WWU to Sponsor Victim Services Academy

More than 90 people involved in crime victim assistance are registered for the Missouri Victim Services Academy, to be held at the Lake of the Ozarks in late August.

The Missouri Victim Services Academy is a state-wide, three-day victim advocate educational program designed and implemented by victim service professionals from across the state.

The academy is sponsored by the Missouri Crime Victim Services Unit (MoCVSU) of Department of Public Safety, in partnership with William Woods University department of social work and the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services.

“The academy has been a work in progress for many years and has been a successful collaboration involving many agencies that provide direct services, educational institutions and the social work profession,” said Elizabeth Wilson, director of the social work department at William Woods.

Through grant funding provided by the Office for Victims of Crime, the first Missouri State Victim Assistance Academy was held in 2004 at the University of Missouri, where George Garner, WWU associate professor of social work; Wilson, and other affiliated professionals served as core faculty members.

Over the years, several of core faculty members continued to meet to discuss ways to further the valuable experience provided by the State Victim Assistance Academy model.

“The first academy was so successful that we wanted to provide the opportunity for all victim advocates in the state to attend an affordable and comprehensive training,” Wilson said.

Funding for the academy is the largest barrier faced by the organizing agencies, Wilson explained. This goal was achieved as the result of the work of the Missouri Department of Public Safety, Crime Victims Services Unit Advisory Committee.

Through discussions initiated by Marc Peoples, director of the Missouri Crime Victims Services Unit, and Kathy Tofall, Missouri’s representative to the National Victim Assistance Academy, the advisory committee recognized the need for core education for crime victim advocates.

An opportunity to partner with Missouri Office of Prosecution Services at the state prosecutor’s annual fall conference presented a viable option to fill this need. Establishing an academic partnership with the William Woods department of social work and advocate leaders across the state, the Missouri Victim Services Academy was reborn.

“The Missouri Office of Prosecution Services has always offered a victim advocate training track at that conference,” said Wilson, “and this year we are providing the academy as the advocate training track, which has increased the ability to reach a larger number of advocates. Our hope is that this becomes an annual service.”

With curriculum support from the National Victim Assistance Academy, the Missouri Victim Services Academy is designed to provide crime victim advocates with core concepts of victim assistance and the application of skills crucial to their positions.

Advocates who have been in the field for three years or less are the target audience for the academy. Senior social work students from William Woods will have the opportunity to attend the training at the department’s expense.

“I believe in providing as many professional experiences and exposure for our students while they are in our program,” Wilson said. “The students will have the chance to hear professionals from many disciplines and learn from real cases from around Missouri. The students will also be assisting in the curriculum evaluation component of the academy.”

The three-day program begins Aug. 27 with Mary Young, Missouri NOVA (National Organization for Victim Assistance) crisis response state coordinator, and Wilson discussing victim trauma.

The second day will start with a panel demonstration on victims’ rights and the criminal justice system, moderated by Kathy Tofall of the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Victim Services Unit.

Panelists include Dwight Scroggins, Buchanan County prosecuting attorney; Jennifer Miller, Kansas City Police Department law enforcement victim advocate; Amy Romesburg, Stone County prosecutor-based victim advocate, and Jessica Decker, St. Louis City Family Court juvenile crime victim advocate.

The afternoon features several speakers:

• Marc Peoples, director of the Missouri Crime Victims Services Unit, will speak on notification and technology

• Kay Crockett and Donna Hudson, Missouri Department of Corrections Victims Services, will describe their services

• Susan Sudduth, director of Missouri Crime Victims’ Compensation, will speak on compensation and restitution

• Decker will provide an overview victim advocacy in the juvenile court

The final day will include presentations on direct services and advocacy. Tofall will speak on best practices in case management, and Leigh Voltmer, executive director of the Shelter in Columbia, will discuss communication and listening skills.

In the afternoon, Laura Zahnd of the Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Young, Voltmer, Wilson and Tofall will facilitate a discussion of parallel justice, collaboration and resources to meet the victim’s needs outside the criminal justice system.

The final session will feature Wilson speaking about the effects of job stress—burnout/care for the caregiver.

“Oftentimes professionals in the helping field will begin to take on similar stress reactions as the people that they are helping,” Wilson said. “To ensure longevity in the field, it is critical to learn self care techniques, network with other professionals, and prevent burnout to continue to provide the best service to the victims of crime in Missouri.”

For more information, contact Wilson at elizabeth.wilson@williamwoods.edu or (573) 592-4271.