OVC Provider Forum Transcript

Victim Legal Assistance Networks: Needs Assessment/Planning Implementation
Jessica Alas, Raina Bayas  -  2014/8/27
When it comes to needs assessments and implementing plans for individual client's lives...what NEEDS are more important to focus on first? As I work with the older population, I tend to notice their emotional needs and their physical needs go hand in hand. I spend much of my time trying to meet their socialization needs.
1.  RB
 That particular statement was made during one of our steering committee planning meetings. We had expressed frustration that there seemed to be so many gaps and barriers for victims to obtain legal services and that was our researcher's response to our conversation. Our researcher did create a needs assessment report, detailing the results of the needs assessment, that I can share once it is submitted to OVC and with the researcher's permission.
2.  Shawn Flower
 You state "your researcher, in fielding similar questions from us regarding intersecting needs, stated that when a provider helps a victim in one of those needs, it does have a positive effect on all of the victim’s needs." Is there a report on this or other write up? If so - is this something you can share?
3.  RB
 The data shows that all of these legal needs are important to victims and the intersection of all of these needs is what makes it difficult to create one model that fits all individuals based on that individual’s priorities. I believe the best method is to identify the needs for that particular client (as you have been doing) and prioritize based on that client. I wish that I had a more concrete answer for you, but what the needs assessment has shown is that a victim’s legal needs are complex and interconnected because the systems we work in are complex and interconnected. Our researcher, in fielding similar questions from us regarding intersecting needs, stated that when a provider helps a victim in one of those needs, it does have a positive effect on all of the victim’s needs.
4.  J. Alas
 There is no set formula when assessing a client’s needs. I can only answer that question from the legal perspective. In a crisis situation, a lawyer is not always the first or second stop for a victim; they have already received some level of services related to basic human needs. As a legal aid lawyers, we are accustom to having to be familiar with a wide range of legal fields ranging from public benefits and housing issues to family and estate planning issues. We do our best to provide holistic legal services and we a do our best to screen for non-legal issues and make referrals to other social service agencies when appropriate. As far as prioritizing legal needs, we look to make sure the legal needs involving safety, housing and public benefits are addressed as quickly as possible.
5.  RB
 The needs assessment we created in Denver was suited for a mid-size metro area, therefore, I can only speak about the needs identified for our specific population. Our needs assessment revealed that victims and victim service professionals recognized legal needs intersect and overlap with human and social needs. The respondents find the following legal needs as hard to meet: Housing, Civil, Transportation, Knowledge, Criminal, Safety and Bankruptcy. Mental Health was the only legal need that was rated as not hard to meet. (Additional response on next reply due to word count limit).
Would you be willing you share your needs assessment questions, results and challenges? How do you recruit and train pro and low bono attorneys to serve crime victims? Thank you!
1.  Jaime
 As for recruiting attorneys, that depends on where you are located, but a good place to start is by going to the local bar associations. They might have information on pro bono requirements,and firms/attorneys willing to do pro bono work. After that, it's building the relationships.
2.  J. Alas
 In my opinion the training focus must be placed on teaching an attorney how to interact with victim clients in a way that will instill confidence in the attorney and ultimately inspire trust in the victim client. Some options include having the volunteer sit in on client interviews where appropriate or participate in victim assistance trainings to learn how to better communicate with victim clients. OVC offers on-line training series at https://www.ovcttac.gov/views/TrainingMaterials/dspOnline_VATOnline.cfm and some local and state agencies have similar training series, for example Texas Department of Criminal Justice offers online training at https://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/php/tvatonline/.
3.  J. Alas
 Recruiting volunteers to help a victim is easier than training them. If an attorney is willing to volunteer their time to help, she is typically happier to know she is helping a victim. However, most of the attorneys who volunteer their time with us have had no experience communicating with crime victims or helping victims deal with the legal issues resulting from victimization. A volunteer who spent her career working in the oil industry or filing bankruptcies is likely unprepared to hear some of the disturbing details from a victim of human sex trafficking who wants to apply for T-Visa or the domestic violence history of a client seeking a protective order. Lawyers know how to research and can learn the substantive law on their own.
