Illinois Department of Human Services
Division of Family and Community Services
Bureau of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault

Domestic Violence Shelter & Services RFA

Released March 12, 2014

This Supplement provides a short version of the Domestic Violence Services Guidelines Manual developed by the Illinois Department of Human Services and the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV). To assist in rating proposals, this Supplement may be used to review the guiding principles, delivery model, categories, requirements and guidelines of domestic violence services funded by IDHS.

The main purpose of this Supplement is to outline the program requirements established by IDHS and ICADV; these are listed under the heading of Minimum Requirements in each chapter. Although not all programs are currently in compliance with all of the minimum requirements, programs will be expected to meet these requirements in order to continue to receive IDHS funding. The more requirements a program already meets, the stronger the program.

Most chapters also include a Guidelines section. Together with the minimum requirements, IDHS and ICADV developed these guidelines to promote best practices in services. Although not required, these guidelines are strongly recommended for effective service delivery. Programs meeting the guidelines in addition to the minimum requirements exemplify the strongest understanding of excellence in services, and are considered the highest quality in domestic violence service programming.

Reviewers will find it useful to refer to the requirements and guidelines in rating the applicant's responses to the proposal questions. The Score Sheet will direct the reviewer to the appropriate chapter of the Supplement for many categories. Some topics, such as safety or cultural competence, can be found throughout the Supplement rather than in a specific chapter. Although the application may not address each requirement or guideline in its responses, the Supplement can still be used as a guide to help evaluate the program's overall understanding of quality service delivery.


  1. Guiding Principles
  2. Service Delivery Model
  3. Service Categories
  4. Personnel
  5. Fiscal
  6. Data Collection and Reporting
  7. Evaluation
  8. Service Outcome
  9. Eligibility
  10. Initial Contact and Intake
  11. Crisis Hotline
  12. Counseling and Advocacy
  13. Outreach
  14. Shelter
  15. Children's Services
  16. Documentation
  17. Confidentiality

Guiding Principles

The guiding principles for programs, organizations, agencies, and individuals that provide services to survivors of domestic violence are:

  • Domestic violence is a crime of power and control. All persons are potential victims; however, most often women and children are victims.
  • Domestic violence negatively impacts all who experience and/or witness it; therefore, domestic violence diminishes the quality of life in the community.
  • Domestic violence is abuse and is unjustifiable.
  • Each person has dignity and worth and is entitled to a safe environment.
  • Each person has responsibility for his/her own behavior. Survivors do not cause the abuse.
  • Each person has the right to the information, support and services necessary to become safe, self-reliant, and autonomous.
  • Children from violent homes are at risk. Violent behavior is a learned response and is often passed down from generation to generation.

Service Delivery Model

The domestic violence service delivery model provides the framework for all services provided in domestic violence programs. To best provide safety and assistance to survivors and their families, the service delivery model must be based on the guiding principles listed above.

The service delivery model of domestic violence programs shall:

  • Emphasize safety of survivors and their vulnerable family members in all interactions.
  • Offer information, options, encouragement and support:
    • For independent decision-making based on specific individual family needs and circumstances.
    • For survivors' efforts to regain control over and decrease the violence in their lives.
    • To encourage survivors to follow safety plans and seek assistance as often as it is necessary to keep themselves and their vulnerable family members safe.
  • Be based on survivor empowerment.
  • Foster self-sufficiency.
  • Respect the authority and autonomy of adult survivors to direct their own lives.
  • Build on strengths and resources of survivors and their vulnerable family members.
  • Reflect collaboration with community resources.
  • Be respectful of the survivor's cultural and community characteristics.
  • Hold perpetrators, not survivors, responsible for the abusive behavior and for stopping the abuse.
  • Recognize that assisting survivors in obtaining safety also benefits their children and vulnerable family members.

Service Categories

Depending on the services provided, programs funded by IDHS fall into the category of either Comprehensive or Specialized. Comprehensive programs are further categorized as either On-Site or Off-Site, depending on where the shelter services are located. Funded domestic violence programs provide the following support and advocacy services to survivors, their children and vulnerable family members.

Comprehensive Domestic Violence Services provide:

  • Shelter
  • 24 hour response to calls from the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line
  • Information and referral
  • Counseling
  • Advocacy
  • Legal advocacy to implement the Illinois Domestic Violence Act
  • Transportation
  • Outreach and prevention services to the community

On-Site Domestic Violence Programs are Comprehensive programs that provide emergency shelter for survivors and their vulnerable family members in a provider-operated, on-site facility.

Off-site Domestic Violence Programs are Comprehensive programs that provide emergency shelter for survivors and their vulnerable family members at off-site facilities such as hotels/motels or safe homes.

Specialized Programs do not provide emergency shelter for survivors. Their primary purpose is the provision of specialized but limited domestic violence services. A Specialized program is required to provide:

  • Information and referral
  • At a minimum, one of the following services: counseling, advocacy, Illinois Domestic Violence Act advocacy; and
  • Referrals to shelter services. Memorandums of understanding with shelter services must be in place for these referrals.


Minimum Requirements

The following criteria are required for personnel management of domestic violence programs funded by IDHS.

