WorkFirst HandBook

Resolving Issues

6.5 Family Violence

Legal References:

The Family Violence section of the WorkFirst handbook includes:

6.5.1 What is family violence?

Family violence is a general phrase that refers to a variety of abusive behaviors that can occur within a family structure.

Family violence includes any or all of the following;

The focus of this section is on what is traditionally known as domestic violence. Domestic violence is physical, sexual, psychological, and/or emotional abuse of an intimate partner in which one partner uses a variety of tactics to gain and maintain power and control over the other partner.

6.5.2 Why would individuals need help with family violence?

Family violence victims may need help because family violence may prevent a person from gaining or maintaining employment and becoming self-sufficient. In family violence situations, some factors affecting participation in activities are:

  1. The physical and emotional effects of past or current abuse may hinder job performance or work search.
  2. The abuser may try to sabotage the victim's education, training and employment to keep her/him dependent upon the abuser.
  3. The abuser may threaten the safety of the victim, the victim's children or family members.
  4. The demands of court intervention, criminal prosecution, safety planning, physical and mental recovery, or counseling may interfere with work, education or training.
  5. The individual may need to move or disrupt work to escape an unsafe living arrangement.

One of the missions of DSHS is to help individuals to live in a safe environment. Individuals subjected to, or at risk of, family violence need help to achieve a healthy and safe environment.

In order for individuals to achieve self-sufficiency, it is essential for the individual to have a safe environment for themselves and their children, and to be free from physical or emotional harm or stalking.

6.5.3 What does the Family Violence Option amendment mean for WorkFirst cash assistance recipients?

The Family Violence Option (FVO) recognizes the importance of not just screening individuals, but also actually doing something when a person indicates that she/he is a victim of domestic violence. This gives the state the flexibility to help these individuals safely participate in activities leading to employment and self-sufficiency.

Washington State law maintains that DSHS must:

  1. Time limits for WorkFirst recipients, for as long as necessary (after sixty months of receiving TANF/SFA and participating as required in their family violence plan);
  2. See section 3.7.1, Time Limit Extension Decisions, for more information about how family violence affects WorkFirst time limit extensions.
  3. Cooperation with the Division of Child Support (DCS).
6.5.4 What are the responsibilities of DSHS staff?

DSHS staff must give all victims of family violence an ongoing opportunity to disclose circumstances of family violence and to engage in activities that give them more control over their circumstances. If it appears that the person may have a cognitive disability or is unable to read and/or understand what is being asked, determine if Equal Access (EA) plan is needed and/or has been provided.

DSHS staff must actively take steps to refer and/or place individuals into activities to help resolve or cope with the issues and to create a safe environment for the family. Every reasonable attempt to help the individual feel comfortable in talking about the situation must be made.

Referrals or activities for family violence may include:

6.5.5 Is screening for family violence required?

If it is safe for the individual, screening for family violence is required:

Document all family violence screenings in eJAS under the Family Violence Note. If appropriate, offer to refer the individual for additional services described above.

6.5.6 Why is it important to separate couples when screening?

When screening for family violence, safety is of paramount importance.

Never ask the individual about family violence when the other partner is present as this may endanger the individual. Some successful methods for separating couples to safely complete the screening include having an office protocol that recommends completion of all IRPs separately, or the scheduling of an appointment with a family planning worker to separate the couple during their visit to the office.

Review your policy regarding collaboration with local resources and partners. Local resources may be able to offer training or guidance, to refine protocols for screening couples.

6.5.7 What information should DSHS staff provide?

Every adult, minor teen parent or emancipated teen must be given general information both verbally and in writing about:

Written information must include at a minimum the "Open the Door" brochure DSHS 22-265(x) available in English and Spanish. The WFPS/WFSSS must document in eJAS when this brochure has been given or mailed to the client.

Remind the individual that he/she has an opportunity to disclose issues at any point in time.

