The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Document Analysis of Screening for Domestic Violence Among Welfare Recipients

Friday, January 17, 2014
HBG Convention Center, Bridge Hall Street Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Soonok An, Doctoral Candidate, Research Assistant, University of Georgia, Athens, GA
Purpose:  The Family Violence Option aims to identify victims of domestic violence among the applicants seeking public assistance and to provide relevant benefits to those eligible. Although the screening interview plays a major role in determining eligibility for good cause, disclosure and screening rates were not as effective as the Family Violence Option intended to achieve through its universal screening protocol. The purpose of this paper is to assess the decision-making process between service providers and service users so that the latter utilize good cause by the Family Violence Option. Research questions include: who claims and implements good cause? and how is good cause utilized?

Methods:  Twenty documents falling into either the category of government publications or publications written by domestic violence advocates were selected. The selected documents should demonstrate their ability (1) to define the roles of and the identity of the service user and the provider; (2) to be used during screening interviews for domestic violence, which directly and indirectly influence the use of good cause (i.e., application form and information handouts); and (3) to represent the perspectives of the practitioners. The study analyzed dimensions of discourse within the documents by using the critical discourse method, specifically based on Fairclough’s foci for critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995). The analytical foci consist of text analysis, processing analysis, which makes connections between text and discourse, and social analysis, which makes connections between discourse and sociocultural practice (Locke, 2004, p. 46).

Results:   The link between texts and context was illuminated through discourse and socio-cultural practice of the critical discourse analysis. The documents described that victims utilize good cause when safety needs for themselves and their children are met; when they are screened and notified for good cause; when they disclose abuse; and when they prove their eligibility by providing supporting documents. Implementers are frontline welfare caseworkers and/or in-agency or off-site agency domestic violence advocates, and are likely to implement good cause with clear job descriptions, privacy, relevant training, and viable monitoring systems. The quality of the working relationship between the decision makers determines how good cause is utilized. The properties of the relationship embrace dimensions of identification, information, responsibility, and flexibility. On the other hand, the identified characteristics of the decision-makers and their behaviors appear to be ideal requirements for the utilization of good cause rather than the conditions satisfied by current systems of domestic violence screening. 

Implications: The findings confirm that texts convey contextual information that supports the utilization of good cause, and that they help understand what makes good cause considered, assessed, and utilized. Conversely, the evidence also implies that factors may deter the users from utilizing good cause. Because the rules of the Family Violence Option vary, future research may focus on data of a single state or county as a case study.