  • Programs must have written job descriptions for all staff that include qualifications, duties and responsibilities.
  • Programs must have a current organization chart that defines responsibility and lines of accountability, and that includes both staff and volunteer positions.
  • Programs must have a minimum of one-half time paid director whose duties include the daily management of the program.
  • All program directors, staff and volunteers who may be in a position to provide or supervise direct services or who have access to confidential information must complete the 40 hours of training required by the Illinois Domestic Violence Act.
    • Staff or volunteers providing services not requiring domestic violence skills need not complete the 40-hour training to provide such services. Examples may include staff or volunteers conducting periodic trainings to survivors on topics other than domestic violence, or those conducting general outreach services in the community. However, in such instances a 40-hour trained volunteer or staff member must accompany the person at any time survivors are or may be present.
  • To ensure that staff and direct-service volunteers have the most current information, programs must develop a plan for providing additional domestic violence training on an annual basis.
  • If the program has staff who provide professional therapy or other services requiring professional certification, it must have procedures to ensure that individuals have valid, appropriate credentials and when applicable, licensure.
  • Programs must perform both Child Abuse and Neglect Tracking System (CANTS) and Law Enforcement Agencies Data System (LEADS) checks on staff/volunteers coming in direct contact with children served by the program.
  • All personnel must sign a confidentiality agreement.

Personnel Guidelines

The following guidelines are recommended for programs funded by IDHS.

  • Because providing domestic violence services can be difficult work, programs are encouraged to hire personnel who have the appropriate combination of skills, knowledge and caring attitudes regarding survivors. The skill set needed will depend on the individual position, but it is important that candidates applying for advocate positions possess sufficient verbal and written skills to communicate effectively and write case documentation.
  • It is helpful, but not required, to hire those with at least a bachelor's degree in a human service related field to ensure a level of knowledge and interest in social services. Some candidates may also have alternate life experiences that could make them effective in the program, such as experience and understanding of violence against women, or a background in community organizing.
  • To help assess an applicant's attitudes toward domestic violence, it may be useful to inquire about the individual's thoughts and beliefs on the issue during the interview process.
  • It is important that programs make every effort to ensure diverse representation among staff in color, language, age, ability, sexual orientation, income and other demographics that reflect the wide diversity of survivors. To do this, it is critical that programs promote a welcoming and safe environment for minorities of all types to work as staff or volunteers.


Minimum Requirements

The following responsibilities are required in the fiscal management of domestic violence programs funded by IDHS.

  • Plan and develop the annual budget
  • Review, adjust and approve the annual budget
  • Elect a Board Treasurer and appoint a Finance Committee and subcommittees to oversee the safeguarding and profitable management of the agency's assets
  • Research and arrange for adequate insurance policies
  • Administer contracts for any contractual services required by the agency
  • Oversee all insurance policies and contracts made by the agency
  • Ensure that all requirements are met for 501(c)3 status
  • Ensure that all services are provided to survivors free of charge
  • Prepare the state and federal reports and tax forms
  • Monitor the filing of state and federal reports and tax forms
  • Budget and anticipate financial problems, including long-range financial forecasting
  • Arrange for an annual audit of the organization's books, including A-133 audits required for agencies receiving federal funding above specified amounts
  • Review all audit materials and strategize fiscal planning as needed
  • Generate policies for internal financial controls
  • Adopt and maintain procedures for internal financial controls
  • Periodically inspect the books and records of the organization
  • Ensure that the agency manages resources in a manner consistent with sound fiscal standards and keeps written policies and procedures regarding its fiscal activities, including but not limited to payroll, purchasing, cash management, relevant fee schedules, contracts and risk management
  • Ensure that the agency conducts all financial record keeping in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles consistently applied. Accounting transactions must be properly classified, adequately documented in appropriate books of original entry (journals), and posted to general ledgers on a monthly basis
  • Keeps all fiscal records for at least six years beyond the fiscal year that the expenditure occurred or longer if there is an audit, in which case the records shall be maintained until the audit is completed
  • Ensure that money is never given directly to those receiving services ?Suggested guidelines and tools for fiscal processes are included in the following section

Fiscal Guidelines

The following guidelines are recommended for programs funded by IDHS.

It is important that nonprofit organizations providing domestic violence services have written fiscal policies and procedures that are understandable and complete. Fiscal policy and procedures should clearly address and outline the accounting system, financial reports, banking procedures, audits, expenditures and all other financial processes, as well as processes for how compliance with the procedures is monitored.

Data Collection and Reporting

Minimum Requirements

Programs funded by IDHS must adhere to the following data collection and reporting requirements:

  • Programs must develop and maintain a data collection and record-keeping system for all services provided. This system must allow for the efficient retrieval of data needed to measure and report the program's performance in relation to its stated goals and objectives.
  • Programs must provide summary documentation of use of IDHS funds by line item of actual expenditures incurred for the purchase of goods and services necessary for conducting program activities. Expenditures must be recorded in the program's records in such a manner as to establish an audit trail for future verification of appropriate use of funds.
  • Programs must make available to IDHS access to all data, records and facilities to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of funding. Programs may delete all survivor identifying data from such records prior to inspection, with the exception of identification numbers.
  • Programs must provide program information to the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line agency database as requested. In addition, programs must notify the Help Line of any updates to program services to ensure the database has the most current information.
  • Programs must document any significant disciplinary action, health or safety issue, rules violation, or action involving liability, and actions taken to verify or resolve the issue.
  • Programs must document any suspected abuse or neglect of children. Suspected child abuse or neglect must also be reported to IDCFS.
  • Suspected abuse or neglect of elderly survivors who are unable to report the abuse or neglect themselves must be documented. This must also be reported to the Illinois Department on Aging.
  • Programs must document and report suspected abuse, neglect or financial exploitation of survivors or their vulnerable family members with disabilities who, because of their disability, are unable to seek assistance on their own behalf. Reports are made to the Office of Inspector General, Illinois Department of Human Services, through the Domestic Abuse Project Statewide Reporting Hotline.


