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Promising Practices for Serving Crime Victims With Disabilities Toolkit
Publication Date: October 2008

Needs Assessments: Listening to the Community

Focus Groups

Focus groups are useful assessment tools because they can help balance the need to keep the questions short and easy to respond to with the intent to learn as much about the issues as possible. People with disabilities, patrol officers, detectives, family violence task force members, prosecutors, disability service providers, and crime victim service providers participated in discussion forums during the grant project.

RCCCM held three “conversation groups” with people with disabilities about their experiences with personal safety and crime victimization. The organization gathered information about the community services these individuals received, the problems they encountered in accessing services, and their recommendations for how services could be improved.

See RCCCM’s telephone and interview screening process for conversation groups, SACASA’s consumer focus group and group screening protocols, and Ulster County’s focus group questions and ground rules for examples of instruments and processes used during the project to collect data from multiple subjects. The Chadwick Center’s information disclosure also provides a sample consent form used with focus group activities.

Lesson Learned: Follow the road if you want to find the roadblock.

Safe Passage coalition members used a mapping exercise to trace the path of a hypothetical crime victim with a disability through the local social service and criminal justice systems. This allowed them to explore each system’s strengths and gaps in service, and to quickly identify areas where better collaboration would improve the chances for successful intervention.

Several subgrantees contracted with other agencies to conduct their community needs assessments. In Illinois, the Carbondale Police Department contracted with Southern Illinois University’s Center for Rural Health and Social Service Development. In Pennsylvania, NOVA contracted with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University. Teaming with university personnel gave these projects access to professionals with expertise in rehabilitation, strategic planning, research, and evaluation, which helped broaden their own efforts.

Whatever method you choose, make sure that your assessment instruments and processes are designed to—

  • Encourage and facilitate the participation of people with disabilities.

  • Reflect the community’s location, demographics, and culture.

  • Find the strengths and understand the weaknesses in existing law enforcement and crisis support systems.

  • Reveal disability-related barriers and gaps in services.

  • Identify additional resources and partnerships that can improve services to crime victims with disabilities.

Also, be sure to secure the proper consent from those participating in your data collection efforts. See the Chadwick Center’s informed consent (research), RCCCM’s informed consent (confidentiality), and Ulster County’s participation consent forms for examples of forms used during the project.

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