In recent decades, the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) and the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) have spearheaded efforts to build, grow, and professionalize the victim service field. As a result, our nation’s service infrastructure for victims of crime has advanced immensely. Despite these advancements, efforts to demonstrate the impact and effectiveness of victim services have lagged. Grantee and subgrantee data currently collected by OVC and OVW demonstrate how hard programs are working, both in terms of the number of victims being served and the range of services offered. However, output measures are not enough. To continue to advance the field, victim service providers (VSPs) must move from measuring outputs to outcomes, from anecdote to evidence in demonstrating the impact of these programs on victims’ lives.
RTI and our partners, the Justice Research and Statistics Association and the Georgia Statistical Analysis Center are working to help drive the victim service field from a focus on effort to a focus on results and effectiveness through the creation of a standardized approach to measuring the outcomes and quality of services across the field. Given the breadth and diversity of the victim service field, this is no small undertaking.
Working with Practitioners and Building on Existing Work from Across the Victim Service Field
RTI and partners are building on existing work from across the field and working with two large teams of practitioners to develop a survey that VSPs can use to collect information from those they serve about the impact and quality of the services received. Outcome and satisfaction surveys are an essential tool for beginning to assess the effectiveness and quality of services, for justifying funding allocations and demonstrating responsible stewardship of funds, and for advocating for additional resources as necessary. Many VSPs currently administer outcome and/or satisfaction surveys to their clients, but there is considerable variability in the type, quality, and timing of questions asked and the methodology used to ask them. RTI’s Victim Outcome and Satisfaction Survey (VOSS) uses best practices in survey research and accounts for the fact that different types of service providers have different intended outcomes of services. For example, culturally specific providers may have different intended outcomes from legal-focused providers or those focused on medical or forensic services, and the outcomes must reflect this variation.
Adapting RTI’s Tangerine© Platform for Data Collection
In addition to developing a standardized survey instrument, RTI and partners are also developing a standardized methodology for survey administration and an open-source, freely available platform for collecting, viewing, analyzing, and exporting the data. RTI’s Tangerine© platform, which is used around the world for mobile assessments of students and educators, will be customized and adapted for VSP administration of the VOSS instrument. The platform is intuitive and easy to use, enables the secure collection and transmission of data, and the visual display of findings through a data dashboard.
Engaging in Extensive Testing to Ensure the Utility of the VOSS
Before the VOSS will be ready for use by VSPs, RTI and partners are engaging in extensive testing of the survey instrument, methodology, and platform. Cognitive interviews with survivors are essential for assessing respondent understanding of and ability to answer survey questions and ensuring that the measures are valid and reliable. Usability testing with VSPs ensures that the platform and methodology for identifying the appropriate outcome measures for that provider work as designed. Finally, a large-scale pilot test of the whole system will ensure that the survey and platform are functional and useful outside a controlled testing environment. An additional component of the pilot test is to assess whether training and education efforts around the platform effectively convince VSPs and staff of the utility of outcome data and the importance of giving survivors an opportunity to provide feedback on the services they received.
The Importance of the VOSS
In Vision 21: Transforming Victim Services, OVC articulated a vision of program evaluation supported by routine data collection on program performance using technology. This project will bring that vision to life. The availability of an extensively tested and validated instrument and a user-friendly software platform will enable VSPs to readily collect and analyze outcome and satisfaction measures. It provides VSPs with a systematic way of listening to the voices of clients to ensure their needs are being met to the greatest extent possible. It allows providers to quantify the extent to which their services meaningfully affect victims’ lives.