Evaluation of the STOP Formula Grants to Combat Violence against Women: 1999 Report

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Document date: April 05, 1999
Released online: April 05, 1999
Press Release | PDF Version

Highlights1 of the Report

Since the STOP program began in 1995, the states have made great strides in implementing their own strategies for developing community responses to domestic violence and sexual assault. In telephone interviews, state STOP administrators are unanimous in their agreement that STOP money is achieving important things in the community. Some administrators say that without these funds, many of the violence against women programs that currently operate in their states would not exist; as one stated: "The VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) money is some of the most valuable funding our state receives."

STOP subgrantees perceive that their STOP funding has helped communities make significant strides in all three areas of violence against women. Most subgrantees emphasize the importance of STOP funds to their progress, even when some also mention that they engage in other initiatives to reduce violence against women concurrently with their STOP projects. Many say they "could not have done it without STOP."

STOP funding has also provided agencies with an incentive to work together to reduce violence against women. STOP funding has pushed communities in many states to find ways around seemingly insurmountable barriers; subgrantees have had to get creative in their approaches in order to make collaboration a success. As a result of STOP, subgrantees have mapped out paths to or already arrived at real system change in their communities.

Many subgrantees on telephone surveys and during site visits note that the permanency of improvements in services for women victims of violence hinges on the continued receipt of funding. In their view, if funding decreased, so would their ability to serve women victims of violence comprehensively, as much of their progress has been the work of STOP-funded staff.

According to the subgrantees we interviewed, victims are safer, better supported by their communities, and treated more uniformly and sensitively by first-response workers, among other benefits. At the same time, practitioners in their communities report that their jobs are easier now that they are working together and pooling their efforts on task forces and collaborative projects. In many areas, STOP projects are credited with introducing the idea of a service community. As a result of more coordinated and comprehensive services for victims, a number of subgrantees have seen more women victims of violence come forward to ask for assistance in their communities. Overall, the majority of those we interviewed indicated that through the training, special units, policy and protocol development, and direct services to victims, STOP projects have improved the treatment of women victims of violence while at the same time fostering cohesion among service communities across the country.

The 4,433 subgrant awards reported to VAWO (Violence Against Women Office) through December 15, 1998, totaled $193.7 million. Three-quarters of the subgrants (75 percent) provide direct service to victims, 72 percent increase the capacity of agencies receiving the subgrants, and 47 percent increase community capacity to serve women victims of violence. Fifty-four percent of the subgrants focus exclusively on domestic violence, 11 percent focus exclusively on sexual assault, 19 percent focus on both but not on stalking, and the rest report other combinations of focus on domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. With respect to VAWA’s authorized purpose area classifications, 63 percent of subgrants fall into victim services, 27 percent into training, 17 percent into special units, 13 percent into policy and procedure development, 12 percent into data/communication systems, 4 percent into stalking, and 2 percent into subgrants to Indian tribes from state allocations. Projects can be classified into more than one purpose area.

Performance information for 1,282 subgrants was received by December 15, 1998; only subgrants that have run for a year or more are expected to report performance information. Training projects comprise 580 of these, and they reported training 143,156 personnel in 6,995 training sessions. The professions that most frequently attended were law enforcement personnel (47 percent of training projects) and private, nonprofit victim service personnel (30 percent of training projects).

Special unit projects comprise 281 of the subgrants reporting performance data. Nearly half (47 percent) created new units and half supported or expanded an existing special unit, 12 percent supported specialized functions for one or more members of agencies too small to justify a special unit, and 6 percent reported other types of special unit activities.

Performance related to policies, procedures, protocols, administrative orders, or service development is reported by 286 subgrants. New policies were developed by two-thirds (190) of these policy projects, and 54 percent revised or expanded previous policies and procedures. Agencies most frequently involved in developing or revising policy were law enforcement (65 percent), prosecution (55 percent), and private, nonprofit victim service agencies (24 percent).

The subgrants that support data collection and communications projects (19 percent, or 239, of performance reports) address a wide variety of data/communication system types. Protection order tracking systems are by far the most common, supported by 67 percent of the data projects. Also relatively common are forms development or standardization projects, representing 39 percent of data projects.