Minimum Requirements

All programs funded by IDHS must adhere to the following criteria in evaluation.

  • Programs must cooperate and participate in research and survey efforts that have been approved by IDHS or ICADV for the purposes of program evaluation and strategic plan initiatives. IDHS and ICADV will consider written requests from individual programs for waivers or modifications of research participation mandates.
  • Programs must have processes in place by which feedback from those receiving program services is used to enhance programs.
  • Evaluation information collected from survivors must be used for program research and evaluation purposes only, and must be kept confidential.
  • Survivors will have the right to refuse to participate in evaluation or feedback processes.

Evaluation Guidelines

Programs are encouraged to make the opportunity to provide feedback available to all those served by the program, whether they have stayed in shelter or used non-residential services such as counseling, legal advocacy or other services.

Service Outcome

Minimum Requirements

Programs funded by IDHS must adhere to the following data collection and reporting requirements:

  • Programs must collect outcome data for at least 5% (but not less than 30 individuals) of eligible clients in each client group. This includes clients seeking any combination of shelter, support groups, supportive services/advocacy services, and/or counseling.
  • Clients should answer the outcomes questions in regard to the most intensive services received. In order of "intensity", service groups are shelter, supportive services and advocacy, counseling, and support groups. (i.e. if a client receives shelter and attends a support group then that client should answer the outcome questions in regard to the shelter service received, but not as a support group response).
  • Data must be entered into InfoNet on no less than a quarterly basis. For each client service group, you should enter two records (or two lines of information)-one for safety planning and another for community resources. The four (4) distinct service groups are: Shelter; Other Supportive Services; Counseling; and Support Groups.
  • Clients need only answer the questions once per service delivery episode or case (e.g. she doesn't need to fill out her outcome measures survey at each group session she attends).

Service Outcome Guidelines

The following guidelines are recommended for programs funded by IDHS.

  • Collect the data in a way that allows for anonymity of the survivors, not only to protect confidentiality, but also to encourage genuine response.
  • Seek responses from survivors in various stages of services.
  • Ideally, include all those receiving services at the time of data collection.
  • Establish a formal process for staff and Board members to review the compiled information from all feedback, and use the information to assess, develop and improve program services.


Minimum Requirements

Programs funded by IDHS must adhere to the following requirements when determining eligibility.

  • Eligible participants must be people who state that they are or have been victims of or threatened with domestic violence, or if they are not able to state this, are referred with a credible story that indicates domestic violence dynamics. Services may be provided to adults and/or their vulnerable family or household members, and minors who are or have been involved in dating or engagement relationships and/or their vulnerable family or household members.
  • Providers shall not discriminate in the provision of services on the basis of income, age, race, creed, sex, ethnicity, color, national origin, the county of origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, citizenship status, spoken language, disability or religion. Services shall not promote a specific religion or lifestyle.
  • Programs shall have clearly written criteria for determining eligibility for services.
  • Programs shall provide all domestic violence services free of any charge to the survivor. In some instances other agencies may pay for services for survivors or their children; in these situations programs must be especially careful to avoid violating the confidentiality of survivors or their children.
  • Programs shall not provide services to the perpetrator of domestic violence.
  • Eligibility policies shall be designed to be inclusive, not to exclude from services.
  • Neither shelter nor any other services shall be denied due to a survivor's failure to obtain an Order of Protection or police report, or to take other legal action against the perpetrator.
  • If a non-sheltered survivor is under 17 and not an emancipated minor or living independently from parents or guardians, programs may provide five sessions of 45 minutes each without obtaining parental consent. After the initial five sessions, programs must make every effort to obtain consent from the parent or guardian before providing additional services. If the teen is living independently from parents or guardians and requires additional services, programs may determine how to proceed based upon the age of the teen, the individual situation, and consultation with staff attorneys.

Initial Contact and Intake

Minimum Requirements

Programs funded by IDHS must comply with the following requirements to provide initial contact and intake services.

At the time of the survivor's initial contact, via telephone or in person, programs shall:

  • Determine eligibility. Criteria for eligibility must be based on the individual's status as a survivor without regard to income, race, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, disability or other factors.
  • Screen for risk of violence to the individual, minor children or any other vulnerable family member.
  • Assist in the creation of an individualized safety plan.

