«Evaluation of Three Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions: FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE Stephen M. Cox, Ph.D. Professor Pierre M. Rivolta, Ph.D. ...»
The core of the program curriculum focuses on socialization, in which the significance of cultural influences, gender roles, familial influences, and relationship roles as well as the effect of other institutions in shaping patterns of behavior are highlighted. Through role-play and fictional scenario illustrations, a variety of topics and related skills are covered. For instance, a series of sessions examine the effects of domestic violence on the victim and participants are taught skills such as developing empathy, compassion, and equality for their partner. Parenting skills are also incorporated into the lesson plans to help participants understand the harmful effects that domestic violence may have caused on their children.
The last component of EXPLORE is teaching communication skills to foster a more positive and non-violent atmosphere in the home. In addition, the program curriculum seeks to prepare participants for the possibility their intimate relationship/marriage may be over. In cases where children are involved, participants are strongly encouraged to craft a positive relationship with their former spouse/partner. Skills such as active listening, non-coercive, assertive communication, and implementing a cost-benefit analysis before acting are taught through more role-play and scenario dialogues. Lastly, stress management is discussed and a number of healthy relaxation techniques are presented. The program concludes with an overview of the cycle of violence and a discussion of how these negative concepts can be cognitively transformed into healthy, pro-social behaviors.
A more detailed description of the EXPLORE program is provided in Appendix B.
EVOLVE EVOLVE is a 26-week 52 session (2-hour sessions, twice a week) post-conviction program. It is an intensive cognitive behavioral intervention designed for high-risk family violence offenders (male only), which centers on victims and children, behavior change, interrelation and communication skill building, and responsible parenting/fatherhood. There is an option to extend the program for an additional 26 weeks with one session a week, at the discretion of the court. EVOLVE is currently available in four court locations (Bridgeport, New Haven, New London, and Waterbury).
This classroom-based educational program begins with orientation sessions (first 3 weeks, 1.5 hours a week), to establish group rules, gain familiarity with each other, and teach Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University fundamentals of non-violent, non-abusive behaviors, and promote acceptance of responsibility.
The purpose of the orientation is to lay the framework necessary for successful program outcomes. The remaining 23 weeks of the program include two conjoint modules: ongoing education and change group.
The ongoing education module provides men with the building blocks needed to live a non-violent and non-abusive life in their current and future intimate relationships. Topics include: what kind of man do I want to be; managing my feelings; the effects of violence on victims; communication and listening skills; fatherhood and domestic violence; sexuality, violence and aggression; aggressiveness, passiveness, and assertiveness; hot topics and money;
compromising about difficult issues. Sessions are devoted to core curriculum activities: brief lessons, exercises, discussions, role-plays, and short videos.
In the change group module, participants practice their newly acquired skills intensely and discuss how what they learned can be applied to their daily lives. Each lesson in the ongoing education module is paralleled with a lesson in the change group module in which the men review homework assigned in the ongoing education sessions.
In sum, EVOLVE utilizes a cognitive-behavioral therapeutic framework which conditions program participants during the “ongoing education” component and then initiates behavioral changes during the “change group.” Topics are presented using a variety of techniques, most notably, role-play and scenario usage. The role-plays and scenarios illustrate the most harmful and detrimental effects of domestic violence and emphasize healthy ways to resolve issues that may have otherwise resulted in domestic violence for this group of offenders.
A more detailed description of the EVOLVE program is provided in Appendix C.
Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University
This study evaluated the effects of the Judicial Branch’s court-mandated family violence interventions (FVEP, EXPLORE, and EVOLVE). More specifically, the legislative mandate outlined in Public Act 13-247 section 53(a), requested that an evaluation be conducted to “…assess the effectiveness of programs maintained by [CCSD] with respect to family violence...” Moreover, the law specified that “such assessment […] consider findings from the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative’s cost-benefit analysis model [to] determine whether any program changes may be implemented to improve the cost-effectiveness of such programs.” The following sections describe the research methodology used for this evaluation.
The principle aim of the study was to assess each program’s effectiveness in reducing recidivism and to calculate an “effect size” to be used in the Results First Initiative. Since the focus of the study was on program outcomes we did not seek to determine the extent to which
the three programs were implemented. The research questions used to study each program were:
What were the completion rates for each program and were there statistically significant differences between program completers and non-completers?
Was the one-year arrest rate for any new offense and family violence offenses of offenders who participated in each program statistically significantly different from those offenders who did not participate in the programs?
Were there measureable program effect sizes?
Data Collection Process
The evaluation of the family violence programs utilized official records with all data being collected from the Judicial Branch-CSSD’s Case Management Information System (CMIS) and Contractor Data Collection System (CDCS) along with the Connecticut Criminal History database.
The first step in the data collection process was to identify all family violence arrest cases from 2010 with accompanying charges. We initially selected the 2010 calendar year so that we would have an 18 to 24 month follow-up period and because the Judicial Branch’s CDCS became fully operational in 2010. Any data collected prior to 2010 would likely be missing a
substantial amount of family violence program information. From CMIS, we collected:
Demographic information (date of birth, gender, and race/ethnicity);
Family violence risk assessment scores from the Domestic Violence Screening Instrument (DVSI-R);
CSSD’s Family Services recommendation to the Court;
Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University Next, we matched these family violence cases to the Connecticut Criminal History
database (CCH) to collect accompanying charges and criminal history. CCH data consisted of:
Arrest date and offenses;
Arraignment date and offenses;
Type of disposition;
Sentence (incarceration days, probation days).
