The Board Functions Well with Some Exceptions


Performance Evaluation and Research Division

Building 1, Room W-314

State Capitol Complex


(304) 347-4890

June 1999

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, codified in Chapter 48, Article 2C, of the West Virginia Code, was created by the state Domestic Violence Act of 1989. The Board consists of five members and is organized under the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). The purpose of the Board is to license and regulate domestic violence shelters and programs to ensure quality services to victims of domestic violence. Currently, there are 13 domestic violence shelters licensed and regulated by the Board. Each shelter has outreach programs in surrounding counties. As required by law, the Board distributes the shelter's portion of Marriage and Divorce fees and a state appropriation to the shelters. In fiscal year 1998, over $857,000 was awarded to shelters. The primary duties of the Board are as follows:

Summary of the Issue

The Legislative Auditor evaluated the Board's effectiveness in carrying out these primary duties. In general, the Board functions well with some exceptions. For example:

However, the compliance reviews are conducted exclusively by directors of other domestic violence programs (Peer Reviews). Although peer reviews are required by statute, the Board is required by statute to conduct annual performance evaluations of each shelter. This requirement had been combined within the peer reviews until this year, with the result being that except for this year no one representing the Board had made on-site evaluations of these programs. While the peer reviews provide some measure of enforcement of the standards for shelters, the Board needs to gain firsthand knowledge of these programs and enhance the accountability of the reviews by being directly involved.

Furthermore, all of the regulated organizations have a shelter in one county and outreach offices providing services in surrounding counties. Outreach offices provide counseling, conduct community programs, and assist victims in filing Domestic Violence Petitions. The Board is required to have standards enforced on outreach programs as well. Standards for outreach programs are in the proposed stages, and outreach programs have not been formally evaluated by the Board. In addition, the Board has not studied domestic violence issues and reported the results to the Legislature, as required by statute. One reason for the lack of direct oversight is that the Board has been without staff for nearly four years.(1)

Increasing Trend of Domestic Violence

West Virginia, and the nation, has seen an increase in domestic violence cases. Conservative estimates show that every year, one million women suffer nonfatal domestic violence. Studies by the Commonwealth Fund Survey of Women's Health reported that 39% of U.S. women have been abused at some point in their life. A more frightening statistic is that while the overall murder rate in West Virginia has gradually dropped since 1991, the number of domestic-related murders continues to make up one-third of all murders.

As can be seen by Figure 1, State Police statistics have shown a steady increase in the domestic violence complaints over the last eight years. This is impart due to education regarding domestic violence, as well as changes in the law after the adoption of the Pro-Arrest law in July 1994. The shelters that have been licensed by the Board have used their facilities to educate women in domestic violence issues and make them more aware of their rights. In addition, the 13 licensed domestic protection shelters in West Virginia have seen increases in the number of people served, and the number of shelter nights provided to victims of domestic violence and their children (see Figure 2).(2)

The Board Should Become Directly Involved in Compliance Evaluations

According to ■48-2C-4 the Board is required to:

"Establish a system of peer review which will ensure the safety, well being and health of the clients of all shelters operating in the state."

"Evaluate annually each funded shelter to determine its compliance with the goals and objectives set out in its original application for funding or subsequent revisions."

The Board has established standards for domestic violence programs in its Legislative Rules (Title 191, Series 1). The standards are intended to ensure the safety, health, and confidentiality of families who receive temporary shelter. The Legislative Auditor found that the Board has established a system of peer reviews as required. The director of one shelter reviews the compliance of another. After the peer review is completed, the results are sent to the Board for its review. According to the Board's chairperson, the review of the peer evaluations equates to the required annual evaluations of each shelter's compliance with its stated goals and objectives.

Although the peer reviews provide the necessary enforcement of standards, until this year, the Board had relied completely on others to evaluate programs that the Board is required to directly oversee. As a result, the Board had no firsthand knowledge of these programs. By relying completely on peer reviews, the Board runs the risk of receiving sympathetic or less critical evaluations. Also, Board members may observe something of relevance that is not a question on the inspection form if they were on-site. There would be more accountability and possibly a more critical examination of domestic violence programs if someone from the Board were involved in annual inspections.(3)

The Legislative Auditor's Office surveyed each shelter. The Legislative Auditor found that 11 of the 13 shelters have not been visited by anyone from the Board. One comment made by a shelter director was that "The FPSB [should] be more involved." Appendix A shows a complete summary of the survey. Below are several responses to one of the questions asked(4):

Question: When was the last time someone from either the DHHR or the Board visited your shelter? Which agency were they from?

Response 1 "DHHR-Approximately 3 years ago?"

Response 2 "Pishner from DHHR- nearly 2 years ago."

Response 3 "Unknown."