Distributing information about family violence
Safety Plan Pocket Guide (DSHS 22-276) Place these guides in areas where individuals can help themselves to the information (like restrooms, front counters or on your desk)
TANF Family Violence Information brochure "Open the Door" (DSHS 22-265(X)) Ask each individual to read this brochure at the initial eligibility interview and at least yearly thereafter. Then, provide a verbal summary of the information in the flyer.
Legal Issues in Domestic Violence (DSHS 22-235) This packet provides an overview of legal issues related to domestic violence and informs survivors of various steps they might consider if seeking legal protection and remedies, including reporting to the police, prosecuting, getting court orders, handling divorce, custody plans and child support, settling community property and debts, addressing landlord/tenant disputes, and a variety of other legal-related topics.
Family Violence Technical Assistance for all staff working with WorkFirst individuals 360-586-1022 Ext 102 or 104 Monday-Friday 9:00am-5:00pm
6.5.8 What is the Family Violence Screening/Evaluation?

The following is the opening statement and the screening/evaluation questions in eJAS for family violence. Screening is only required for adults and emancipated minors.

If you suspect a minor is abused or neglected, you are required to report the circumstances to Child Protective Services (CPS).

eJAS has family violence advisory script found in the screening/evaluation AND the Comprehensive Evaluation (CE) Foundation that reads as follows:

"This is a series of questions we ask everyone about family violence. We know that violence in the home can be difficult to talk about.

Do you understand and agree to proceed with this screening?

Click cancel if this is not a good time to talk about this issue."

If the worker clicks "Cancel", a Family Violence Screening note type will be generated and the text will read: "Not safe to screen for family violence at this time".

The screening/evaluation for family violence contains the above information in a pop-up screen. This pop-up is not available in the CE. The questions were incorporated as an opening in the Family Violence foundation screening section.

6.5.9 How does the Family Violence Screening Questions Screen read in eJAS?
  1. Does your current partner have angry outbursts or tantrums that frighten you?
  2. Does your current partner threaten you or are you fearful of a current or past partner for any other reason?
  3. If no to the above, skip to #4.

    If yes to either of the above,

  4. Do you need immediate help to deal with someone who is hurting you or your children or with someone who is stalking you?
  5. Currently or in the past:

  6. Has a partner ever stopped you from going places like school or work, or seeing people, or stalked you when you have been out?
  7. Has a partner, or family or household member harmed or threatened to harm you, your relatives, your pets, or property?
  8. Has your partner ever threatened or harmed your child(ren)?
  9. Are you currently enrolled in the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP)?
  10. About protection or restraining orders, have you ever thought about, tried to get, or actually gotten a protection order?
  11. If you do not currently live with the father(s) of your child(ren), does or will collecting child support put you or your child in danger?"

If yes to any questions above, let the person know that there are specialists on staff who can help with safety issues as well as tailoring plans within WorkFirst to help avoid danger and promote success in the program.

If the individual answers "no" to all questions, document that the individual reports no issues at this time. When "No, not an issue" is checked and no comments are entered, a note type will be generated and the text will read, " Client screened for family violence. Client has indicated no issues at this time ".

If the individual answers "yes" to any of the questions, DSHS staff checks "Yes, is an issue" and selects any of these boxes, a pop up window will appear that reads: "Family Violence is an issue. Please explain to the client that services are available to address Family violence. Offer a referral to a Social Service Specialist, Family Violence Advocate or to local Family Violence resources." This pop up window is a reminder to refer the individual to a WFSSS or a family violence advocate/counselor who can help with safety issues or can provide more information or services.

6.5.10 What happens when an individual discloses family violence to a WorkFirst partner?

When WorkFirst partners at Employment Security, Community Trade and Economic Development, or the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges are informed by the individual that family violence is an issue, the worker involved must immediately:

6.5.11 What is "Good Cause" for not cooperating with the Division of Child Support?

Good Cause allows an individual to be excused from cooperating with Division of Child Support (DCS). The individual must claim to have good cause for not cooperating with DCS. An individual may have good cause when she/he verifies that cooperating with DCS would result in serious physical or emotional harm to herself/himself or the child in her/his care. This stops DCS from taking any action to establish an order or to collect child support, which may jeopardize the individuals' or family's safety.

The individual must claim and the department must approve or deny the good cause.

If an individual indicates that Family Violence is an issue, consider whether or not Good Cause for non-cooperation with DCS should be established.

