Crime Victim Support Center

This case involves the Crime Victim Support Center (CVSC), a nonprofit organization that helps the victims of crime by acting as an advocate for their interests. It examines client conflict of interest that develops when a caseworker at the agency, Laura Green, must decide whether to represent separately an estranged mother and father who are seeking resolution concerning the death of their son. Lacking a definitive policy directive from the organization, the caseworker must decide how to balance the best interests of both her clients and the organization she represents. Working with her supervisor, the caseworker attempts to navigate this uncharted territory and reach a resolution that is satisfactory to all involved parties.
Main Topic
Decision making
Secondary Topics
Ethics, Bureaucracy and structure
Teaching Purpose
To explore the ethical dilemmas in resolving a case of competing client interests; and to discuss organizational decision making and nonprofit administration.
The Organization
The Crime Victims Support Center (CVSC) is a nonprofit organization that helps the victims of crime by acting as an advocate for their interests.
Main Characters
•Laura Green, Victims Advocate
•Christine Hayden, Executive Director
•John and Catherine Taft, Clients
(Cropf 46)
Cropf, Robert A. Public Administration Casebook, The, CourseSmarteTextbook. Routledge, 20150714. VitalBook file.
The citation provided is a guideline. Please check each citation for accuracy before use.

Situated in a small office in midtown, the Crime Victim Support Center (CVSC) serves victims of any type of crime, regardless of the case’s criminal justice system status. This makes it unique among victim service agencies in the area. Other agencies, such as Parents of Murdered Children and Legal Advocates for Abused Women, serve victims of specific crimes. The prosecuting attorneys’ offices at the city, county, and federal levels of the courts serve victims whose cases are being prosecuted. CVSC therefore holds the distinction of being the only agency in the Midwest that serves victims of physical and property crimes, regardless of whether the crime was reported or an arrest has been made.
CVSC was founded in 1979 with a goal of protecting victims who, until that point, had no agencies to officially advocate on their behalf. Through the intervening years, CVSC honed its mission statement and set the following goals: helping victims through direct service; changing the way the public treats victims through public advocacy; and contributing to the knowledge of victim issues for other professionals through training and technical assistance.
CVSC employs a staff of four daytime victim advocates, a volunteer coordinator, a licensed counselor, an executive director, and five after-hours advocates. The agency runs a 24-hour hotline for victims in crisis. Victim advocates are in the office from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and maintain a caseload of crime victims and their families for services such as referrals to community agencies, professional counseling, and personal advocacy. They are responsible for returning calls taken by the after-hours advocates when the office is closed. CVSC’s advocates strive to meet the needs of the clients that occur as a result of the crime. These vary widely from the need for clothing or food after a burglary to the need for funeral assistance after a homicide. One of the most common resources to which CVSC staff refers its clients is Midwest Crime Victims’ Compensation.
In 1981, the state government enacted the Midwest Crime Victims’ Compensation Act. As part of that legislation, the Victims’ Compensation Fund was created. This program, supported through offender-generated court costs and seizures, provides reimbursement or payment for funeral expenses and/or medical expenses, lost wages, or loss of support for children and dependents. If a victim or victim’s family members meet the requirements, which include reporting the crime to law enforcement within 48 hours and cooperating with prosecution, they may be eligible for this fund. The fund is administered by the Division of Worker’s Compensation. Although this state agency is separate from the Crime Victim Support Center, CVSC advocates assist their clients in filing for compensation by: explaining the program; providing the application form; helping to fill out the paperwork; giving them access to the agency’s free notary public; and advocating for them throughout the process.
Victims’ Compensation has been invaluable to many of CVSC’s clients who would be burdened with thousands of dollars in medical or funeral expenses. This available money, however, can occasionally cause problems or hard feelings among family and friends who may not know who is eligible or how the system works. CVSC advocates often encounter multiple members of victims’ families who want to know whether they are entitled to money from the fund. Such cases include divorced parents or children by multiple mothers. These conversations require tact and skill without breaking confidentiality of other clients and without discouraging potentially eligible recipients from applying. One such case is the Taft family.
John and Catherine Taft met in their teens. By the time they were both in their 20s, they had married and started a family. Their youngest son, Derrick, was born five years into the marriage. The family of John, Catherine, Derrick, and his two older sisters resided in an old bungalow on the city’s south side.
A year after Derrick was born, cracks in his parents’ marriage began to show. They often fought about how to spend the little extra money they had. Accusations of financial misconduct from both spouses were common and eventually the stress became too much for the marriage to support. Just before Derrick’s second birthday, his parents divorced. John and Catherine rarely spoke in the intervening years. As soon as Derrick turned 18, he left his mother’s house and moved out on his own. His parents worried about him, but he assured them that he and his new girlfriend were making a home for themselves with her parents, and they were thinking of starting a family.
