Most of the research I'm seeing is that shelter services are still critical, but I'm also hearing questions from colleagues about how can we sustain shelter services.
5.  Angie Begle
 An issue that has arisen throughout all of the forums has been the need for evaluation of existing services, especially when resources are limited. This is important to ensure that we continue to support programs that are effective and feasible, while transforming services that are not as effective. Thus, viable resources will depend upon results from ongoing evaluations of effectiveness.
Thoughts on improving the system's view on the necessity of victim service providers? Although my colleagues and I all have advanced degrees, we're seen as support staffassistants to the attorneys in the office. There is a movement in our state to credential advocates. Do you think that might help?
1.  Jack F.
 Sarah this is a great question, and certainly it is a frustration that we have heard before, and professionalization of the field is a solution that has been talked about a lot, both its pros and cons. Standards of Practice and a Code of Ethics have also been raised as potentially needed in order to sort of earn the respect of the other professional fields in the criminal justice system. So we are looking it to all those options and getting as much feedback as we can before we settle on final recommendations in our reports. Id love to hear what you about it or any other ideas you might have.
Is the study looking at compensation levels for victim advocates? It will be hard to enhance or expand the impact of the victim service field unless we start paying fair wages. The wisdom of the field turns over every few years. Salaries don't match the complexity and burden of the work.
1.  Donna G
 It has been a year and I'm wondering what the outcome was of your addressing the issue of salaries not matching the complexity and burden of our work? Thank you.
2.  Marti
 Scott, I so agree. The change has to come from the strategy and vision of state administrators. But state administrators need adequate funds from the federal level to make it work. My office administers VOCA/VAWA/FVSASP and some state funds in Iowa. The funds we have to distribute have not increased and have decreased some over the last 5 years. It is hard to keep quality victim services alive statewide with no new funds. To increase the funding for victim advocate compensation, a state would either have to close some programs to better fund others, or get more funds to distribute. My office is in the process of doing a victim service compensation study. I know it is going to show inadequate employee compensation in the field. Next step is to get both state and federal funds for victim service increased.
3.  Scott
 I think this starts with the funders such as those at the state level VOCA and VAWA granting agencies. They should set funding levels at levels that are reasonable and sustainable. We now have a standards and certification requirement for victim service providers in our state. This would be a good place to start by establishing minimum compensation levels and also suggested graduated pay scales based on experience, education and performance.
4.  Jack F.
 Marti this is such a good question and one that has really been talked about a lot. The short answer is yes we are looking at the issue of compensation for service providers as one of the many issues our field faces in retaining qualified and well trained staff. We have heard from many people that one frustration is that the compensation balance is upside down, meaning those who spend more time working with victims make the least amount of money. So this is definitely something that will be part of addressing staff retention.
Does your project include any guidance for service providers in self-care and affects on individual and organizations of secondary trauma?
1.  Jack F.
 Deirdre great question, especially following up on Martis question about compensation because like her question this is an issue we have been looking at under the broader topic of retaining qualified and experienced staff. At this point we dont have any final recommendations, but I can safely say it is an issue that has come up and we will be addressing it in our final reports.
Between now and the release of the final product will the individual grantees be able to discuss the results, findings, or recommendations of their forums and their separate reports for this project? Or are they able to do this only once the final grantee has pulled everything together?
1.  Julie Landrum
 All reports will be made available by OVC at the same time after the final grantee has pulled everything together.
We are seeing an increased trend in program mergers and are considering merging our DV and sexual assault services, but there is much resistance as DV services are perceived as more grass roots. Any suggestions regarding these barriers or concerns about merging these services?
1.  Charity Hope
 There have been numerous conversations about barriers to and suggestions for collaborationworking together throughout the Vision 21 process, particularly in light of limited resources. Some of the suggestions that have come out of this process related to collaboration includes: making sure you take the time to understand each agencies unique perspective and philosophy (and finding the common ground between the two); having a common missionvision for what you would like to accomplish together; fostering relationships built upon a solid foundation of trust and mutual understanding, etc. Most of the conversations at the Vision 21 forums have focused on collaboration and not mergers specifically.
How do the guests see the role of this (amazing) Vision 21 process in ensuring client-centered, targeted, meaningful, comprehensive, culturally competent, funded services to marginalized communities, including LGBTQ and immigrant survivors?
1.  Charity Hope
 We would hope to be able to ensure that all victims (in particular, marginalized and ununderserved populations) receive access to the services and supports they need by providing specific recommendations for how to achieve this lofty goal. This has been a primary focus of the work of the Enduring Challenges portion of the Vision 21 project and has been part of the work of the other grantees as well. Please contact any of the Project Directors if you have ideas you would like to share.
A large portion of our field is made up of non-profits. Many have a hard time making it and often rely heavily on grants. We know that diversity of funding is key to healthy agencies. Has there been any move towards public private partnerships that will not only teach non-profits how to make these connections, but also actually broker such connections?
1.  Jack F.
 Great question Scott and you are absolutely right diversity of funding is key to long-term sustainability. Ill take your statement a step further there are many small non-profit organizations that solely rely on government grant funding and when that goes away they have to close there doors. This issue has been talked about a lot and has many facets. From the need to diversify the types of funding, to the need for longer grant periods to allow for better longer term planning. Currently government grants for this type of capacity building are almost non-existent, but we have seen many Foundations that are committed to helping organizations build capacity, but who have typically not been involved in the victim services field.
2.  Veronica Kunz
 The United Way of the Midlands in SC has a new program called C3 which provides professionals (not U.Way employees) to work with organizations with similar missions to foster collaboration, resource sharing and even mergers. Maybe your local United Way has a similar program.
I want to revisit Linda Foley's comment on cultural change. In all my years of victim advocacy, I could never shake the feeling that we are putting bandaids on gangrene. We throw the perps in jail and forget about them, while focusing only on the victims. In the 21st Century, should we put more of our focus and resources into offenders, in an effort to figure out how to get them to stop creating victims?
1.  Julie Landrum
 One of the themes that is surfacing in our project is that prevention is an appropriate role of the field and that the field should adopt prevention priniciples. Our project is also exploring alternatives to incarceration in the pursuit of healthy communities and developing recommendations.
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