If the survivor is found eligible for services during the initial contact, programs will complete an intake process. The length and detail of the intake process will depend upon the type of services offered through the program, with shelter services requiring the most in-depth intakes. Intakes for any service must minimally include, but not be limited to:

  • A determination of the survivor's immediate needs, if any, including safety and legal assistance/IDVA advocacy.
  • An explanation of available services including current capacity limitations, time limitations associated with services, and the reasons that services may be involuntarily terminated or denied.
  • An explanation of the IDVA and its provisions.
  • An explanation of survivor's rights regarding confidentiality; voluntary, survivor-driven service planning including referral options and refusal of offered services or referrals; mandated reporting of child and elder abuse; survivor involvement in publicity or fund-raising; nondiscrimination in service delivery; criteria and process for denial of services and involuntary termination of services; the right to private space for counseling sessions; and the right to have policies and procedures explained in an understandable way.
  • A Survivor Rights/Responsibilities form signed by both survivor and advocate.
  • A description of the procedure for resolving grievances relating to the provision of services. The grievance procedure must:
    • Be given to the survivor in writing on a form signed by both survivor and advocate, as well as clearly outlined to the survivor verbally?
    • Be designed to allow survivors participating in the program to make complaints without fear of retaliation?
    • Comply with IDVA confidentiality requirements
  • Intakes for shelter services will require all of the above information, but will also involve the following:
    • An in-depth assessment of additional needs such as medical and dental care, food, housing, and clothing. This shall include any special accommodations needed due to special needs or disabilities, such as interpreters or personal care attendants.
    • An explanation to the survivor of shelter house guidelines/responsibilities, including policies regarding discipline of children.

Initial Contact and Intake Guidelines

The following guidelines are recommended for programs funded by IDHS.

  • Information should be gathered in a conversational, supportive way. It is important that intakes at shelters be done with special attention toward the survivor's arrival and the crisis that brought them to the program. Processes should be in place to make the survivor feel comfortable and supported during the Intake process. The survivor should be allowed to guide the pace of the intake.
  • Programs may determine how much information to gather at intake in addition to the required data. Conducting a domestic violence service assessment is an effective way to begin initial services. The service assessment determines the course of service and types of services that are to be provided.

Crisis Hotline

Minimum Requirements

Programs providing domestic violence crisis hotline services must, at a minimum, adhere to the following criteria:

  • Comprehensive On-Site and Off-Site programs must have trained staff and/or trained volunteers available on a 24-hour basis to answer calls directly from the statewide hotline and others for immediate crisis intervention. No answering machines or services are permitted.
  • Specialized programs must have trained staff and/or trained volunteers available to answer calls directly from the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line and others for information and referral and crisis intervention. Voice mail systems are permitted at Specialized programs when the program is closed.
  • All staff or volunteers answering hotline calls must have completed the 40-hour domestic violence training.
  • TTY equipment with advocates trained in its use, access to a relay operator through 711, or access to video relay (866-327-8877) for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is required at the program location.
  • There shall be written procedures that address how the hotline advocates will meet the needs of non-English speaking, Deaf and Hard of Hearing survivors.
  • If shelter can be accessed only by first calling the hotline, written procedures shall be developed for use by staff and volunteers describing the steps to be taken to access shelter or safe homes on a 24-hour basis.
  • At the time of any survivor's initial contact with the program, by hotline or other means, programs shall:
    • Determine eligibility;
    • Screen for risk of violence to the individual, minor children or any other vulnerable family member; and
    • Assist in the creation of an individualized safety plan.

Crisis Hotline Guidelines

The following guidelines are recommended for programs funded by IDHS.

  • It is recommended that the program's hotline be a landline that is devoted solely to hotline purposes rather than shared for other program uses. Calls should take place in a private area within the program.
  • Advocates answering hotline calls should be comfortable with crisis work and trained in listening and communication skills. It is recommended that a supervisor or designated colleague available for added support and guidance when needed.
  • Advocates staffing the hotline should also reflect the community the program serves. In particular, bilingual staff should be available to answer the hotline calls of non-English speaking survivors. The Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line also has translation services available.
  • Programs should have clear, user-friendly protocols for staff and volunteers to follow when answering hotline calls.

Counseling and Advocacy

Minimum Requirements

IDHS require that all Comprehensive programs provide domestic violence counseling/peer support and advocacy/social action. The following criteria are required for any domestic violence programs receiving IDHS funding:

Domestic Violence Counseling/Peer Support Requirements

Programs will provide domestic violence counseling/peer support services to survivors. Counseling activities include but are not limited to collecting information for intake and to determine eligibility, developing safety plans, assessing lethality, identifying barriers and activities to remove barriers, providing emotional support, explaining program services, domestic violence education, life skills education, and developing or reviewing a service plan.

  • Staff or volunteers providing counseling services of any type to survivors must have completed the 40-hour domestic violence training.
  • The counselor/advocate and the survivor shall develop a service plan that identifies the survivor's immediate and long-term needs. Identifying individualized survivor needs implies that the survivor will be asked specifically about comprehensive needs or empathically screened for comprehensive needs.
  • All counseling with the survivor must be kept confidential in compliance with the Illinois Domestic Violence Act. Confidentiality does not apply in situations of child or elder abuse or neglect, or in cases where failure to disclose is likely to result in an imminent risk of serious bodily harm or death of the victim or another person. Confidentiality and the limits of confidentiality must be discussed with the survivor.
  • Counseling must be provided in a manner that demonstrates sensitivity and respect for diverse cultural traditions, values and lifestyles, and that seeks to promote self-help/self- advocacy in survivors.
  • Couples or family counseling that includes the perpetrator of domestic violence is prohibited.