STOP has been a catalyst for collaboration, laying the groundwork for system change in well over half of all subgrantees’ communities. Of the subgrantees who responded to the Subgrants Overview Survey, 98 percent say they are working to some degree with other local or regional agencies. Moreover, 71 percent indicate that their current cooperative efforts have resulted directly from their STOP projects.

Subgrantees in the System Change Survey feel that before STOP, community coordination of services for women victims of violence was mostly lacking. Subsequent to STOP, however, they report that coordination with respect to both domestic violence and sexual assault services in their communities has increased substantially. Almost all subgrantees in the System Change Survey say that STOP funding has been instrumental in their efforts to collaborate on behalf of women victims of violence.

Site visit observations of 30 to 35 STOP-funded projects in seven states indicate that the most profound system change occurs when communitywide collaboration is the focus of a project. This level of system change involves buy-in from top management (e.g., police chiefs, district attorneys) in all relevant agencies, in addition to cooperation among one or more law enforcement, prosecution, and victim service personnel. Further, site visits indicate that this type of collaboration is relatively rare among STOP projects. More common are projects that start by creating significant changes in single agencies (e.g., law enforcement or prosecution). Many STOP subgrantees report that once they have succeeded in changing the way a particular component of the criminal justice system responds to victims, this in turn has stimulated change in other aspects of the community’s response. This slower approach is valuable, although it is less sure to produce communitywide change and top-level buy-in than a true collaborative process.

Of the 171 subgrantees in the Subgrants Overview Survey, 96 percent report that an underserved community comprises at least 20 percent of the population in their service jurisdiction. Of these, 70 percent of the jurisdictions include rural women, 21 percent include women of Hispanic origin, 19 percent include African-American women, 7 percent include Native American women, and 3 percent include Asian-American women. Sixty-one percent of subgrantees report engaging in specific efforts to reach out to and identify underserved women. In addition, 20 percent of the subgrantees actually make special efforts to treat women from underserved communities in ways that are unique and different from the way they treat the main population. Participants in the Underserved Survey offered more detailed descriptions of special efforts. These special efforts might include increased cultural sensitivity as a result of training, language proficiency, staff who are members of the underserved community, more accessible agency location (e.g., satellite offices), and/or materials created especially by and for the community being served. Agencies reporting these special efforts include law enforcement, prosecution, and victim service agencies, as well as some agencies serving particular minority communities who responded to the Underserved Survey.

Collaboration was by far the most prominent subject mentioned in relation to strategies developed and lessons learned by respondents to the Subgrants Overview Survey. Seventy-one percent of all subgrantees remarked on some aspect of their collaborative effort when asked about useful strategies or lessons they have learned. Other lessons learned about collaboration are contributed by respondents to the System Change Survey. Lessons from both sources include:

  • Keep common goals in mind.
  • Be diplomatic/don’t point fingers.
  • Be flexible, patient, and persistent.
  • Communicate clearly and regularly.
  • Be aware of and respect other agencies’ roles, structures, and abilities.
  • Get key players from each agency on board early. Leadership is especially important to have on board before attempting to pull in their staff.
  • Form and use personal relationships; network, but resolve personal differences on personal time, one-on-one.
  • "Think outside the box"/use creative problem-solving.
  • Provide resistant agencies with an incentive to participate in collaborative endeavors.
  • Foster a sense of ownership among all project participants; include all participants in project planning.
  • Make local media aware of the project/draw attention to the collaborative effort.

Subgrantees involved in "underserved" projects found that their success also hinged on a few unique strategies, including:

  • Be or become an insider. Working your way into a community requires persistence and patience.
  • Use "gentle persistence." Confrontation backfires; ask what a community needs rather than saying "Here’s what we will do for you."
  • Conduct a needs assessment and involve community members at each step.
  • Respondents working with Hispanic communities stressed the importance of service provider staff who are both bilingual and bicultural, establishing trust by forming relationships with victims, and recognizing the centrality of family in the Hispanic culture.
  • You may need to change not only your approach but also your definition of success. Effective intervention necessitates an awareness of and respect for values at odds with one’s own.