Soon after moving out, Derrick was murdered in an alley in the city on a Friday night. He was stabbed several times, and there were neither witnesses nor suspects on the scene. His parents were both notified of their son’s death by the police early on Saturday morning.
After dealing with the initial shock, John and Catherine met at a local funeral home to begin making arrangements for their son. The potential cost of the funeral only added to their pain, and they began arguing in front of the funeral director. The funeral director suggested that they contact CVSC for assistance. Within hours, John and Catherine Taft separately called the 24-hour hotline for the Crime Victim Support Center. They each spoke to the after-hours advocate who explained CVSC’s services and promised that a victim advocate would call them back on Monday morning.
Laura Green, a full-time victim advocate for CVSC, came across her job almost by accident. As an aimless undergrad searching for an internship and possessing a penchant for social causes, she was intrigued by the option of working with victims of crime rather than offenders. She enjoyed the blend of social work and social justice and quickly became close with the other employees of the agency. Impressed with the agency’s mission of justice and eager to get job experience, Laura continued to volunteer after graduation.
Although disheartened by the difficulty she had finding employment after college, Laura remained dedicated to the cause of crime victim services and the prospect of employment in that field. When one of CVSC’s advocates left the agency for a new position, Laura was offered the job and she quickly accepted. Several years later, Laura is still proud of her job and still dedicated to the mission of CVSC.
Laura was the first advocate into the office Monday morning. She received the message from the after-hours advocate explaining that John and Catherine’s son had been murdered and that both members of the divorced couple were looking for assistance. She also mentioned to Laura that Ms. Taft hinted at financial difficulties in the couple’s past and that it could be a potential concern for the advocate who took on the case.
Laura realized that an important decision had to be made: turn away one of the parents; turn one of the parents over to a different advocate; or take on both parents herself. In trying to make a decision, Laura looked through CVSC’s policies and training material, but she could not find anything on dealing with this type of competing client interests. Next, she decided to refer to the CVSC Code of Ethics. After searching high and low for the code, she finally found an old copy in a file. Again, it did not provide information specific to this situation. Laura decided that she should meet with the CVSC executive director, Christine Hayden, to discuss the Taft case.
Christine was a recent transplant to CVSC. After the agency’s long-time executive director retired, Christine was hired by the Board of Directors in hopes that she could turn around the flailing center. Christine possessed a postgraduate educational background of corporate management, communications, and leadership studies along with an eagerness to learn more about the victim services field. Her dedication and strong business background took the agency from the brink of closure to a surviving, if not thriving, service provider in just over a year. She also had learned much about the agency’s workings, although the specifics of every CVSC resource were still not clear. She was never afraid to ask a question or to hear a truthful answer.
Christine and Laura had immediately formed a bond over a shared love of politics, sports, and a healthy debate on both. Although Laura was several years younger than Christine, she felt that her boss respected her opinion and she respected Christine’s experience.
Laura walked into Christine’s office from the common room she shared with the other advocates. She tapped lightly on the door to announce her presence. “What can I do for you?” Christine asked.
“We got a call on the hotline over the weekend from two divorced parents whose son was murdered. Apparently, they are not on the best terms and both want to work with our agency. I would like to get your insight,” Laura explained.
Christine looked puzzled, “Don’t we have a policy in place for this? It can’t be the first time this has come up.”
“Well, it’s not the first time, but it’s always been an on-the-fly decision,” Laura admitted.
Christine then asked, “I’m surprised there isn’t a plan in place to make these choices. First and foremost, we should not turn either of them away. So, we have to decide the best way to help them both. What are the biggest concerns about having them both with one advocate?”
“Well,” Laura began, “If I take on both cases, I can track their progress simultaneously to make sure they are both being told the same things and to make sure I am aware of the individual problems as they come up.”
“But?” Christine prodded.
“I don’t want one parent to find out that I am working with both of them and for that to cause a problem,” Laura said.
“I can see how that could potentially cause problems for the agency. The last thing we or our financial supporters want is to give the impression that we’re being dishonest or biased. You could tell them that you are not able to comment on who is or is not a client of the agency and that could cover you if something comes up later. What about you, personally? How does it make you feel to think about working with both parents?”
“The last thing I want is for our agency to make this an even more negative experience for them. Their son was murdered. I want to help them both as much as possible. I worry that if they find out I am working with both spouses, they would feel betrayed, and it might discourage them from filing for compensation or for coming in for counseling. Ethically, I don’t want to do anything that would potentially compromise our relationship and prevent them from accessing all the services to which they are entitled,” Laura said, looking concerned.