  1. DSHS staff will explain that individuals have the right to claim good cause for not cooperating with DCS.
  2. An individual applying or receiving benefits will complete DSHS 18-344 form “Your Options for Child Support Collection” to claim good cause.
  3. DSHS staff will complete the steps needed to make a good cause determination.
  4. The individual must be notified of the good cause determination.
For more information, refer to the Good Cause chapter in the Social Service Handbook and the Child Support chapter in the E-Z Manual .

 

6.5.12 What is the Address Confidentiality Program?

The Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) helps WorkFirst individuals attempting to escape from actual or threatened domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, or stalking, to interact with state and local government agencies without disclosing their address or to establish new addresses in order to prevent their assailant or probable assailants from finding them. The Office of the Secretary of State governs this program. The program allows individuals to use an address designated by the secretary of state as a substitute mailing address.

A trained advocate must screen individuals before they can be accepted into the ACP. The advocate will determine if the ACP is right for the individual's circumstances and will enroll the individual in the program. For a current list of advocates trained in your community to sign people up for the ACP, go to http://www.sos.wa.gov/acp/Default.aspx and click on the map for your location.

The ACP assists crime victims (specifically victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking, and stalking) who have relocated to avoid further abuse. ACP helps families keep their home, work and/or school addresses secret by providing a substitute mailing address. DSHS staff must accept this substitute address and enter it into all records; never record the actual street address for work or home of an ACP participant in any automated system. If someone is participating in the ACP, do not require them to disclose their actual work or home address.

By itself, the ACP won't keep a person safe. To be really valuable, using the ACP substitute address must be part of a more complete and long-term safety plan.

If the individual does not have hers/his authorization card, government agencies may call the ACP office (360-753-2972) to verify that the individual is an active ACP participant.

6.5.13 Individual Responsibility Plans

IRPs are tailored to each individual. DSHS staff has the ability to create IRPs with activities designed to help a victim deal with the issues that result from family violence.

6.5.14 How do we code family violence parents in eJAS?

In any situation where the individual is participating in any family violence activities, it is necessary to reflect the information in the IRP. Correct coding of family violence is necessary because of federal reporting requirements regarding all individuals on TANF especially for those receiving benefits for more than 60 months.

The following are common examples of family violence situations and the correct way to code and document in eJAS:

When an individual is experiencing family violence, use the following eJAS codes:

NOTE: The open component code in eJAS must reflect the actual number of hours per week the individual is participating in a specific activity.

Special circumstance: XF as stand-alone activity. When an individual is resolving an immediate situation to escape from an abuser or she/he is unable to participate in any other WorkFirst activity(ies) besides XF, the WFPS/WFSSS in collaboration with the domestic violence advocate should determine the actual amount of hours per week that the person will be participating and code those hours in eJAS. The individual does not have to add any other activities, as the XF will be considered the only activity that the individual is able to do. In this case, the amount of hours does not have to reflect 32-40 hours per week. The case needs to reflect the actual amount of hours that the individual is participating.

6.5.15 What family violence services are federally countable?

As part of the Deficit Reduction Act, the XF countable core activities include:

Housing and legal issue resolution are not included as federally countable core activities within family violence services. Therefore, the hours for these activities must be reported separately from those mentioned above in order to report the correct federally countable participation. The WorkFirst Participation Verification form must indicate the hours spent working with a parent in family violence countable core activities, listing housing and/or legal services separately.

Since our State cannot report housing and legal issue resolution hours as part of XF countable core activities, the State is not going to get credit for those hours in a federal audit. Even though these activities are not federally countable, housing and legal issue resolution services are still s tate approved XF activities.

Example:

A parent's Individual Responsibility Plan (IRP) and component screens shows that the parent is scheduled for 30 hours of XF activities. When the WFPS or WFSSS receives the WorkFirst Participation Verification form, it indicates 5 hours of counseling, 10 hours of legal services, and 15 hours for securing stable housing. The only hours that can be entered and reported in eJAS actual hours are the 5 hours of counseling.

6.5.16 How are family violence services verified and reported?

In collaboration with family violence advocacy providers, DSHS will gather documentation that supports parent's individual needs for WorkFirst family violence services. Even when the collocated advocates are contracted services, DSHS will treat these providers as non-contracted providers.

