Grantees partnered with statewide domestic violence and sexual assault coalitions, local domestic violence service agencies focused on providing services for victims and batterers, or both. Partnerships between MFS-IP grantees and their local domestic violence organizations often broke new ground, with domestic violence agency staff at several sites expressing early concerns about the idea of providing family strengthening services to justice-involved men and their families. Some planned partnerships never crystallized because this hurdle could not be overcome.
Among grantees that succeeded in establishing initial partnership agreements with domestic violence agencies, two challenges frequently arose. First, the screening procedures used by some agencies to identify elevated risk for domestic violence yielded fewer than anticipated referrals for services, which was a source of frustration and concern for domestic violence agencies. Second, domestic violence agencies that were paid by grantees to provide services (such as educational workshops) to MFS-IP staff or participants often experienced challenges related to their own lack of infrastructure for corrections-based service delivery and lack of familiarity with the protocols and constraints associated with providing programming in correctional facilities.
Despite these significant obstacles, grantees familiar with the domestic violence field were often able to navigate domestic violence partnerships successfully. To be successful, it was important for MFS-IP program staff to:
- Be willing to learn and speak the language of domestic violence organizations
- Anticipate and respond to their concerns around victim safety
- Build interpersonal trust with individual domestic violence service providers
In addition, involving domestic violence agency partners during the program planning stage proved crucial to securing their full buy-in and ongoing investment in the program. While having a partner’s early involvement in program design is considered ideal in many situations, it was truly crucial for partnerships requiring as much mutual education and trust-building as those between MFS-IP grantees and domestic violence organizations. Grantees with successful partnerships sought and incorporated the guidance of domestic violence agency partners in every aspect of program approach, including staff training requirements, program eligibility criteria, screening and recruitment procedures, and service delivery protocols.