We are the epitome of our ancestors. They are right here; I sit at the table with them regularly. Whatever I do, I have to do it the right way because they’re watching me, guiding me.
Juanita Espinosa, Turtle Mountain Ojibway
Five phases of program development
Pre-program – Developing the idea, figuring out the need for the program, securing resources.
• What is transitional housing?
• Does the community need one?
• How will we do it?
• Create our vision?
Year 1 – Now that we received funding, what do we do? We are often filled with excitement about the possibilities.
• Put in place policies;
• Refine initial program design;
• Start serving survivors.
Year 1 to 3 – We have put in place the core program components that are culturally centered.
• Recovery from violence;
• Housing advocacy;
• Economic advocacy.
Year 2 to 5 – We built our community partnerships to strengthen our resources and supports for survivors. Our program components have expanded to provide a more responsive range of options.
Ongoing – We are engaged in regular reflection and action. Looking at how things are going and making adjustments to the needs of our program on all levels, ensuring we are serving everyone in meaningful life-changing ways.
Programs grow out of ideas and if the ideas are strong enough, meaning they are responsive to the community needs, they generally will be forward moving with the right conditions, and the path and pace of the movement can be somewhat predictable. There are factors that influence where a program is at in its life cycle. These include the age of the program, changes and emerging trends within the field of work, the program’s size, its social environment, and its primary leader’s characteristics. (Simon & Donovan, 2002)
While the program is generally forward moving, its path and growth can be somewhat predictable. The speed it grows is unique to the program and its environmental circumstances. A program in one community cannot directly be compared to another due to these unique circumstances. One program can move faster or slower in its growth cycle. At each stage, there are opportunities for the organization to regress or progress. (Simon & Donovan, 2002) There are distinct phases within the program’s life, but the boundaries between the stages aren’t always obvious.
At each phase of development, significant events take place. The occurrence of significant, and sometimes critical, events (such as the hiring of the advocate, the loss of tribal leadership support, or a reduction in funding) within each phase can increase progress or hinder progress.
Let’s walk through phases of program development.
This is the pre-program phase. At this time, within the community or an organization, talk begins to evolve into an idea. The idea starts to take form and can be visualized by one or a few people. It is at this time that the idea gets defined and shaped. It is important to develop a clear understanding of what transitional housing is.
An important part of this stage is figuring out what the needs are within the community for the Transitional Housing Program. This can be examined by looking at some of the information your domestic violence and/or sexual assault program may already have. Data such as numbers of survivors that request housing, survivors that are returning to their abuser because of a lack of housing, availability of housing in your area, kinds of needs survivors are asking for that are not able to be met in a short period of time, and so forth.
Additionally, you will want to also develop your vision for the program.
Once the foundation of the idea is formulated, it will be time to identify resources to support the transitional housing program. This will include funding for the program but also as important are the community resources available to support the program such as access to landlords and housing, social service resources, behavioral health resources, cultural supports than can be offered, and economic and financial resources to name a few.
- What does tribally specific transitional housing look like for your tribal community?
Often times, at this stage, a new program looks to neighboring programs doing similar work to adapt their policies and practices. This is a great idea because, of course, why reinvent the wheel. However, it’s important to recognize that the program or programs you might be looking at are not an exact fit, they may be a mature program with years of experience, they might be a larger program, they might be a non-native program, or they might be guided by different funding sources that have different requirements or rules, and serving a different population in need.
Borrow their ideas but be sure to take the time to consider how their ideas fit within what you want to do. This is a critical time to ask your team, “how does this fit within our vision and values as a tribal/native community?”
Now that you got funded, what comes next? This may be a time filled with excitement mixed with a little bit of apprehension. Securing funding is a significant milestone in building your program, and now you have resources to move to the next step. This is the time to put in place the programmatic structure. This includes providing more detail to your program vision and framework.
You will need to describe the following:
- Expand on your initial program design;
- Describe the culturally specific support services you are providing to transitional housing participants.
- Include the four core areas: Safety; Recovery from Violence; Housing Advocacy; and Economic Advocacy.
The program has been operating for a bit of time and you have in place all four core program components: Safety; Recovery from Violence; Housing Advocacy; and Economic Advocacy.
At this phase, the core of the program is stabilized, and plans are emerging on how to enhance the range of options in each area.
One program began its Financial Advocacy by providing education about financial literacy, budgeting and working with the jobs program getting assistance with developing resumes and job searches for participants. When they stabilized that part of the program and staff capacity had increased, they began working with the tribal college to help participants access college level classes and programs to build more opportunities for employability.
Staffing is stable and has been expanding both their knowledge and skills to expand the core program components. The community is knowledgeable of the kinds of programming available through your transitional housing program.
After the program had been in operation for 3 years, one of the advocates had a vision about creating a space for traditional healing options, a place where survivors could come together. And an Indigenous Healing Garden was created to hold education groups, cultural activities and gatherings, and have a space grow traditional medicines. This would not have been possible when we started but it was time, and it came together.