Therapeutic Counseling Requirements

  • Domestic violence counseling/peer support and advocacy/social action shall not include therapeutic assessments or counseling.
  • Therapeutic counseling must meet all the minimum requirements for domestic violence counseling/peer support and advocacy, and must additionally be provided by a licensed or board certified mental health professional or Master's level counselor under supervision pending their licensure.

Advocacy/Social Action Requirements

Programs will provide individual advocacy, including but not limited to:

  • Providing information to survivors about community services and systems.
  • Contacting services, agencies, resources or systems on behalf of and in partnership with survivors.
  • Accompanying survivors to obtain resources and services in the community.

Programs will provide legal advocacy to all survivors receiving services, including but not limited to:

  • Information, options and support for navigating legal systems.
  • Accompanying survivors through legal systems.
  • Advocating for survivors within legal systems.
  • IDVA advocacy, including:
    • An explanation of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act during the intake process.
    • Information on how to obtain a civil or criminal Order of Protection
    • Assistance in obtaining an Order of Protection, including intervention/contact on the survivor's behalf with representatives of the civil or criminal justice system and law enforcement personnel.
    • Assisting survivors in participating in criminal justice proceedings including transportation and accompaniment to court, and child care services.

A Waiver and Consent for Release of Information form signed by the survivor is required prior to any third-party contact on behalf of the survivor. If the individual is a dependent child, a Release of Information signed by the parent or legal guardian is required prior to a third-party contact.

Programs will provide systems or social advocacy, including but not limited to:

  • Communications, presentations, education and training to community groups, agencies and systems for purposes of changing current policies, practices or attitudes that endanger survivors; or for preventing future violence.
  • Participation in coordinated response efforts that seek to end violence.

Additional Requirements

Off site or shared space locations must pay special attention to keep all files locked, all computers secured and ensure confidentiality for clients.

Counseling and Advocacy Required Guidelines

Domestic Violence and Therapeutic Counseling Skills

Whether it is focused on domestic violence education, service planning, safety planning or general emotional support, counseling in domestic violence programs should be done from an empowerment perspective. Empowerment means not telling survivors what to do, but enabling them to make their own life changes and gain control over their lives. The counselor/advocate's role is to encourage the survivor, not to direct the interventions.

Crisis Intervention

It is important that counselor/advocates be adept at crisis intervention when working with survivors. It is the counselor/advocate's job to offer support, education and counseling that enables survivors to function in a manner that reduces their stress and enables them to develop their future goals and plans.

Service Planning

A service plan is an individualized plan for each survivor's services that is personalized to the needs and goals of each survivor. Working together with the survivor to create a service plan guided by the survivor's needs and safety is an important part of domestic violence counseling. Processes should also be in place for supervisory review of the service planning process.

Safety Planning

A safety plan is a tool to help survivors plan what they can do to protect themselves from abuse. Because the survivor is the most knowledgeable about the situation, it is particularly important to use the empowerment model in safety planning, rather than giving advice or directing the survivor.

Individual Advocacy

Individual advocacy involves providing survivors information and assistance with third parties in an empowering way. As opposed to general case management-style services wherein a service provider might simply arrange resources for a client, the focus of individual advocacy must be to encourage self-reliance. This means fostering the ability in survivors to effectively cope with their situations, make decisions, and act on their own behalf in a way that will ensure their own rights and safety.

Legal Advocacy

Legal advocacy is focused on providing legal information and resources to survivors in a way that helps empower them to navigate the legal system. Therefore, legal counselor/advocates need to be very knowledgeable of the legal system and how to navigate it. In particular, all legal counselor/advocates shall be knowledgeable of the Illinois Domestic Violence Act, all aspects of Orders of Protection, immigration issues and resources available to survivors.

Systems or Social Action Advocacy

Because an inappropriate response to domestic violence from the medical, legal, criminal justice, social service, mental health or other communities can put survivors and their children at further risk, it is important for programs to put efforts toward systems advocacy/social action as well as individual advocacy.

  • Systems advocacy/social action can involve actions like contacting a key staff person in a local agency to discuss a particular policy that is harmful to survivors, or meeting with agencies such as local hospitals, mental health agencies, law enforcement, and substance abuse programs to review their local protocols for domestic violence.
  • Providing presentations about domestic violence to agencies and community groups is another key part of systems advocacy/social action. It is essential to offer trainings or cross trainings for all significant personnel involved in systems responding to domestic violence.
  • Systems advocacy/social action is often more effective when done as part of a coalition of people from different sections of the community. Taking part in or developing a local coordinated community response team to address domestic violence is another critical part of this process.
  • It is important that programs be aware of the larger-level statewide or national issues that affect survivors of domestic violence, and take part in the groups that respond to these issues.

Language Considerations

To provide effective counseling and advocacy services, programs are encouraged to hire multilingual staff and volunteers, especially in multilingual communities, and to arrange for on-call translators trained in domestic violence dynamics.