One reason for the lack of direct involvement in the oversight of domestic violence programs is Board members have not made on-site evaluations. However, the lack of staff is also another reason. The Board's Legislative Rules (■191-1-2.3.i) states that:

"The board shall hire staff to complete the board's work as necessary. Funds will be allocated for this purpose from the five percent (5%) of funds allowed by law for the cost of administering provisions of that article."

Up to $25,000 of the Board's funds are allocated for the payment of administrative staff. Money not used for this purpose in a given fiscal year is distributed to the shelters with the following year's funds. Between 1989 and 1995, the Board contracted with the West Virginia Coalition Against Domestic Violence for administrative services. In 1995, the Board decided against renewing the Coalition's contract and has since been without administrative staff. Board minutes for August of 1995 show that plans were made to hire a staff person. In September of the same year, interviews were completed and the Board decided on a person. After this time, no further mention was made of staff and this person's name was not mentioned again. As part of DHHR, the Board must follow its hiring process for civil service jobs. The Board has expressed difficulties in hiring staff through DHHR.

Direct Involvement Also Needed in New Responsibilities

In the 1998 regular session, the Legislature added several additional duties to the Board. One of these requires the Board to regulate Intervention Programs for Perpetrators of domestic violence (Batterers programs). These programs work with perpetrators of domestic violence with the intent of reducing the recurrence of violence. The Board is required to license these programs, establish standards, and review compliance. The Board's chairperson has indicated that there are about 14 of these Batterers programs, none of which has been licensed by the Board yet.(5)

The proposed rules for Batterers programs show that the Board may approach these programs as it does the shelters, relying entirely on yearly peer reviews. The Board needs to be directly involved in the oversight of Batterers programs for the same reasons as mentioned above for shelters. Given the need for direct involvement and the additional responsibilities, it has become more important for the Board to hire staff.

The Board Distributes Funds Timely

According to WV Code ■48-2C-4(1), the Board must dispense 95% of the funds it collects from Marriage and Divorce fees and from state appropriated funds. The amount received from the marriage and divorce fees is established in statute (■48-1-24 and ■59-1-28a(b)(2). Table 1 shows the total amount of funds awarded by the Board.

Table 1

Fund Disbursements

Source Allocated

FY 1997


FY 1997


FY 1998


FY 1998

Marriage and Divorce Fees $438,524 $456,076 $428,315 $598,267
Appropriation $280,000 $278,001 $280,000 $262,001
Total $718,524 $734,077 $708,315 $857,769

The DHHR currently makes payments to the shelters on a quarterly basis. Directors of some shelters commented that several years ago funds were often distributed late. However, DHHR has since provided funds with no delays. At one time funds were distributed to the shelters by the Board of Investments electronically. DHHR attempted to have funds sent to shelters through electronic funds transfers (EFT) to provide shelters with funding quickly and directly into their checking accounts, instead of by check. However, as of this year, the Auditor of State is not adding new agency projects until a conversion from its old system to a new system is completed. This conversion is expected to be completed before the end of 1999. DHHR should provide for EFT once this becomes available.

The Board Is not Accessible to the Public

The Legislative Auditor attempted to locate the Board at the beginning of this audit. However, it is not listed in the Kanawha County phone book, the West Virginia Blue Book, or the State Capitol Directory. If clients of the shelters have complaints regarding safety issues, privacy, etc., and they do not want to complain to the director, the Board would be difficult to locate. Furthermore, even if the Board were more accessible, the name of the Board would not lead one to know that the Board regulates domestic violence shelters. The Board should consider being listed in the government section of the telephone book in every city where a shelter is located.

The Board Does Not Study Domestic Violence Issues

WV Code ■48-2c-4(f) requires the Board to study issues that are pertinent to family protection shelters, programs for domestic violence victims, and to report the results of these studies to the Governor and the Legislature. There is no evidence that this has been done, and the Chairperson of the Board has acknowledged this. The lack of staff and the lack of direct involvement in these programs is a cause for no studies being conducted.

Recommendation 1:

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.

Recommendation 2:

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.

Recommendation 3:

The Board and the DHHR should consider making payments to shelters through electronic fund transfers to expedite receipt once this becomes available.

1. A letter from the Secretary of the DHHR, dated June 3, 1999, indicates that the Board will be hiring staff within the next six weeks.

2. Total shelter nights increased sharply in 1998 primarily because of a new shelter established in Welch. This shelter allows longer stays for families, resulting in a larger number of shelter nights than other shelters.

3. The Board acknowledged the need for more direct involvement in the compliance review process back in 1998, at which time the Board planned to have Board members on-site during peer reviews. This plan was implemented earlier this year during this review.

4. Although some directors commented that no one from DHHR had visited their shelter within two or three years, DHHR records show that someone has been to each shelter within the last state fiscal year.

5. The Board's proposed rules for licensing Batterers programs were not passed during the 1999 Legislative session unintentionally. To rectify the mistake, the Board intends to file emergency rules.