Third, we collected family violence program data from CDCS for all offenders arrested for a family violence offense in 2010. Program data were collected for all referrals to family
violence programs. These data consisted of:
Date of referral;
Program start date;
Program discharge date;
Reason for program discharge (successful completion, unsuccessful completion for violating program rules, unsuccessful completion for non-program reasons such as death, relocation, need for different type of program).
Summary of 2010 Family Violence Arrests
Data were collected on all arrests and subsequent charges for family violence offenses occurring in the calendar year 2010 (n=31,052). Following the collection of arrest records, we used program records to determine which offenders had been court-ordered and attended EVOLVE, EXPLORE, or the FVEP. We also used these data to draw our comparison groups.
Table 1 provides a summary of 2010 family violence arrests by race/ethnicity and age. It is important to point out that these are arrest incidents and not individual offenders, in that, some offenders were arrested multiple times for family violence offenses throughout the year.
For race/ethnicity, the majority of family violence offenders were White (48%), followed by African-American (27%) and Hispanic (21%). For gender, male offenders comprised the majority of family violence arrests (70%). Close to 70% of offenders were males across Whites (68%), African-Americans (73%), Hispanics (74%), and Asians (68%).
Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University Table 2 summarizes family violence arrests by offenders’ age and gender. The average age of male offenders was 32 compared to 34 years old for females. Offenders between the ages of 21 and 30 years old comprised 35% of all family violence arrests followed by offenders 31 to 40 years old (23%), offenders 41 to 50 years old (20%), offenders under 21 years old (13%), and offenders over 50 years old (9%).
Evaluation Design The gold standard in applied evaluation research is the multi-site randomized controlled clinical trial. However, the utilization of true experimental designs in social science research is hindered by several barriers—legal, ethical, and practical among others (see Singleton & Straits, 2005). Less rigorous methods include quasi-experiments (with or without comparison groups) and non-experiments. Because the current evaluation was performed ex-post facto and did not allow for random assignment of subjects to either treatment or control groups, we employed a quasi-experimental design with matched comparison groups. In this design, the treatment group (i.e., those individuals who participated in the program) was compared to a matched comparison group (i.e., eligible individuals who did not participate in the program).
This study was also designed using the Washington State Institute for Public Policy’s (2013) minimum standards of research rigor. These standards increase our confidence that outcomes caused by interventions were not due to unknown factors and can be attributed to the actual intervention. These standards consist of three primary criteria. First, evaluations must have a comparison group similar to the treatment group. Second, it had to include all program participants and not just those who completed the program. Studies that do not include program drop-outs can be biased since program drop-outs tend to be less motivated to succeed and are at a higher risk for recidivism. Third, rigorous studies should report effect sizes based on “intent to treat” (i.e., program participants).
To strengthen the quasi-experimental design, propensity score matching (PSM) was used to match comparison groups to the treatment groups.9 PSM is designed to control for selection In a true experiment, random assignment would be used to assign all eligible offenders to either the intervention under study or the traditional criminal justice option. This way, each offender would actually start with the same chance of success, and positive outcomes could be attributed to the program effectiveness, thereby preventing any Court-Mandated Family Violence Interventions Central Connecticut State University bias when assigning subjects to study groups in situations where random assignment prior to treatment is not available (see Stuart & Rubin, 2008; Thoemmes, 2012). PSM utilizes logistic regression of observed data and creates a measure—the propensity score—of the likelihood that a person would have received the treatment under consideration given the observed covariates (Stuart & Rubin, 2008). In contrast to traditional matching procedures that typically attempt to closely match treatment subjects to a comparison subjects’ pool on all covariates, 10 “propensity score matching matches on the scalar propensity score, which is the most important scalar summary of the covariates” (Stuart & Rubin, 2008, p. 159). As such, two individuals with the same propensity score, one treated and one not treated, can be thought of as being randomly assigned to their respective groups (Rosenbaum & Rubin, 1983).
The propensity score matching procedure utilized in this evaluation is outlined and explained in detail in each program outcome section. When successfully performed, PSM helps control for the influence of specified confounding variables.
Evaluation Outcome Measures Two outcome recidivism measures were used to calculate effect sizes for all three family violence programs. These were (1) any new criminal arrest and (2) any new family violence arrest within 12 months of discharge from a family violence program. For the comparison groups, these recidivism measures were collected for the 12-month period following their 2010 initial arrest.
Time Frame. We planned on having an 18 to 24 month follow-up time frame for program participants based on the assumption that most family violence offenders would be processed and referred to one of the three programs within one year of their initial arrest. Unfortunately, this assumption proved to be incorrect and we were forced to adjust our follow-up period to 12 months in order to have sufficient data for the evaluation. The actual processing of family violence cases and referrals to the programs took longer than we expected and were delayed in a
large percentage of the cases for numerous reasons. A few of the possible explanations were:
court continuances of the case, program no-shows causing additional referrals (program noshows could have occurred for several reasons and does not necessarily mean offenders simply refused to attend the programs), and court processing delays due to referrals for more extensive assessments prior to disposition.