4.  J. Alas
 The needs assessment work we have done has been part of a four year demonstration project funded by the Office of Victims of Crime as part of their Vision 21 Initiative. The goal of our project is to create a sustainable collaborative network of wraparound legal services that holistically address the full range of crime victims’ legal needs in connection with their victimization. The needs assessment is being used to help us identify gaps in legal services in our region and the results provide us with justification for the way in which we design our Network Implementation Model. I am uncertain of OVC plans regarding the publication of the grantees needs assessment results.
5.  RB
 As for recruiting and training pro-bono and low-bono attorneys, we are not focusing on this aspect for our demonstration project. The theory behind our demonstration project is that victims need varying levels of assistance best described by imagining a continuum of legal services. On one end, a victim might only need to access a website to obtain the legal information the victim needs. On the other end of the continuum, a victim might need full representation in court for their legal issue. For our demonstration project, we have decided to focus on guiding victims to the resource that best fits the level of assistance they require. We will be relying on our partner organizations to recruit pro bono or low bono attorneys as they see fit pursuant to their needs as an organization.
6.  RB
 Our Needs Assessment report is finalized and once we submit it to the Office for Victims of Crime, we will happily distribute it with our researcher’s permission. Within the needs assessment report you will find the needs assessment instruments, results and challenges. The data from the needs assessment pointed to the difficulty victims and professionals have navigating the complex, inter-related legal, human and social service systems. The data revealed a need for continued improvement of coordination across legal and non-legal systems to help victims get their legal needs met. The results are lengthy and I am unable to state all of the results in this forum; however, with our researcher’s permission, we are willing to share the needs assessment report.
I was wondering what is the best way to handle a situation if someone does not want the assessment? How do you learn to tell yourself that...although this person needs help, they may not want it?
1.  JAlas
 The needs assessment survey that we conducted here in Texas consisted of telephone interviews, web-based surveys and community listening sessions conducted with a variety of service providers who work with crime victims. This survey was designed to help us identify what the gaps in legal services are in our community and the reasons for those gaps. Participation in the survey was voluntary and our research partners at Texas A&M University’s Public Policy Research Institute and Sam Houston State University’s Crime Victims’ Institute have done a great job explaining the process and purpose of the survey to our participants.
2.  RB
 Our researcher, Dr. Anne DePrince, did a wonderful job explaining the needs assessment to the participants and questioned the participants in a way that was trauma-informed and victim-centered. The most important thing is that the needs assessment is completely voluntary and the participants should feel empowered by participating in the study. We performed the needs assessment to gather data for our study, not to determine what that individual's needs are.
How to help victims find free legal councel when they are turned away from free services that are full already and cant take them.
1.  J. Wright
 Can you please provide some contact information for your agency?
2.  JAlas
 Limited resources are a chronic problem for most legal services programs in the country. Depending on the individual’s legal needs, there may be other resources in your community that can offer victims alternatives. For example, your state child enforcement agency may be able to assist a victim with child custody/support orders and have safety protocols in place for dealing with parties with a history of domestic abuse. District and/or county attorney office may be tasked to help victims of domestic violence and/or sexual assault to obtain protective orders. There is also a growing number of on-line resources that offer legitimate and free legal resources from how to enforce victim rights to self-help manuals dealing with identity theft. A good place to start is http://www.probono.net/.
3.  RB
 (continued from previous post) We will direct the client to judicially approved legal forms on the Colorado State Court website. We will also direct the client to speak to a self-represented litigant coordinator (Self-help Center) at the courts to obtain legal information. Our hope is that once the client understands their legal issue, obtains the proper forms and obtains relevant legal information, the client will be able to represent themselves in Court.
4.  RB
 This is a problem that comes up frequently. We address this issue by evaluating that client’s particular needs. Is this a client that could represent themselves in court if they had the right legal information? If this client is able to advocate for themselves, we will send the client to legal clinics so they may speak to an attorney to obtain advice on what to say in court. (Continued in another post due to word limit).
5.  j haskins
 legal aid...we work with the elderly community who often have a strict, low income. Legal aid works with our clients needing free services.
Would this assist us promote justice for victims of financial crimes such as consumers who have been victimized by scams and their practices? We would like to create program to effectively educate and empower senior citizens, their families & caregivers, as well as clergy and community leaders to prevent fraud and financial exploitation we believe there is a need for Advocates who address redress of victims of financial crimes Can you help provide the frame work to provide the legal representation, technical support, professional resources,education, analysis and witness services required to negotiate monetary restitution to financial abuse victims?
