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Technical Writing

Empowerhouse’s Men’s Fresh Start Policy Critique

Amber Blackett 

Longwood University

SOWK 392-01

Professor Reynolds

June 25, 2021

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to effectively critique Empowerhouse’s Men’s Fresh Start program. The paper discusses what Fresh Start is and the obligations of all the participants. While the program is known to be effective there are still negative aspects of the policy and program that could potentially be modified. A modification to policy could make the program more effective and useful to staff and clients. With proper grant funding and minor adjustments, this can be done. The paper gives an overall synopsis of how Fresh Start is typically run and the positive and negative effects it has on Empowerhouse as an organization.

Keywords: critique, Empowerhouse, Men’s Fresh Start, positive, negative, modification, staff, clients, grant funding, organization 

Empowerhouse’s Men’s Fresh Start Policy Critique

Empowerhouse offers services to both men and women perpetrators of intimate partner domestic and sexual violence. The program is typically court-mandated or suggested by probation officers or lawyers to reduce or comply with an offender’s current legal situation. The Fresh Start program is 24 weeks in duration and all participants are required to attend 21 out of the 24 group sessions to complete the program. The group meets once a week from 6-8 pm or 8-10 pm. The group is facilitated by two trained Empowerhouse staff and covers topics such as identification of abuse and the progression of violence, communication skills, stress and anger management, intimacy in relationships, problem-solving/conflict resolution, and effects of violence on children. Activities can include role-playing scenarios and group discussions. This provides a positive experience for most men and helps build healthier relationships with their current or future partners. 

There are many participant obligations that the members must abide by to successfully complete the program If the participant misses four group sessions the coordinator will remove the participant and inform the referral agency or court. The cost for the Fresh Start program is $500, $200 of which must be paid only by money order before the classes begin. Participants can also enroll in a payment plan or receive a fee waiver if financial issues arise. All participants are also required to be drug-free and sober during the group session, and if they do not comply the court will be notified and the participant will lose credit for attendance of that session. While these obligations may seem feasible some of these men are experiencing homelessness, transportation issues, and COVID issues. Members also can continue to attend Fresh Start repeatedly. 

The benefits are known to outweigh the cons if the participants utilize the group correctly. A staff member stated that “Fresh Start is as effective as AA.” (Housman, 2021). Meaning that what the participants put in is what they will get out. Some of the positive benefits of Fresh Start include the participants being able to keep their jobs, kids, pay child support, and resources are provided such as housing, job opportunities, etc. 

Benefits of Fresh Start

There are many benefits of Fresh Start that allow the participants to still live their lives normally. Fresh Start is given as an option to many men as an alternative to going to jail. This allows them to also keep their jobs, many participants have blue-collar jobs where their employers will not keep their jobs if they are incarcerated. They can also stay with their families or continue to pay their child support. They also are given resources such as housing opportunities if needed as well as job resources if the member is unemployed. This also provides the participants with groups that allow them to reflect on their behavior and how to improve this for future interactions. It also allows them to understand the impact that they have on their intimate partner, themselves, and their children. 

Cons of Fresh Start

Fresh Start can be expensive for some participants even with a fee waiver. That is one concern that clients may struggle with, but it also motivates them to continue to come to the group after paying the initial $200.00 to start. Money is known to be the biggest issue amongst clients. Clients may also be unable to make it to the group every week within the times that they are required to. Some clients do not have cars and may be unable to receive a ride from family members or friends and absences are not viewed lightly by the Fresh Start coordinators. This can also be related to some clients being homeless and not having the resources to even maintain healthy basic needs. Participants can also not be removed from the group if they receive new domestic violence charges. They can only be removed if they are convicted of the charges. People can attend and successfully finish Fresh Start more than once, and can still be given the option to complete it again without repercussions. This may make the program less effective. For example, a participant has successfully completed Fresh Start three times. 

Effect on Staff

There is a designated number of staff that help facilitate the Men’s Fresh Start group and then the head coordinator is Jacie Housman. While Fresh Start had an intermission when COVID started when they began to start the program again many of the facilitators were risking their health to be in groups with these men. There are six groups going at one time and there is a maximum of 15 people per group. There are currently a total of 50 men that want to start the program in August. This can be overwhelming on the coordinator because a 30-45 minute assessment is required to be completed on each individual before the participant can be eligible for the program. Some of the participants during the intake are rude and uncooperative which makes the assessment longer and more difficult. All of the staff do their best to provide these men with the best services possible and potentially a second chance at regaining their life back.

Overall Analysis of Policy

Empowerhouse’s Fresh Start program is known to be effective to the participants that actively participate, understand, listen, and take responsibility for their overall actions. This policy could be modified to be more accessible for lower socioeconomic status men. The price could also be modified to help with accessibility, if that could not be provided maybe transportation could be included in costs as well as hygiene products, snacks, and other necessities. Grant writing could be established as a transportation vehicle for active participants who genuinely want to contribute their time and effort. While it is important to hold the perpetrators responsible for their actions, they may be first-time offenders who genuinely want to change their behavior. After completing intake assessments it is obvious that many of the participants have been through severe childhood trauma which contributes to their behavior in relationships. 

Fresh Start could also be modified to restrict participants to be allowed to successfully complete Fresh Start a certain number of times. This will prevent participants from taking advantage of services as well as potentially make the program more effective. Empowerhouse’s Men’s Fresh Start program is a constructive program that gives men the ability to reshape their lives to become better members of society.