Family Protection Services Board
Issue Area 1: The Family Protection Services Board Needs to Be More Directly Involved in the Oversight of Domestic Violence Programs
The Family Protection Services Board was created by the state Domestic Violence Act of 1989. The Board is within the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) which provides the Board with assistance. The purpose of the Board is to license domestic violence shelters, disburse funds to shelters, establish operating standards for shelters, and regulate them to ensure compliance with the standards.
In general, the Board functions well with some exceptions. The Board has established standards to ensure the safety, health and confidentiality of clients of domestic violence shelters. However, in reviewing each shelter's compliance with the standards, the Board has, until recently, relied entirely on reviews conducted by other shelter directors (peer reviews). Although peer reviews are required by law, the Board is also required to conduct annual performance reviews. The Board had combined these two requirements within the peer reviews, until this year when the Board implemented a policy to have Board members present during peer reviews. Consequently, except for this year, no one representing the Board had made on-site evaluations of these programs. Therefore, the Board had lacked firsthand knowledge of programs it is required to oversee directly. Although the peer reviews provide some measure of monitoring compliance, relying completely on peer reviews reduces accountability and may result in a less critical evaluation compared to if the Board was directly involved.
Part of the problem is that the Board has been without staff for nearly four years. The Board attempted to hire staff, but it expressed difficulties in hiring staff through DHHR. DHHR has indicated that it intends to hire staff within the next few weeks. Nevertheless, Board members have only recently made attempts to visits these shelters in the absence of staff. The Board implemented a new policy this year, which was initiated last year, that would have Board members present at some of the peer reviews.
Other findings of the report are:
The Legislative Auditor makes the following recommendations:
The Board should hire staff to assist in making compliance reviews and assist in studying domestic violence issues. The Board should also consider having Board members assist staff by making periodic annual compliance reviews.
The Board should be listed in the government section of each county telephone book in which a shelter is located, in addition to the West Virginia Blue Book and the State Capitol Directory to give the public better access to the Board. In addition, the Board should consider being listed under a name that will be more indicative of its authority over domestic violence shelters.
The Board and the DHHR should consider making payments to shelters through electronic fund transfers to expedite receipt once this becomes available.