At this phase our program has developed some maturity; we’ve built the critical partnerships that are true collaborations. Early on, we had relationships where we learned about each of the community resources and was able to make good referrals. Now our program has evolved beyond just making referrals to working closely with the community partners that are critical to supporting the program. The collaborations provide important work, expanding the services and resources available to program participants enhancing the quality of the program and providing a more seamless response, thereby taking advantage of the critical time survivors have to move from surviving to meaningfully thriving in their lives.
Finding housing for participants is less challenging as the time invested in developing landlord relationships is paying off and able to provide housing that will truly turn into long-term permanent housing for the survivors.
The program recognizes the practice of regular reflection and action. Planning a program has many unknowns. It is important to take time periodically to look at the work to date, examine the direction the program is headed and give thought to whether this is where the program wanted to be, or is headed in the desired direction. Looking at how things are going and making adjustments to the needs of our program on all levels, ensuring we are serving everyone in meaningful life-changing ways.
Revisioning is a time when we look back at what we have been doing, as we ask ourselves critical questions. We do this while still being forward facing, wanting to make adjustments to ensure we are headed in the right direction we want to go.
There are distinct phases of program development, but the boundaries between them aren’t always obvious. (Simon & Donovan, 2002) While it is predominantly forward moving, it is not always linear.
Staff leadership and staff skill is critical to the success of the program. At times advocates get caught up with priorities around working with survivors and do not want to take the time to expand their knowledge base and skill set. Staff development is an important part of moving from basic programming to enhanced programming. Moving forward cannot happen without the intentional investment in staff capacity to do the work.
The Program Coordinator role is also critical. The Program Coordinator must hold the vision and work to develop the staff to work in ways that reflect the vision and values of your program. This helps to ensure the program is providing the kinds of advocacy, responses, and supports that are provided in a way that is reflective of the program values.
Indigenous leaders practiced strategic humility. They understood that the first step to power involves denying it for yourself, subordinating the self-centered urge for personal gain to the collective benefit. In doing so, a leader becomes a magnet for power, attracting support from those searching for a means to express their own energy and resolve. Their untapped, often substantial potential brings momentum and cohesion to the movement. (Murphy, 1993)
- A leader must practice strategic humility, subordinating egocentricity to become a magnet for attracting and investing power.
- A leader must share power to increase power, investing power to achieve a collective capacity greater than the sum of the individuals on whom it is bestowed.
- A leader must prepare for their people for power by leading through example, never asking someone to do what you yourself won’t do.
- A leader must express power through culture, maintaining the legitimacy to use and direct power as needed. (Murphy, 1993)
Confidentiality and privilege are key to keeping battered women safe and represent the cornerstones of all successful advocacy and shelter programs.
At its most basic level, confidentiality equals safety. In order to maximize and safeguard confidentiality, Advocates must be familiar with a variety of laws, policies and requirements. (Field; Kunce; Goelman; Hart; Lee; Murphy; Tolhurst; Valente, 2007)
Here is a shorthand way to distinguish between privacy, confidentiality and privilege (Alicia L. Aiken, 2015):
- Privacy is a personal choice whether to disclose information,
- Confidentiality is a responsibility to protect someone else’s choices about disclosure, and
- Privilege is a legal rule prohibiting the disclosure of private information against someone’s will.
Sharing information about a specific (survivor) threatens their autonomy and may threaten their safety, as well as their confidence in the domestic violence Advocate and program (Field, et al., 2007).
Advocates must remember that the information belongs to the survivor and, subject to limited exceptions specified by law; they must consent before their information can be shared with anyone else (Field, et al., 2007).
- What exactly do I promise when I promise confidentiality?
- Do I actually promise that what the client tells me will be known to no one but myself?
Agency Policies should spell out clearly who does and does not have access to various kinds of information. Those having limited access must receive formal training on the principles of confidentiality and related personnel policies.
Email. Most are unencrypted and thus are the online equivalent to a postcard written in pencil. As each email travels to its intended destination, it traverses an untold number of servers and can be intercepted and viewed by virtually anyone with the proper technological know-how.
Document Storage. Record storage is governed by a variety of laws to protect information and to hold that information for a period of time. Records should be stored in a secured location with limited access by personnel; there should be short-term and long-term storage protocols; electronic information storage protocols are needed to ensure and limit technology access. And finally, disposal of confidential documents should be disposed in a secure and timely manner.
Staff exchange of information
If I don’t hear it, I can’t leak it
Staff working within the same organization does NOT have a right to information by virtue of working at the same organization/department. There should be rigid boundaries between programs.
Often we learn that a tribal program is housed within behavioral health or human services departments and the department director wants to engage. In case management of domestic violence survivors with other programs such as Indian Child Welfare Act staff or Alcohol and Drug because there might be some mutual benefit for the programs to bring their resources together for this survivor.
Information can NOT be shared unless there has been an informed signed, specific, time limited release of information provided by the survivor. In that case, only the information designated in that release can be shared.
Additionally, within the same program, there are still limits to information sharing. Staff have a need to know certain information to perform their job may have limited access to the information needed, but no more. If a member of staff is seeking information from another member of staff, then it should only be sought from someone with legitimate access to that information and with the authority to disclose
This project is supported by Grant No. 2015-TA-AX-K069 awarded by the Office on Violence Against Women, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in any of these webinars are those of the author(s)/presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women.