“That’s a valid concern. The last thing I want is for you to compromise your ethics. What else?” Christine prodded.
“I also worry about being put in a compromising position, where one parent is looking for information on the other or looking for me to give them some advantage over the spouse for obtaining services,” Laura admitted.
“Do we know what services they want?” Christine asked.
“I believe they are both calling for Victims’ Compensation for the funeral costs since they had no life insurance. It would probably help to have them both as my clients if they are both filing for compensation,” Laura mused, working through her thoughts out loud.
“Why is that?” Christine inquired.
Laura took this as an opportunity to give her executive director an insight on the workings of the Midwest Crime Victim’s Compensation program. “The person who signs the contract with the funeral home for services is the person who can apply for compensation. If I have them both as my clients, then I can make sure to tell them the exact same thing. If they don’t trust their former
Laura carefully dialed the number for Catherine Taft. When Ms. Taft answered, Laura explained who she was and asked what kind of help Ms. Taft needed. As the after-hours advocate had stated, Catherine Taft’s teenage son was found stabbed to death over the weekend. She had not finalized the funeral arrangements but planned to do so with her ex-husband later that day. Laura explained that Victims’ Compensation might be able to reimburse or pay out up to $5,000 in funeral expenses if the family qualified. At that point, Catherine Taft mentioned that she and her former husband had been divorced for several years and that they had a history of money problems. She was adamant that she did not trust him to reimburse her for her out-of-pocket costs if he were awarded money for the funeral. She also told Laura that she believed her husband would be calling CVSC.
Laura was careful to explain to Ms. Taft that if she wanted to be sure she could file for compensation, then she would need to sign the funeral bill. And, if she and her husband both signed the bill, then they could apply independently. Laura also informed her new client that no member of the agency’s staff could comment on whether her husband was receiving services from the agency. To be certain Ms. Taft understood CVSC’s role in the compensation process, Laura explained that she and her agency did not make the decision of who would be awarded compensation. They also did not make the decision of who deserved to apply. She told Ms. Taft that if her husband called, then he would likely receive the application as well. The best solution was to make sure they both signed for the funeral. Catherine Taft indicated that she understood.
Laura let Catherine Taft know that she would send the Victims’ Compensation form to her along with information on her rights as a family member of a crime victim and information on CVSC’s counseling program and support group. Laura asked her client to call if there were any problems or if the funeral home had any questions she could not answer. She also told Ms. Taft that she would keep in touch over the application process.
Within fifteen minutes of Laura’s conversation with Catherine Taft, her former husband, John Taft, called CVSC. Laura explained the same information to Mr. Taft as she had discussed with his former spouse. Laura explained Victims’ Compensation’s policy on who can apply and informed Mr. Taft that either he or his ex-wife could sign and pay back the other if awarded, or they could both sign and individually apply with their own receipts. She was careful to stress the agency’s policy of confidentiality and the policy of serving as many members of a family as call for services.
Mr. Taft became very upset. He had spoken to Catherine and knew that she had already discussed the situation with Laura. Apparently, Catherine had contacted John immediately after hanging up with Laura. Mr. Taft also was concerned about ensuring that he was reimbursed for the money he expected to pay out of pocket for his son’s funeral. He told Laura that Catherine had an ongoing alcohol problem and could not be trusted. He believed that it was a conflict of interest for Laura to be working with both of them and that Laura was being deceptive. Mr. Taft demanded to speak with “someone in charge.”
Discussion Questions
1. Do you agree with the way in which Laura and Christine chose to handle the Taft case? Does CVSC have an obligation to work with both clients?
2. How can CVSC diffuse Mr. Taft’s anger and effectively resolve the situation?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the decision-making approach that Christine used with Laura?
4. How did CVSC’s policies and procedures, or lack thereof, contribute to the problem? What does CVSC need to do to successfully handle these types of situations in the future?
5. What are the ethical dilemmas in the case? How can CVSC better promote ethical standards within its work environment?
(Cropf 51-53)
Cropf, Robert A. Public Administration Casebook, The, CourseSmarteTextbook. Routledge, 20150714. VitalBook file.

Please answer in detail all 5 questions pertaining to the attached document

1. Do you agree with the way in which Laura and Christine chose to handle the Taft case? Does CVSC have an obligation to work with both clients?
2. How can CVSC diffuse Mr. Taft’s anger and effectively resolve the situation?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the decision-making approach that Christine used with Laura?
4. How did CVSC’s policies and procedures, or lack thereof, contribute to the problem? What does CVSC need to do to successfully handle these types of situations in the future?
5. What are the ethical dilemmas in the case? How can CVSC better promote ethical standards within its work environment?