Programs should use alternate means when translation is needed and no counselor/advocates are available, such as calling the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line. Both numbers provide access to translators in 140 languages through a language bank. In addition, programs are encouraged to have certified interpreters trained in domestic violence on call to facilitate the counseling of Deaf/Hard of Hearing survivors.


Minimum Requirements

Comprehensive domestic violence programs funded by IDHS must adhere to the following criteria:

  • Programs will actively work to increase awareness of its services to survivors of domestic violence and their vulnerable family members in the service area.
  • Programs shall provide education and prevention programs and/or information to the community, and will have a policy addressing whether or not fees are charged or honoraria accepted for these services.
  • Programs will reach out to diverse and traditionally underserved survivors of domestic violence and their vulnerable family members in the service area.
  • Programs will coordinate services with and provide systems advocacy to other systems in the service area, with the goal of creating a community-wide environment that is sensitive and responsive to the needs of survivors, their children and vulnerable family members. This will include participation in local coordinated community response teams. The systems and services will include but not be limited to courts, State's Attorneys, local law enforcement agencies, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice, Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, local probation departments, local mental health agencies, local schools/children's programs, local hospitals and health care programs, local substance abuse service providers, Partner Abuse Intervention Programs, and other related social service agencies.
  • Programs will collaborate with other service providers to address any specialized needs of survivors that present barriers to accessing domestic violence services.

Outreach Guidelines

Programs are encouraged to consider a wide range of community agencies and systems in outreach efforts. In addition to the organizations listed in the Minimum Requirements section, potential audiences for outreach and prevention presentations can include civic organizations, faith-based groups, businesses or other local groups.

Outreach to Underserved Populations

An effective way to reach diverse and underserved populations of survivors is to outreach to groups or agencies that serve or connect with them in the community. Examples include agencies that serve the elderly, the disabled, teens or lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans-gendered communities, or those that serve specific nationalities or cultures. Linkages with agencies that serve specific communities are important not only for conducting specialized outreach, but also for addressing the special needs of survivors already receiving domestic violence services. Outreach efforts should also be tailored to best reach specific groups. For instance, programs are encouraged to distribute brochures and materials in multiple languages to reach those who speak languages other than English. Programs should also distribute written outreach materials geared toward specific underserved communities, such as the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Programs are encouraged to have policies in place that determine how the program contacts agencies to initiate prevention and outreach presentations, as well as how the program responds to requests for community presentations.

Coordinated Community Response

Forming a coordinated community response team is the ideal way to not only coordinate services with other local programs, but also to provide a clear, uniform response to domestic violence and a safety net to survivors throughout the entire community. A team should include leaders from domestic violence programs, the courts, law enforcement, and the many other systems listed in the Minimum Requirements section.


Minimum Requirements

Domestic violence programs funded by IDHS to provide shelter services must adhere to the following criteria.

Programs providing shelter shall:

  • Be able to accommodate/accept survivors 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.
  • Have written policies describing the circumstances that make survivors eligible for shelter services, including a complete exploration of all options to shelter male survivors or male dependent children of all ages.
  • Have one or more advocates present at the on-site shelter at all times when survivors are present.
  • Notify IDHS of any interruption in shelter services.
  • Have a 40-hour trained domestic violence advocate available 24 hours per day who will be able to assess requests for shelter and arrange for an immediate intake into a domestic violence shelter, safe home, or hotel/motel. An advocate must be physically present to admit survivors into on-site shelter. At off-site shelters, safe homes, or hotels/motels, an advocate or law enforcement officer may be present to assist with safety, or contact must be made with the survivor the following day.
  • Offer referrals to alternative housing resources to anyone turned away.
  • Never deny shelter or other services due to a survivor's failure to obtain an Order of Protection or police report, or to take other legal action against the perpetrator.
  • Have procedures available that guide advocates in facilitating transitions when requested for survivors, their children and vulnerable family members who are leaving shelter due to voluntary or involuntary termination of shelter services.
  • Have procedures regarding the specifics of children residing in shelter.
  • Have length of stay policies that are communicated to all incoming shelter residents, both verbally and through written materials. If circumstances necessitate that the survivor stay beyond the program's length of stay policy or beyond 45 days, whichever comes first, the survivor's file must be updated stating the reason for continuing the stay at that time, and at every additional 45 days thereafter. Examples of reasons for continued stays may include but are not limited to a lack of affordable housing in the community, or a continuing need for other services outlined in the service plan.


Shelters will provide facilities and accommodations that include:

  • Compliance with all state and local health and safety codes and inspection requirements.
  • Private areas available for counseling.
  • Furnishings and structures in clean and good repair.
  • Lavatory and bathing facilities maintained in a clean, sanitary manner.
  • Sleeping rooms with infant-safe beds and bedding meeting current safety standards.
  • Lighting adequate to the use of each area.
  • A plan to secure survivors' belongings, including medication.
  • A telephone available to survivors for the purpose of meeting their service plan goals.
  • Structures on the grounds of the facility accessible to survivors that are maintained in good repair and are free from any undue hazard to health and safety; this includes all facilities necessary for compliance with the ADA, such as an accessible entrance, bathroom, bedroom and community area.
  • A plan to address personal hygiene needs for all survivors regardless of cultures and special needs.
  • A plan to address all survivors having access to clean and well-fitting appropriate clothing.
  • Preparation, handling, and storage of food in compliance with state and local requirements.
  • Survivor access to at least three meals, or their equivalent, daily.
  • Food and utensils for survivors in accord with their cultural and religious beliefs, or other personal needs. No survivor will be denied a meal at mealtime for any reason.

