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November-December 2010

First-ever Victim Services Board elected

Suzanne McDaniel

TDCAA Victim Services Director in Austin

History was made at TDCAA’s Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update with the election of the new Victim Services Board. The election was the culmination of the association’s long-range strategic plan to transition the Victim Assistance Coordinators Committee to the new board with regional representation. Thanks go to the TDCAA board and staff along with the Victim Assistance Coordinator Committee who gave their time and effort.

    The TDCAA board president appointed Cyndi Jahn, Director of Victim Services for the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, as the new VS Board Chair. Cyndi has served that office for 20 years and holds the designation of Certified Legal Assistant and Professional Victim Assistance Coordinator. She manages and coordinates 41 victim advocates within the DA’s Office, the largest victim service program of any prosecuting office in the state of Texas.

    The board representatives, who are pictured at right, are as follows:

  • Laney Dickey, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the County & District Attorney’s Office in Lamb County, was elected to represent Region 1. Laney has been the office’s VAC for 18 years and was certified by TDCAA as a Professional Victim Assistance Coordinator in 2003.
  • Frank Zubia, the Director of the Victim Assistance Program for the District Attorney’s Office in El Paso County, is the new member from Region 2. Frank has been a victim advocate for 11 years and has completed training at the National Victim Assistance Academy’s Foundation and Leadership Seminars.
  • Kathy Dixon is the new Region 3 representative. She has served as a victim assistance coordinator for the District Attorney’s Office in Burnet, Llano, Blanco, and San Saba Counties since 2001.
  • Christina Segovia, Victim Assistance Coordinator for the County and District Attorney’s Office in Bee, Live Oak, and McMullen Counties, is the Region 4 member. She has served victims there for nine years.
  • Nancy Holmes Ghigna, the Director of Victim Assistance in the District Attorney’s Office in Montgomery County, represents Region 5. Nancy has been with the office since 1994 and became director in 2005. She was certified by TDCAA as a Professional Victim Assistance Coordinator and completed training at the National Victim Assistance Academy. She is also a member of the Texas Crime Victims’ Institute Advisory Council.
  • Jalayne Robinson, the Victim Assistance Coordinator in the Criminal District Attorney’s Office in Wood County, is the Region 6 member. She has worked for that office since 1991.
  • Blanca Burciaga, LMSW, is the Director of the Victim Assistance Unit of the Criminal District Attorney’s office in Tarrant County. She was appointed as the Region 7 representative. She has been with the district attorney’s office for more than seven years.
  • Jill (Hargrove) McAfee, Director of Victim Services in the District Attorney’s Office in Bell County is the Region 8 member. She has been with the office since 1986 and served on the TDCAA Victim Assistance Committee.

    The new board represents a wealth of expertise and demographic diversity that will be utilized in developing standards and curricula, planning and providing training, and serving as mentors and points of contact for their regions. Congratulations and welcome! We look forward to a great start.

Children’s Advocacy ­Centers family advocates

This issue of the Prosecutor features an article about the new position of family advocate in Texas Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs). CACs’ multidisciplinary approach offers a perfect example of team building or “playing well together” and is one that I often cite as a model for victim services in general. I was pleased to be a part of their training and learned a lot from the advocates in my workshop.

    They asked the hard questions: How does the family advocate work with the VAC? How do they avoid conflicts or duplicating roles? How can they ensure that the victims and their families receive the least traumatic transit from outcry through the medical and legal systems? This article is a result of that training and illustrates how it works for one county and can work for others.

DIVO

Some of you have asked questions about a program called Defense-Initiated Victim Outreach or DIVO. Trainings have been conducted across the state and many of you have been contacted to ask for your participation. If this program is confusing to you, you can only imagine what it must be like for a victim to receive a letter from a defense attorney explaining that an “advocate” will soon contact them.

    TDCAA director Rob Kepple wrote about DIVO in a previous issue of The Prosecutor; access it online at www.tdcaa.com/node/ 4810. In this issue Pam Alexander in Lubbock shares one victim’s actual experience in dealing with DIVO and the subsequent trauma. Please let us know of your experiences; e-mail me at mcdaniel ( a t )tdcaa ( d o t ) com.

Victim assistance grants

Victim of Crime Act (VOCA) funding opportunities will be posted on the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division website, www.governor .state.tx.us/cjd, in December 2010.  VOCA applications will be posted in January 2011 and due in March.

    The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) also offers grant funding opportunities for victim assistance programs and positions in prosecutor’s offices. The OAG funding applications will be posted early next spring (February or March 2011). The application deadline for the funding period of September 2011 to August 2012 will be sometime in the summer of 2011.  The OAG grants website is www.oag .state.tx.us/victims/grants.shtml.

Victim assistance checklist

Quick reference checklists detailing statutory duties were mailed to all prosecutor coordinators at the end of August. The laminated checklist is also in included in the Prosecutor Trial Notebook, which is available for purchase at www.tdcaa.com/pub-lications. The checklist was developed in response to inquiries from newly elected prosecutors needing a summary of their statutory duties.

TDCAA training reports

As this issue goes to press, we have just come back from the TDCAA Annual Criminal & Civil Law Update in South Padre. Not only was the first TDCAA Victim Services Board elected, but the plenary sessions (attended by a record crowd) featured two speakers on issues directly involving victim assistance. Friday morning’s workshop and roundtable brought us together to discuss how to meet needs with dwindling resources. The TDCAA parent board also voted to provide financial assistance to staff attending the November Key Personnel & Victim Assistance Coordinator Seminar in El Paso. It was good to see so many of you there, and I am grateful for your comments and feedback.

    This year’s Elected Prosecutor Conference, December 1–3 in Austin, will feature a workshop on victim services training for small offices. We have gotten many inquiries from prosecutors in smaller jurisdictions who want to know what they can do to improve their response to victims. Please let me know if you have ideas that you would like to share.