The Police Social Worker Program (hereafter, PSW Program) is one of several programs operated as part of the National Program for the Prevention and Treatment of Domestic Violence (hereafter, National Program). The PSW Program is currently active in 51 police stations and violence prevention and treatment centers countrywide. The program was initiated following the understanding of the importance of forming initial contact with men and women arriving in police stations in the context of domestic violence incidents (hereafter, clients), whether due to a complaint by the victim or due to an interrogation of the offender. The duration of intervention in the PSW Program is brief and may involve a single phone call or several meetings with a social worker at the police station.
The objectives of the PSW Program are fivefold. First, to provide comprehensive and in-depth response to adults involved in domestic violence arriving at police stations. Second, to intervene in a time of crisis, including preliminary threat evaluation of clients referred by the police. Third, to reinforce the work interfaces between the police station and prevention and treatment services in the community, under the responsibility of the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs. Fourth, to establish and strengthen the treatment continuum for the clients and ensure their integration in treatment settings. Five, to increase the number of clients. The PSW’s job is to provide relevant information, reduce tensions and offer an appropriate treatment by referring and mediating between the clients and available social services in the municipal welfare division or violence prevention and treatment centers.
The Outcomes Team at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute was called upon to:
- Help the National Program staff in developing tools that would enable ongoing monitoring of (a) the characteristics, needs, previous interventions, and strengths and resources of the clients in the PSW Program; and (b) the PSW Program’s outputs and outcomes. These in turn will be entered into a computerized system for continuous measurements of other short-term programs under the National Program.
- Conduct a measurement pilot to evaluate the adequacy of the tools developed for continuous measurement, prior to their implementation.
Two tools were developed: an online survey for PSWs, which includes questions on the clients’ characteristics and needs; and an online self-report survey for clients, which includes questions on the outcomes of the intervention and its perceived quality.
The pilot was conducted in February-April 2021 and included only domestic violence victims. An online survey was distributed to 40 PSWs, of whom 25 responded (62.5%). The online self-report survey for clients was completed by 45 suspected victims selected by the PSWs.
Finally, a focus group was held with ten PSWs who had taken part in the pilot to assess the adequacy of the tools for continuous measurement, their reception by the PSWs and clients, barriers to completing the survey by the clients, and other issues.
The pilot mapped clients’ characteristics and needs. Most were Jewish women with children at a low, medium or high level of threat (based on the employees’ evaluation or a previous threat assessment). They reported mainly emotional-mental injury, harassment and partner’s control over their lives. They also experienced additional difficulties that could affect the level of domestic violence, including financial difficulties, conflicts in the extended family, and perceived loneliness and absence of support systems. About half of the clients had previously turned to the police following domestic violence issues, and about a third had turned to other sources for help and support.
It was also found that the PSWs were able to identify strengths among the clients, and these were further found related to the degree to which the intervention outcomes were achieved. The PSWs also provided a variety of services, primarily providing information or referring the clients to community service; gathering information and assessing the situation; and providing supportive treatment (counselling, direct guidance, empathy, approval and conciliation). Most PSWs reported that the outcomes for the clients had been achieved, and that they went on to receive further treatment in the community. Most clients stated that they would turn to the PSW for future help if necessary.
Future Courses of Action
- The PSWs pointed to several barriers to completing the surveys, including low client trust in the “system” and the fear their information would reach undesirable people; low commitment to completing the surveys after a brief therapeutic process; inaccessibility to illiterate clients or those without access to online formats. In the next stages of the program, when characterizing a computer system for regular use, alternative ways must be found to collect the information from these clients.
- The tools developed are suitable for one-time measurement, but not for a continuous one, given that the PSWs’ main work is an aspect that is not addressed in the survey – reaching out to offenders and victims to ensure that they arrive in therapy. The absence of this aspect prevents clients from completing the survey. We therefore recommend optimizing the existing tool prior to implementing the computerized system. We suggest that a workgroup be formed to produce two options for filling out the questionnaire: a short one for an intervention focused exclusively on reaching out, and a longer, more in-depth option for the overall intervention effort.