Shelter Guidelines

In addition to providing physical safety, programs are encouraged to have the following goals in providing shelter to survivors and their families fleeing domestic violence:

  • To provide a sanctuary of emotional safety in a nurturing environment.
  • To decrease isolation by building a supportive community of survivors within the shelter.
  • To restore a sense of dignity to survivors and support them in leading violence-free lives.
  • To provide an environment that fosters choices, independence, rights, opportunities and autonomy.

Shelter Rules

Shelters are encouraged to have clear rules for the purpose of creating a safe and supportive environment. Programs may also have rules pertaining to responsibilities such as program participation, or daily activities such as cooking or cleaning. In keeping with the philosophy of empowerment, such rules should support the autonomy and self-determination of the survivors.

Diversity in the Environment

It is especially important to promote a safe, inviting and welcoming environment to survivors of all backgrounds and communities. Posters, magazines and reference materials in the shelter should reflect people of different cultural backgrounds, colors, abilities, ages and sexual orientations. Reading materials should include materials in multiple languages, and in larger type to accommodate the Hard of Sight. Finally, shelter services should be available for survivors or their vulnerable family members with disabilities that may hinder independent living.

Children's Services

Minimum Requirements

Programs funded by IDHS must adhere to the following criteria in providing children's services.

  • Programs serving children will provide the following services in an age-appropriate fashion:
    • Child intake and needs assessment
    • Family safety planning
    • Individual counseling and/or support contacts
    • Advocacy with outside systems
    • Education advocacy, if appropriate
    • Information and referral sources
    • Age-appropriate information about domestic violence
    • Service plan development
    • Other services as agreed upon with the child and the child's parent or legal guardian
  • Programs shall help each parent or legal guardian identify the child's immediate and long-term needs and develop individualized service plans to meet their children's identified needs.
  • Age appropriate child program participant service plans shall address, at the minimum, the following needs:
    • Domestic violence education
    • Safety
    • Needs due to trauma
    • Prevention services
    • Medical needs
    • Education
  • Programs will have a staff person trained in the needs of children who will respond to the needs of child participants in an age-appropriate manner.
  • Safe and secure play areas are to be provided for children.
  • Programs shall have written policies and procedures regarding childcare. These policies must address acceptable procedures for survivors arranging babysitting services among one another for their children.
  • If staff members provide on-site childcare in a manner that rises to the level of needing licensure, the childcare must be in accordance with all state regulations.
  • Programs shall have a policy prohibiting the use of corporal punishment of children by either the parent or the provider of care while a family is receiving services under the organization's auspices, and shall provide each participant with a copy of the policy to be signed and kept in the file. This need not be a separate form from other program policies. No staff member, volunteer or intern will use corporal punishment on any child.
  • Programs must provide services that address the needs of teenagers who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence. If a non-sheltered teenager is under 17 and not an emancipated minor or living independently from parents or guardians, programs may provide five counseling sessions of 45 minutes each without obtaining parental consent.
  • Programs must report any suspected child abuse or neglect to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

Children's Services Guidelines

Services for children can include a wide array of interventions, such as art therapy; individual, group or family therapy or counseling; or other services such medical advocacy or educational advocacy. In all services and interactions with children, programs are encouraged to have the goals of helping children to:

  • Learn that violent behavior is not acceptable
  • Develop positive self-esteem
  • Develop positive, non-violent ways of interacting with peers and adults
  • Learn coping/problem solving skills
  • Experience healthy role models
  • Maintain physical health, have sensory stimulation and develop motor skills
  • Feel safe and secure
  • Have age-appropriate fun
  • Understand that all feelings are valid
  • Talk about the violence they have witnessed, without feeling pressured to do so
  • Experience success
  • Make the transition to a new environment as smoothly as possible
  • Learn about available services

Initial Contact and Intake The child intake includes the information that will help assess the child's needs, including any physical, emotional, social or other issues and recommended services.

Service Planning With Children Children's needs vary significantly with age and situation, but advocates in shelter or walk-in counseling programs should conduct service planning with children as appropriate. Just as with adult service plans, children's service plans should be individualized to their needs, and used to plan and guide their services.

Counseling Services Programs are encouraged to provide high quality group and individual counseling services for children in order to adequately address the trauma of witnessing or experiencing violence. Ideally, group or individual therapy conducted by a licensed therapist is recommended. It is also recommended to provide family counseling or family therapy that involves both child and adult survivor. Safety planning for children is another important part of children's counseling, one that is very different from safety planning with adults.

Parenting Services Programs are encouraged to provide strength-based parenting services for the adult survivors. These services address how domestic violence has affected the survivor as a parent and the relationship with the children, and address non-violent discipline methods.

Working with Teenagers In developing children's services, it is also important to create services that are tailored to the higher maturity level and cognitive development of teenagers. Teens may need services due to witnessing a parent's abuse, experiencing their own partner's violence toward them, or both.


