Grantees that offered community-based services for partners also found significant difficulty recruiting and retaining participants, in addition to challenges coordinating community service delivery when participants were scattered across large geographic areas.
Finding the staff time to provide such services and motivating and sustaining partner involvement in them were the most significant barriers, especially for programs in which corrections-based programming for the men was the primary focus.
"I'm not that interested in talking with you"
Although community-based activities were theoretically more convenient for most participants than facility-based activities, some of the same logistical barriers (such as transportation problems, lack of child care, conflicting work schedules, and other commitments) presented similar challenges to ongoing participation. Program staff indicated that the lack of participation might also have been caused by reduced motivation since activities offered outside of the facilities did not allow women an opportunity to see their incarcerated partners and, thus, might have been less appealing in the context of many competing demands.
"You can't help me get a job, and that's the thing I need most"
Staff noted that some partners were unable to take full advantage of community supports offered by MFS-IP programs. Many women who enrolled in programming had criminal histories or other employment-related issues that prevented them from being eligible for or benefiting from services such as job readiness or job placement assistance. In these circumstances, there was less incentive for partners to continue participating.
"I'm sorry you drove 3 hours to meet with me, but I can't talk now"
Several grantees provided case management visits to partners in the community, typically meeting women in their homes or in a public location in their neighborhoods. For one grantee, the service area for eligible partners included a 77,000-square-mile state, plus 100 miles in all directions around the state border. However, even grantees serving smaller geographic areas found that the time associated with traveling to individual meetings with participants was substantial, particularly because it was difficult to predict no-shows and other disruptions.
|Program Solution: Urgency of Participants' Employment Needs
In the absence of community job placement resources for women with criminal histories, grantee staff became more involved with providing job assistance, including identifying "felon-friendly" employers.
Program Solution: Case Management No-Shows
Case managers at several sites relied more heavily on telephone contact and less on in-person meetings to maintain communication with partners in the community. Several grantees are also exploring support group activities for partners. Moving away from a one-on-one service model may make it easier for grantees to provide community-based services.