I chose to write a report about the YWCA Pierce County, located on 405 Broadway St, Tacoma Washington. The YWCA or Young Women’s Christian Association is one of the oldest and largest women’s organization in the nation, serving over 2 million women, and their families at more than 1,300 locations across the United States. The original Christian perspective is still strong in many of the national associations, but some have changed their focus to be more of a social and community based program. The YWCA Pierce County is a community leader and forerunner in domestic violence for over a century now. Established in 1906, the YWCA is has steadily expanded and enhanced a comprehensive menu of domestic violence service provision, offering clients real tools to implement change in their own lives. Their mission statement is to transform lives through safety, healing and empowerment. This is an organization that is dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women. The YWCA Pierce County’s vision is to create a safe, just and equitable community and they do this through education and outreach by promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for clients from all races and walks of life. Their comprehensive Domestic Violence services that highlights intervention and prevention includes 24 hour emergency assistance (intervention hotlines), free legal services (with protection orders, as well as other criminal and civil law), immigration and safety planning, parenting plans, emergency shelter, transitional housing, case management, therapeutic services, advocacy, support groups, food, clothing and diapers, transportation, teen dating violence prevention, full interpretive services and more. There is such a great concern with the problem of domestic violence within the community as a whole.
The legal definition for domestic violence as defined by the RCW 10.99 (Revised Code of Washington) is ‘crimes committed by one family member or household member against another.’ Here are the grim statistics: One in 4 women will experience DV during her lifetime. Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults. Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men. Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence. Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner. The domestic violence related offenses rates for Pierce County and Tacoma are among the highest in the State. More troubling is the fact that the rate of DV fatalities in Pierce County far exceeds comparable counties, and it is estimated that around 10, 000 households are affected by domestic violence in any given year. The definition of a DV fatality refers to a death that arises from an abuser’s efforts to assert power and control over an intimate partner. These include all homicides in which the victim was a former or current partner of the person responsible for the homicide(s) of people other than the intimate partner that occurred in the context of intimate person violence or in the midst of a perpetrator’s attempt to kill an intimate partner.
The YWCA, Pierce County serves a diverse client population. In the 2012-2013 annual report, the YWCA, Pierce County reported working with over 6,000 plus clients in some capacity and experiencing 5,473 crisis hotline calls. Providers reported from these calls, there is greater representation of clients from populations of color with the highest numbers from the African American and Hispanic communities. Additionally, the YWCA states that a higher number of clients in any given DV related program (e.g. prevention, shelter residents, etc.) are non-Caucasian. On average, clients from minority groups have limited English proficiency and some are undocumented individuals and for a few programs working in the Hispanic communities, the majority of these clients fit these characteristics. Some providers report a growing number in different populations. A number of providers state that there is an increase in the number of Latina clients served, as well as individuals with language barriers. There is also an indication of the emergence of newer ethnic populations such as Middle Eastern and East African individuals in the client population.
Specific programs tend to work with some specific segments of the population. For example, the Korean Women’s Association tends to work with a high proportion of Asian Women such as Korean, Vietnamese and Cambodian clients, while organizations such as Tacoma Community House and Centro Latino deal with a larger Hispanic population. On average, it is reported that The YWCA Pierce County also has a percentage of clients from military families. The YWCA has partnered with JBLM (Joint base Lewis-McCord) to provide assistance to meet the needs for our military both on and off base. The YWCA, Pierce County is the first organization in the county and state to also provide services that include the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/ questioning) community. At the YWCA, no client is ever turned away. If the YWCA is unable to provide a client with a service that may be required, the organization will do their very best to provide referrals to better meet the needs of the client or individual who is calling in. Below is a table that illustrates the services provided and the demographics of clients that are served. This data is derived from the 2012-13 Annual Report.
Beginning in 2010, the YWCA Pierce County offered shelter that included private kitchens and restrooms to clients and their children. The shelter also begin to accept male clients in 2012.The shelter caters to safety, privacy, dignity and basic needs of clients for no more than 90 days. During this time in shelter, clients are able to utilize individual case management, counseling and education, children’s services, support groups and a 24 hour on-site advocacy. Having a shelter that addresses such comprehensive needs enable clients to build a foundation for lives that are void of violence. What sets the YWCA shelters apart from most communal ones is that the Indi dual apartments provide clients and their children private areas to heal, reflect and grow. Because of their pet friendly policy, the YWCA pierce County is also one of the few shelters in the country that is recognized by the American Humane Association.
The 24-hour Crisis Hotline offers clients the ability to safety plan. Loved ones and friends who may be concerned for DV victims and are looking for solutions will also be provided with resources to help. Following initial screening and paperwork, the individual meets immediately with a trained advocate, who performs a needs assessment to determine which services the clients require and need. Services are client driven, which means only what the individual indicates that they are interested in. The most common immediate needs are (1) applying for protection orders and (2) shelter/housing. Subsequently, a needs and danger assessment are performed during the time that the individual is receiving services. It is imperative to understand a little about the trajectory of services that clients seek from the YWCA. Clients may be referred from a variety of sources (i.e. law enforcement, friends, family, online searches, medical offices, mental health or substance abuse counselors, court referrals, CPS, etc.).