1.  JAlas
 The victim assistance legal network we are in the process of planning here in Texas will, once fully implemented, serve our 72 county service area. The network will be a resource for all crime victims dealing with legal issues related to their victimization including victims of financial crimes. The network partners will provide direct legal services and we will also provide educational resources for both victims and victim service providers. The National Crime Victim Law Institute is a great resource for technical support, professional resources and education in the field of victim rights enforcement http://law.lclark.edu/centers/national_crime_victim_law_institute/
2.  RB
 Have you looked into the Identity Theft Victim Assistance Network? http://identitytheftnetwork.org/ The site I gave you is a great place to start learning about whether this network exists in your area and the resources that are available to advocates and organizations helping identity theft victims. The Identity Theft Victim Assistance Network was created through an OVC grant.
What is your experience working with current victims organizations in your state when planning and implementing a needs assessment?
1.  JAlas
 Although we are still in our planning phase, we have been lucky to be working closely with several partner agencies who are excited about the possibility of creating a sustainable network. I have also been in touch with hundreds of providers across our service area during the needs assessment survey process and they are excited about the idea of a new resource to help their clients. I am confident that this excitement and willingness to participate from our service providers will grow as we move from the planning to implementation of the network.
2.  RB
 (continued from previous post) In order to obtain a sufficient amount of respondents, the researcher and the steering committee contacted victim service providers and asked them if they would distribute surveys in their offices, host a focus group of their clients, fill out a survey for victim service providers and/or submit to an interview for the needs assessment. The victims’ organizations in our community were integral in helping the researcher obtain a sufficient amount of respondents for the needs assessment. It was not easy to obtain survey responses from crime victims and we could not have done it without organizations stepping up to participate and promote the needs assessment.
3.  RB
 In Denver, we created a steering committee of 8 organizations dedicated to guiding the Legal Assistance Network and who participated in implementing the needs assessment. Our researcher performed the activities of the needs assessment, including creation of the needs assessment instruments and gathering data. Our researcher used the steering committee and also the victims’ services community in Denver to obtain respondents to the needs assessment. In Denver, we have a great network run by the Denver District Attorney’s Office which connects 40 or so victim service providers in Denver, the Victim Services Network. (continued in next post)
What is a Victim legal Assistance Network? Are they in every state or more broad based?
1.  JAlas
 These networks do not exist in every state. In fact, the OVC grant that funds my work is, to my knowledge, the first attempt to create this type of network. We are attempting to create a network in our service area here at Lone Star Legal Aid which covers 72 Texas counties. There are 5 other grantees working to the same in parts of Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois and Minnesota.
2.  JAlas
 A victim legal assistance network is a collaboration of independent legal service providers who coordinate services to provide wraparound legal services that holistically address the full range of crime victims’ legal needs in connection to their victimization. The idea is to remove the burden of seeking help from multiple legal providers from the victim and place that burden on the network of providers to match the victim with appropriate service provider or providers.
3.  RB
 A Victim Legal Assistance Network is a network dedicated to providing legal assistance to victims of crime. Denver was one of six sites that received OVC funding to create a network to deliver legal services to crime victims to meet the crime victim’s needs in the wake of their victimization. The sites that received funding to create this network are: Texas; Denver; Alaska; Minneapolis; Chicago; and Los Angeles. As you can see, some are state wide and some are by city. Our site used the data gathered from the needs assessment conducted by our researcher to develop how this network would operate.
Has OVC released the Victim Legal Assistance Networks awards for 2014?
1.  Meg M, OVC
 Awards under the OVC FY 2014 Vision 21 Victim Legal Assistance Networks solicitation will be made in September.
I work with U.S. citizen victims of overseas crime and am always interested to learn of resources. Are there legal assistance networks that can work with U.S. citizens who have been victimized abroad?
1.  JAlas
 I know that some federal agencies have been working to fund projects focusing on U.S. citizens who are victimized abroad. So, I would expect to see new resources popping up over the next few years.
2.  RB
 This is a great question. Are you looking for organizations that provide services to victims located in the United States or services abroad? The reason I ask is because Denver has defined a victim broadly and includes a self-reported victim of a crime. If someone calls our network and states they are a victim of a crime and would like to obtain services in Denver, regardless of where the crime occurred, we can enter them into our network and obtain resources and referrals to services for them. If you are looking for a network that provides referrals and resources to services abroad, I do not know of any legal assistance networks that provide that service.
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