Screening and Assessment in TANF\Welfare-to-Work: Ten Important Questions TANF Agencies and Their Partners Should Consider. What tools are used to identify victims of domestic violence?


Many states are developing tools and other methods to screen for domestic violence, perhaps in part due to prevalence estimates regarding domestic violence and the adoption of the Family Violence Option.66 However, our review did not identify any non state-developed tools intended to screen or assess for the existence of a domestic violence situation in a TANF family.

For example, Louisiana uses a one-page document to notify welfare recipients of their right to claim "good cause" due to domestic violence. In claiming good cause, TANF recipients not only disclose their domestic violence situation but can then receive an exemption from work requirements. Filling out the form is voluntary and confidential. The form also gives examples of abuse and tells the client to ask the case manager for more information about services.

Montana requires clients to fill out a multi-barrier tool (described earlier) and if the results of this screen are positive, they are asked to complete a more detailed tool - the Domestic Violence Screening Questionnaire. This tool was developed by the state's Domestic Violence Coalition for use in TANF offices and focuses specifically on domestic violence. If a welfare client answers 'yes' to one or more questions on this specialized tool, they are referred to a DVC counselor for appropriate services.

Oregon's system of identifying domestic violence is quite extensive and Oregon was called a "model state" by one expert. Oregon has a comprehensive system including several tools that utilize different approaches to screen and assess welfare clients for domestic violence issues - three are profiled here.67 Domestic violence is discussed several times throughout the application process and each of the tools has a different purpose and is used at a different point in the process. There is a Reference Card for the caseworkers to use with brief information about how and where to screen a client, safety questions, the referral services available, and behavioral clues to observe. An Interview Questions tool provides caseworkers with suggested questions to ask at each stage of a conversation regarding how to: establish trust, broach the subject, identify patterns of abuse, assess the level of risk to the children, and establish the woman's history of seeking help. Finally, an optional Safety Assessment was designed to make a general determination about the safety of the client and her children. It provides caseworkers with suggested questions meant to be asked in the office when the abuser is not around.

Domestic violence experts emphasized the importance of the environment in which screening is conducted.

Domestic violence experts interviewed did not recommend any tools for use with TANF clients but emphasized that the environment in which screening is done is very important. One expert said that the environment in which domestic violence issues are addressed should be a safe environment where clients are informed about what happens if they decide to disclose domestic violence. Caseworkers, in turn, need to know what to do if a client confides that they are a victim of domestic violence.

66  For additional information on state approaches to identifying and addressing domestic violence, see Burt, Martha, Janine M. Zweig and Kathryn Schlichter. Strategies for Addressing the Needs of Domestic Violence Victims within the TANF Program. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, June 2000.

67  Virginia is working to publish a collection of screening tools including Oregon's. See State of Virginia, Department of Human Services. Compendium of Screening Tools (Draft), undated.

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