The YWCA Pierce County resource center offers community members drop-in, crisis intervention that is based on site as well as referral services. Clients who call-in or walk in are able to receive assistance with referrals to programs that are available at the YWCA as well as other community resources. Clients who are victims of domestic violence are able to call the business line for free legal representation and/or advocacy. Women and their children who are seeking safety and self-reliance are given free assistance with protection orders, dissolution of marriage, parenting plans, child support, custody issues, parentage action, immigration and safety planning. There is also full interpretive services available to non-speakers of the English Language. Another notable exception about the YWCA, is besides legal advocates, this organization has a dedicated staff attorney available to provide representation in civil matters.
The YWCA provides individual counseling to both adult clients and their children. This service is also made available to shelter resident, clients participating in other YWCA DV programs, as well as the general community. Weekly facilitated groups are offered to provide a means of healing and therapy for clients who are wanting to deal and overcome the abuse and trauma they have experienced. Participants are educated about the dynamics of healthy relationships and how to develop and rebuild self-esteem. Support groups occur at the same time as children’s groups to prevent childcare issues to become a possible barrier.
Since relocating and expanding the shelter in 2010, the YWCA serves children throughout Pierce Country, rather than just clients from the shelter. The Children’s program equips children with tools to promote healthy relationships. Children receive food, clothing, group therapy and are taught safety planning. They are also able to participate in special events and field trips and these robust based activities are planned specifically according to the different age groups. YWCA’S purpose here is to assist children who have been subjected to violence and trauma to be able to develop healthy minds and bodies and give them a chance at a stable childhood which would transition into adulthood.
When clients and their children escape violent and abusive relationships, the biggest issues and complications faced are sudden homelessness. Family Permanency Project Housing is a long term housing program that offers families affordable housing while being supported by individual case management. Client who participate in this program are able to set and work towards goals that are specific to their individual family needs.
It is estimated that violence occurs in 1 out of 5 teen relationships. The Teen Dating Violence Prevention curriculum aims to educate high school and middle school youth about the issues of power and control that could lead to abuse in relationships. The curriculum that is provided in schools around Pierce County educates youth on warning signs, safety tips and available community resources for participants.
The YWCA, like most non-profit organizations derives its effectiveness through a large number of community volunteers that serve clients in a myriad of ways. These individuals who give of their resources (time, donations, money, and talent) are helping to change lives through their selfless giving. The organization partners with other agencies to provide a more comprehensive level of service to meet the needs of clients. Some of their community partners include the Tacoma Community House, Korean Women’s Association, United Way, Crystal Judson Family Center, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Exodus Housing and Sexual Assault Center of Pierce County, among others. There is a variety of cultural competence needed to serve a diverse population of clients that either call or walk in to the YWCA.
Because these individuals are coming from different cultural backgrounds, they may face economic struggles, have gender identity struggles and issues, are dealing with discrimination, stress and trauma, or any other issues from the spectrum of human services conditions, the daily practice of using culturally centered communication skills are critical to making effective interaction and assistance possible. Cultural minded helpers in any given situation will attend to the demeanor and other aspects of culture, including paying close attention to their own verbal and non- and verbal communication and being very sensitive to the needs of the clients that they interact with.
There are clear challenges that emerge in working with clients who have difficulty speaking and understanding English, particularly in helping these individuals navigate the legal system and getting them connected to appropriate support resources. While some agency advocates can help with basic translation/interpretation concerns for victims in need, many comment on the additional complexity of working with these individuals, even when they share the same language. There is also the belief among providers of the need to address these barriers even at the broader community level. One sentiment is that the work with non- English English speaking client, even with an interpreter present can take more time and it is more intensive. Here it is very important to proceed through a series of steps with these individuals by being patient, non-judgmental, building trust and rapport with those from different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities. Another personal competency that should be addressed is the ability to manage your own personal biases especially in dealing with clients who may have a completely different belief, lifestyle or sexual orientation. Because the YWCA caters to the LGBTQ community, it is very important to be particularly sensitive to this community who have experienced a great deal of discrimination, prejudices and even violent crimes because of their orientation.
For the pat week, I was fortunate to be able to attend the spring 2014 Domestic Violence Victims Services Training at the YWCA, Pierce Country. This training enabled me to get a better perspective on the domestic violence issues that is plaguing the community. I learned so much about professionalism, communication, cultural competencies, and the needs of clients as well as the organization as a whole. I was deeply impressed. One of the things that really hit me was that the Programs at the YWCA have been specifically catered to be culturally competent because of such a diverse population of clients that come through their doors every day. The staff there truly seem to care about the clients that they interact with. They take their commitment to ending domestic violence and empowering clients very seriously.
The YWCA does not practice the hierarchical management system. The CEO is very caring and interacts with the staff at a very personal level. This is a dynamic group of professionals and individuals who are dedicated, possess a lot of empathy, they are conscientious, genuine and have a synergistic energy. Because most agencies will experience burn out at one time or another, it is very important to practice good self-care. The YWCA Pierce Country has a work culture within their agency that emphasizes the importance of self-care, well-being that trranslagtes positively to how they interact and take care of their clients.
As I mentioned, I learned so much and developed a great deal of respect for the Director and Education manager who presented some of the classes and training material. The training manager who is also in charge of community outreach was such an inspiration to me. She has taught me that if you do not have a deeper understanding of the barriers that clients are facing, then you are not able to meet their needs in the best way possible. She goes on to say that we cannot go out into the community to provide services or training in social justice if we are not able to first examine our own motives, beliefs and biases that exist within ourselves. I hope to be able to complete my internship at the YWCA, Pierce County and perhaps accept a position in the future with this wonderful organization. I believe they have a made a deep and positive impact on my life.