Other common strategies and lessons offered by subgrantees in the Subgrants Overview Survey included:

  • Set reasonable project goals/don’t spread yourself too thin.
  • Be persistent and patient.
  • Perform a needs assessment/do proper legwork before embarking on a project.
  • Hire passionately committed and competent staff.
  • Recognize the importance of training and education both for other agencies and communitywide.
  • Keep good records.

The most commonly mentioned gaps in community response to women victims of violence include:

  • Serious difficulties relating to full faith and credit being given to protection orders issued in other jurisdictions;
  • Continuing difficulties with service and enforcement of protection orders even within one’s jurisdiction of residence;
  • Up-front and out-of-pocket costs to victims for forensic examinations in sexual assault cases;
  • Inadequate and/or nonexistent data systems, creating barriers to the appropriate handling of individual situations by law enforcement, prosecution, and courts; and
  • Generation of adequate data to identify best practices and guide practitioners to them.

States follow similar processes for distributing STOP grants but vary a great deal in: (a) when they begin and end these activities; (b) how they carry them out; and (c) the time that it takes to complete them. For the most part, the award process in each state includes the same steps subsequent to receiving notice of its award from VAWO: planning, sending out requests for proposals (RFPs), assessing proposals, notifying applicants of awards, and disbursing funds.

States are on very different timelines—and have been from the beginning of STOP. For instance, the first state to begin planning for FY 1995 did so in August 1994 (even before the VAWA legislation passed), while the last state to begin planning for FY 1995 did so in September 1996—a span of two years and one month. The first state to begin each activity for FY 1997 did so before all or even 80 percent of states had completed that same activity for FY 1996.

The variety in state timelines is especially apparent in sending out RFPs. The last state to send out RFPs for FY 1995 funding did so at the same time that the first state sent out RFPs for FY 1997 funds. It appears that some states have become quite efficient at awarding funds while others are still struggling to make timely awards.

When all of STOP funding is considered together over the three fiscal years for which we have adequate information (FYs 1995, 1996, and 1997), the 25 percent distributional requirement is met for the law enforcement (25 percent) and victim service (38 percent) funding categories, but the prosecution funding category falls slightly short at 23 percent.

However, when examined on a state-by-state basis, the picture is less successful. Only 15 states (27 percent) succeeded in distributing at least 25 percent of their STOP allocation to the law enforcement funding category. The same number, 15 states, succeeded in distributing at least 25 percent of their STOP allocation to the prosecution funding category. Seventy percent (39 states) met this requirement with respect to the victim service funding category.

The state STOP administrators generally are satisfied with VAWO services and with the STOP program itself. All (100 percent) say that STOP funds are important for their state, 94 percent report that it is easy to receive both the application kits themselves and help to complete them, and 98 percent feel that the directions that come with the kits are clear. Eighty-six percent feel that the STOP program’s reporting requirements are reasonable. About three-quarters (76 percent) of state STOP administrators are satisfied with VAWO staff and with the help received from the STOP Violence Against Women Grants Technical Assistance Project (STOP-TA Project), while 60 percent are satisfied with the ways that STOP allows them to use funds and with the conferences they have attended in conjunction with their STOP grants. Seventy percent are satisfied with VAWO and other related publications.

1. The evaluation used several methods to generate the findings in this report. These include site visits to seven states and three to five subgrantees in each state; analysis of almost 4,500 Subgrant Award and Performance Reports submitted to the Violence Against Women Office; and telephone surveys to the state STOP administrators (n = 54), a Subgrants Overview Survey to a random sample of 171 subgrantees, a System Change Survey to 51 subgrantees with a focus on system change, and an Underserved Survey of 50 randomly selected subgrantees whose federal reporting form indicated that they are making special efforts to reach and serve women from historically underserved communities. Details of these methods can be found in the Appendix.

Topics/Tags: | Cities and Neighborhoods | Crime/Justice | Families and Parenting | Race/Ethnicity/Gender

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