Social Services Laws and Regulations related to Domestic Violence Services
The Domestic Violence Prevention Act was signed into law as Chapter 838 of the Laws of 1987. This legislation was enacted to enhance the delivery of services to victims of domestic violence and their families throughout New York State. Under Chapter 838, social services districts are mandated to offer and provide emergency shelter and services at a residential program for victims of domestic violence eligible for public assistance. It also directed the New York State Office of Children and Family Services formerly the Department of Social Services, to license residential programs for victims of domestic violence.
Chapter 838 provided important clarification regarding a variety of issues that had been problematic for shelters. The law enhanced consistency within local departments across the state.
- Disclosure: Chapter 838 clarified that a person need only disclose that he or she is a victim of domestic violence to receive or be eligible for related services, precluding the need for supporting documentation. Prior to this clarification, battered women were often asked to provide documentation which confirmed that they were battered, such as a medical or police report. However, many battered women do not have any documentation. The clarification in Chapter 838 ensured that all victims of domestic violence had access to services, whether or not formal documentation was available.
- Fiscal responsibility: There are several reasons why a victim of domestic violence may be sheltered outside his or her county of residence i.e., the local shelter may be full, the victim may have friends or family in another county and he or she may wish to relocate, or there may be a safety issue involved.
- When a victim is sheltered outside the county of residence, it is the social services district in the county of residence that pays the rate of reimbursement set by OCFS to the domestic violence program in the county in which the victim is being sheltered.
- Confidentiality: In order to maintain the safest atmosphere possible for victims of domestic violence, the street address of any residential program for victims of domestic violence shall be confidential and may be disclosed only to persons designated by the rules and regulations of the NYS Office of Children and Family Services. A victim may give the post office box or the office address of the program in which he or she is temporarily residing.
Confidentiality is a critical concern of residential programs for victims of domestic violence. It is important that shelters not disclose their actual locations to more than a minimum of community contacts since abusers may access that information through manipulation and pressure.
In 1991, the State enacted Chapter 53 (the Aid to Localities Budget) which broadened the State's commitment to provide services for victims of domestic violence. Effective January 1, 1992, Chapter 53 directed social services districts to offer and provide necessary and available emergency shelter and services, as well as non-residential services, to victims of domestic violence without regard to whether they are eligible for public assistance. Non-residential services programs for victims of domestic violence must have the ability to provide all of the following core services: information and referral, advocacy, counseling, community education and outreach services, and provide or arrange for hotline services. Chapter 53 also required the NYS Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS), formerly the Department of Social Services (DSS), to determine the per diem rates of reimbursement to domestic violence programs providing residential care to victims of domestic violence. These new rates became effective January 1, 1992.