January-February 2011

Helping hands across Texas

Suzanne McDaniel

TDCAA Victim Services Director in Austin

Best wishes for the new year! Since the last issue of this journal, we have hosted both the Key Personnel and Victim Assistance Coordinator Conference and the Elected Prosecutor Seminar with a focus on victim assistance. It was wonderful to reconnect with old friends as well as to meet new ones. I am awed by the interest from prosecutors, coordinators, and key personnel in improving victim services and to help their colleagues throughout Texas. I was delighted, for example, to hear Mark Yarbrough, the County and District Attorney in Lamb County, credit his VAC and TDCAA Victim Services Board Member Laney Dickey with keeping their office running and implementing victim rights. It is this kind of teamwork where everyone is involved and valued that shines as an example for all.

Also exciting is the willingness of offices to share solutions and resources with others. Thank you to El Paso, Bell, and Atascosa Counties for providing their materials as examples for our membership. Thank you also to Jaime Esparza, the District Attorney in El Paso County, and his staff for mentoring other offices on the El Paso Family Violence Initiative. Bee and Wood Counties have adapted portions of the program for their communities, and I hope will provide us with an article on how they did it (hint, hint) to inspire other small jurisdictions to make similar changes.

Professional Victim ­Assistance Coordinator (PVAC) Recognition

The VAC Recognition program is designed to recognize professionalism in prosecutor-based victim assistance and acknowledge a minimum standard of training in the field. Applicants must provide victim assistance through a prosecutor’s office and be or become a member of TDCAA.

Applicants must have either three years of experience providing direct victim services for a prosecutor’s office or five years of experience in the victim services field, one of which has to be providing prosecutor-based victim assistance. Applicants must show that they have already received 45 total hours of training in victim services (which is equivalent to the number of hours in the National Victim Assistance Academy program created by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime). Training must include at least one workshop on the following topics:

  • prosecutor victim assistance coordinator duties under Chapter 56 of the Code of Criminal Procedure;
  • the rules and application process for Crime Victims’ Compensation;
  • the impact of crime on victims and survivors; and
  • crisis intervention and support counseling.

Five professional references are required from individuals not related to the applicant. One of the letters must be from the elected prosecutor in the jurisdiction where the applicant has been employed, and at least one of the letters must be from someone at a local victim services agency who has worked with the applicant for a year or longer. The remaining three letters can be from other victim services agencies, victims, law enforcement representatives, assistant prosecutors, or other criminal justice professionals who have knowledge of the applicant’s skills and abilities in victim services.

Detailed requirements and the application may be found on the TDCAA website, below, as an attachment. Those approved will receive recognition at the Annual Criminal and Civil Law Update in September.

Victim assistance grants

Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWAA) funding opportunities are posted on the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division website, www.gov-ernor.state.tx.us/cjd. VOCA applications will be posted in January 2011 and due in March.

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) also offers grant funding for victim assistance programs and positions in prosecutor’s offices. This cycle, it is adding $2 million in funding to the Victim Assistance Coordinator/Liaison category. The OAG’s funding applications will be posted in February or March 2011, and the 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.

2011 National Crime Victims Rights Week Resources    

This year’s observance will be April 10–16, and the theme is “Reshaping the Future, Honoring the Past.” All those interested must register to receive a complimentary copy of the Resource Guide and poster, as well as notifications on the electronic availability of the Resource Guide and details about the annual prelude events. The resource guide has everything from sample press releases, proclamations, and speeches to suggested activities and graphics. Please sign up at http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/ ncvrw.

As Cyndi Jahn, Victim Services Board Chair, shared with us at in her rave-reviewed El Paso workshop, Victim Rights Week is a unique opportunity for your office to honor victims of crime and provide victim rights awareness for the public. It can be as simple as asking your commissioners or state representatives to proclaim Victim Rights Week in your community or as elaborate as Bexar County’s week-long observance. Please send us your activities and photos so we can print them in this journal.

Victim assistance training online

The Office for Victims of Crime; Training and Technical Assistance Center is offering free, online basic training at www.ovcttac.gov/views/ TrainingMaterials/dspOnline_VAT Online.cfm

The seven-course modules cover:

  • goals and how to navigate through the online training;
  • basic issues, such as ethics and cultural competency, that provide the foundation for victim services;
  • characteristics, prevalence, and other information about 14 types of crimes;
  • core skills needed by victim service providers, such as establishing rapport, problem-solving, and crisis intervention;
  • information about specific topics and skills needed to provide services to specific populations;
  • information about and skills needed to collaborate with various types of systems, such as community-, criminal justice-, faith-, and reservation-based systems; and
  • challenging situations faced by victim service providers.

New and improved CVC database

My thanks to Dwight Peavy at the Office of the Attorney General for the following information on the updated Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) database.

The Office of the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Services Division (CVSD) provides access to our Crime Victims Compensation (CVC) Claims Management System as an information source for claim and bill status.

Victim advocacy groups, law enforcement agencies, prosecutor offices, and medical and service providers who assist and serve Texas crime victims are eligible to become users. Users may access the CVC Claims Management System via a web browser (Internet Explorer, for instance, or Mozilla Firefox) to view basic claim and billing information.

CVC continually strives to enhance the ease of access to and the amount of information available via this online system, and we are proud to announce that we have enhanced our current system, which is also called remote user access. System users with appropriate security clearance can now view additional medical bill information for each claim.

For example, if you are a medical service provider, you will now be able to see all bills related to your Tax ID number and their statuses instead of just the paid bills. Victim advocates and law enforcement agencies can view all bills related to a claim and their statuses instead of the just the paid bills.

We are also now displaying the total paid to date on each claim on the bill details screens. Furthermore, we have added a screen for law enforcement and prosecutor offices related to the restitution process.

To get an ID and password, call 800/983-9933, ext. 61738 or e-mail [email protected]. Training and support are both available for users.

Apply for National ­Victim Assistance Academy

The National Victim Assistance Academy (NVAA) sponsored by the Office for Victims of Crime is accepting applications for the Academy held March 14-18 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The application deadline is February 25, and scholarships are available. Following a formal evaluation in 2003, the NVAA was redesigned to better address the skills and abilities required of victim service professionals. The revised NVAA was launched in 2007 and includes three distinct tracks tailored to the needs of each participant:

  • Track 1, Foundation-Level Training, is general training for those who have less than three years of experience serving crime victims. Its goal is to provide entry-level professionals and volunteers with skills, knowledge, and resources to serve crime victims and survivors effectively.
  • Track 2, Professional Skill-Building Institute, is designed to address several timely topics that confront victim service providers on a daily basis and that have direct impact on service providers’ work with victims. The training is targeted for those who have been in the victim services field for at least two years.
  • Track 3, Leadership Institute, consists of courses on management issues, such as leadership and strategic planning. Track 3 is intended to help victim service administrators and leaders develop and refine the skills and abilities to manage and sustain their victim service programs.

For more information,please access the NVAA website at www .ovcttac.gov/nvaa/index.cfm.

Thank you all for all your ideas, questions, and solutions last year. Let’s keep ’em coming in 2011.