News from the Field -
By Kendra Kuehn, National Adult Protective Services Association
Welcome to News from the Field! In this new monthly blog, we look forward to sharing what’s going on around the country. The APS Technical Assistance Resource Center (TARC) and the National Adult Protective Services Association (NAPSA) provide national and regional conference calls and a listserv to help APS workers and NAPSA members across the nation stay connected and share information and questions. A current hot topic on many NAPSA regional calls is ongoing legislative sessions, with APS related proposals in many states. We look forward to hearing more about these proposals once sessions close.
States are also discussing the Voluntary Consensus Guidelines for State APS Programs from the Administration for Community Living. As ACL looks into ways to update the guidelines, states are exploring how their programs compare and are learning new strategies from their peers. One group of states, on a regional call, discussing the mandatory reporting components. Forty-nine states have a statute outlining mandatory reporters and the guidelines provide a suggested list to explore. The states on this call had statutes that went beyond the guidelines and included groups as diverse as coroners, building inspectors, and real estate agents. In two states, communities such as first responders and financial groups helped define and identify specific professions that are critical mandatory reporters. Outreach and training go a long way in gaining the community’s support for APS programs and preventing abuse.
APS Abuse Registries have also been a hot topic that varies in both support and implementation. The 2018 report developed by a group of NAPSA members, lead by Nancy Alterio, identified 26 states with some form of registry and several states are considering bills establishing them (report available through NAPSA). States differ in what is included in registries, who has access, and the general process. One group of administrators, composed of both states with and without registries, discussed the costs and benefits of an abuse registry run by APS. One challenge is that registries are often an under-resourced program. One state has registry check fees which support the work. Policies to address levels of evidence required and due process for alleged perpetrators as well as those placed on the registry are also important. One state discussed their expungement process where a perpetrator can go before a panel after a set number of years on the registry. The panel, which includes a volunteer community member in addition to governmental officials, evaluates the case and present circumstances.
Because language changes and communities evolve, terminology has become a hot issue. APS client population definitions are always a challenge and can involve both support and criticism from stakeholders. This issue has come up among many states adjusting their statutes and many more programs have shared their own experiences. A prime example is the term “vulnerable,” included in many writings to cover the APS population of people with disabilities and older adults. The guidelines mentioned above note that most older adults and people with disabilities are able to live independently and manage their own lives well. In general, vulnerability does not apply automatically due to old age or disability. Other definitional issues may come up from how statute defines a profession that is a mandatory reporter or definitions of abuse between programs. Are you being challenged by definitions or have experiences to share? We plan to continue exploring this difficult conversation.
Most importantly, across the nation we see programs supporting each other and their staff in this important work. Through both formal and informal arrangements, states are providing mentors to new staff. States are also implementing mentoring programs within their programs, allowing a passing of knowledge and support from one cohort of workers to the next. Such connections are not only a boon for new workers but also engage older works in the growth of the agency and sharpen their own skills. We strongly support the continuation of these programs, please reach out if you have a great example or would like us to put you in touch with another state for suggestions or interstate mentoring!
As we continue to publish News from the Field, we hope to hear from you on the successes and challenges you see across the nation. Is there something you’d like to see featured? Please let us know. Next month we’ll be exploring plans for World Elder Abuse Awareness Day across the country. See the ACL WEAAD page for downloadable resources. Let the APS TARC know what you’re planning!