Minimum Requirements

Programs funded by IDHS shall adhere to the following criteria in providing documentation.

  • Programs must develop and maintain a data collection and record-keeping system for the services provided. This system shall allow for the efficient retrieval of data needed to measure the program's performance in relation to its stated goals and objectives.
  • Programs must provide accurate and complete documentation of services, including:
    • All crisis hotline calls coming directly to the program or coming from the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line
    • Community services
    • Survivor services, including:
      • Shelter turn-aways
      • Individual files for survivors in the program
      • Service plans developed with the full involvement and signature of survivor
      • Documentation of survivor receipt and understanding of shelter house guidelines/responsibilities, if applicable
      • Documentation of survivor receipt and understanding of survivor's rights
      • Child care releases, if applicable (the file cannot contain another survivor's name)
      • Exit interview/service evaluation
      • Documentation of information released and release forms signed by the survivor
      • The names of the advocates assigned to work with the survivor

Individual Files

Programs shall adhere to the following criteria for individual file records:

  • Survivor records must include individualized, clear, and specific material pertinent to the survivor's situation, eligibility, needs, benefit of service, and the types and amount of services provided that support the service plan and survivor data reported to IDHS.
  • All entries regarding services provided shall contain only sufficient information to document the individualized needs of the survivor and the individualized nature of the service provided. Survivor records shall be free of any reference to the advocate's interpretation, judgment or projection of the survivor's feelings, statements, or intentions.
  • Records shall be free of any diagnoses or clinical terms unless the provider is licensed to provide clinical mental health services. Even then, these terms should be used with caution. Programs must have policies in place regarding whether or not to include documentation of diagnoses in documentation. These policies should weigh the needs of the survivors and their vulnerable family members with how the documentation could potentially be used against them. Whenever possible, the decision of whether to include diagnoses or clinical terms in documentation should be made together with the survivor.
  • Only records/documentation pertaining to the survivor shall be kept in the individual survivor's file. Neither names nor ID numbers of other survivors shall appear in survivor files.
  • All survivor records must be secured within an individual file to prevent loss of documentation or inadvertent placement into another survivor's record. Survivor records shall be kept in a secured location to preserve confidentiality.
  • Records developed or maintained concerning minor children or vulnerable family members of survivors shall adhere to the same policies and procedures applicable to the survivor records.

Documentation Guidelines

Programs are encouraged to have clear policies regarding what is and is not documented or entered into survivor files, and should devote time to training new advocates on the procedures. Advocates should be allowed enough time in their schedule to be able to both provide services and adequately document them.


Minimum Requirements

The following criteria for confidentiality policies and procedures are required for programs funded by IDHS:

  • Programs must develop confidentiality policies and procedures that adhere to IDVA and address the following:
    • Releasing information only with the written consent of the survivor, with the two exceptions of mandated reporting of child or elder abuse or neglect, or the harm of self or others (see Release of Information Requirements below)
    • Access to records by others, including funding sources;
    • Definitions of confidential communications, observations, and information;
    • Security, retention and destruction of all records, including electronic;
    • Protecting survivors from program visitors who may disclose their identity;
    • Maintaining the confidentiality of deceased survivors;
    • Survivors in the program accessing and reviewing their own files;
    • Protecting the confidentiality of minors;
    • Responding to court orders, subpoenas and warrants.
  • Programs must inform survivors verbally and in writing of their rights and limits of confidentiality.
  • Programs must inform staff, volunteers, visitors, and Board members verbally and in writing of their responsibility and obtain their written agreement to maintain confidentiality. Staff and volunteers must be informed that breaching confidentiality is a crime. The signed agreement must be kept in each personnel, volunteer or individual file. Confidentiality continues after employment or program involvement.
  • Programs shall provide private space for service delivery to maintain confidentiality between survivor and counselor.

Release of Information Requirements

  • Programs must obtain an informed and voluntary consent from the survivor for the disclosure of any information, including the receipt of services. This Waiver and Consent for Release of Information form must be obtained before advocates can give any information to outside parties, with only two exceptions:
    • For mandated reporting in accordance with the Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act or Elder Abuse Act, or
    • In cases where the failure to disclose is likely to result in an imminent risk of serious bodily harm or death to the survivor or another person
  • The consent shall be in writing and shall include the following:
    • The name of the person, agency, or organization to whom disclosure will be made (only one person, agency or organization per consent);
    • The specific information to be disclosed;
    • The purpose of the disclosure;
    • A dated signature of the survivor or guardian entitled to give consent, witnessed by a person such as the advocate who can attest to the identity of the person so entitled;
    • A dated signature of the advocate;
    • An expiration date of the consent; and
    • An indication that the consent is revocable at the written request of the person giving consent and that the survivor has been informed of this right.
  • A copy of the consent form must be maintained in the survivor's records.
  • Programs must be mindful of and address the specific issues pertinent to non-reader and those for whom English is not their primary language.
  • Programs must receive approval from the survivor prior to accepting a third-party consent to release information.
  • Programs shall not use "blanket release forms" or require a survivor to sign a blank Release of Information.
  • Programs may not re-disclose (continue to share information with the party indicated on the Waiver and Consent for Release of Information) unless the person who consented to the disclosure specifically consents to such disclosure.