Uphold Safety, Consent, and Confidentiality
Each type of community needs assessment method comes with its own safety and confidentiality issues. Whatever method you use, spend time with your partners considering how to avoid endangering or exploiting persons with disabilities who are in abusive situations.
To protect the safety of all involved, OVC, SafePlace, and the three pilot sites spent a fair amount of time discussing safety and developing the following tools:
- An OVC-required privacy certificate provides rules about participant safety, confidentiality, and data collection and storage. Certificates should be signed by persons with disabilities and those who are Deaf who participate in focus groups and individual interviews and also can be read aloud to participants at the beginning of each session, with an ASL interpreter for Deaf participants.
- A confidentiality agreement for staff and partners states that staff and partners will keep private the identities of and information shared by people participating in the community needs assessment, along with exceptions.
- Consent forms for focus groups and individual interviews describe the purpose of the needs assessment and people’s roles and note that participation is voluntary and that people can stop participating at any point. They also note that any information shared is to be kept confidential at all times and specify any exceptions to that policy. (For example, how would you handle it if somebody with a disability reports abuse during the session, and state law requires you to report this disclosure to adult protective services? As noted earlier, consult your adult protective services agency to find out the mandatory reporting laws in your state.)
The sites were aware that any written correspondence, e-mails, or phone calls could further expose participants who were in abusive situations to danger and were careful to ask about the safest way to communicate.