Staff will send providers the WorkFirst Participation Verification form for each WorkFirst participant noted in eJAS as receiving family violence services. The family violence provider will complete, sign and return these forms to the referring WFPS/WFSSS by the fifth day of each month. The WFPS/WFSSS will enter the countable hours indicated on the form in eJAS actual hours by the 15th day of each month for the previous month's activity.

6.5.17 Family Violence - Step-by-step guide

When an individual answers "yes" to any of the family violence screening questions in the screening/evaluation:

The WFPS/WFSSS must:

  1. Offer to refer the individual to appropriate family violence services, following CSO guidelines.
  2. Defer job search or other work activities when participation would:
    1. Make it more difficult for the individual to escape family violence; or,
    2. Penalize a person who has been or is at risk of becoming a victim of family violence, or who is at further risk of abuse. Use XF code on the component code screen in eJAS.
  3. Develop an IRP to meet the individual's family violence issues by addressing whether she/he:
    1. Does not want or need any special program deferrals,
    2. Needs supportive services, but no deferrals from work requirements;
    3. Needs referrals to local resources and/or deferrals to gain stability before actively seeking employment; or,
    4. Include specialized activities and/or work related activities as agreed.
  4. If an individual is enrolled in the ACP, use the ACP address: PO Box 257, Olympia, WA 98507 for work and home addresses in the eJAS screens. Do not use the actual business or employer name in non-special record screening notes e.g., employment
  5. Provide support services, as necessary.
  6. Review local CSO policies and/or refer to the Good Cause chapter in the Social Services Handbook if Good Cause for non-cooperation with DCS is necessary.
  7. Good documentation is extremely important in these situations. It is important to document family violence information in the family violence note type in eJAS to protect the safety of individuals.

  8. Give the parent or send the provider a copy of the eJAS WorkFirst Participation Verification form as family violence providers are treated as non-contracted service providers. This form will be used by the provider to verify and report the parent's actual hours of participation in domestic violence services.
    • The family violence provider will complete, sign and return these forms to the referring WFPS/WFSSS by the fifth day of each month, and
    • The WFPS/WFSSS will enter the countable core hours indicated on the form in eJAS actual hours by the 15th day of each month for the previous month's activity.
6.5.18 Family Violence and Sanctions

Victims of Family Violence may not be able to participate in job search or work activities. As a result, it is necessary to make every effort not to unfairly penalize individuals by imposing sanctions. If family violence is a significant part of the reason an individual has been unable to follow through with the activities in their IRP, do not impose a sanction, rather renegotiate the IRP to include activities that move the individual forward safely. Documentation in eJAS to support your decision is critical.

6.5.19 Family Violence and Sanctions - Step-by-Step
Before you sanction an individual:
  1. Screen or re-screen the individual for family violence issues during the good cause appointment.
  2. If no family violence is identified, proceed with sanction process.
  3. If family violence is identified, consult with a WFSSS or family violence advocate (Case Staffing) to determine if the violence is preventing the individual from participating in job search or work activities.
    1. If family violence is not currently impacting the individuals ability to do job search or work activities, clearly document this in the family violence notes and continue the sanction process.
    2. If family violence is preventing the individual from job search or work activities,
      1. Enter proper eJAS coding:
        1. RO to refer to the WFSSS, or family violence advocate
        2. XF in eJAS if the individual is already engage with family violence advocate
      2. Do not proceed with the sanction process.
      3. Update the 'special record' IRP in eJAS with appropriate activities that will move the individual forward safely.
        1. If the individual has disclosed family violence, but it is determined that whatever abuse is currently taking place, or historically occurred, is not the reason the individual is not following through with their IRP, clearly document in the notes what has lead you to this conclusion. Documentation of the family violence issues must be indicated in the Family Violence category in eJAS.
  4. If an individual is already in Sanction or CSNP when family violence is disclosed or when family violence begins, review the circumstances and follow steps as described in c) i - iii above to determine whether or not to remove the sanction or CSNP.

Good documentation is extremely important in these situations. It is important to document family violence information in the family violence note type in eJAS to protect the safety of individuals.

Resources

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