Addressing Domestic Abuse in Family Court Cases Involving Guardians ad Litem in Wisconsin

Guardians ad Litem (GALs) are attorneys who play a critical role in the family court system by representing the best interests of children while providing a recommendation for custody and placement. Though GALs are required to investigate for domestic abuse in every case, survivors and advocates sometimes find that a thorough investigation was not completed. Our goal is to investigate the barriers GALs face in implementing best practices concerning domestic abuse. This report analyzes data collected through surveys of stakeholders, as well as 25 interviews conducted in select counties. Our analysis shows that GALs face distinct barriers to their practice and to addressing domestic abuse. These fell under five main categories: payments and payment systems, resources, training, uniformity, and pro se representation (or self-representation). We provide seven prioritized recommendations to address these issues through increased county responsibility and shared services, expanded training opportunities for family court professionals, and greater statewide oversight.

Addressing Energy Poverty in Wisconsin Communities

Focus on Energy is a ratepayer funded government organization that has been providing energy efficiency products and services to Wisconsin residents since 2001. However, low-income Wisconsinites have not benefited from the program as much as higher earning members of the community. As a result of shifting policy priorities, program administrators are beginning to identify obstacles causing this problem and seek out possible solutions. This report for Focus on Energy outlines barriers between low-income communities and the services Focus provides. It also puts forth possible solutions to help the organization better serve low-income residents of Wisconsin.

Secondary Refugee Estimate and Analysis of Refugee Service Needs in Brown County, Wisconsin

This report for the Brown County Refugee Task Force estimates the number of secondary refugees living in Brown County to better determine the total refugee population, which drives federal funding. It also provides the Task Force with an analysis of the service needs of refugees compared to the services provided by Task Force member organizations. Using client survey and focus group results, the report identifies key service needs of the refugee population in Brown County and makes recommendations to the Task Force for filling service gaps.

Policy, Systems, and Environmental Changes to Address Housing Insecurity

Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC) is a federally qualified health clinic in Milwaukee. This report recommends strategies SSCHC can use to better identify the social determinants of health needs of its patients. In particular, SSCHC can strengthen its referral network to reduce housing insecurity in the community. Although SSCHC does not have the authority to implement housing policy, it can play an active role in advocating for policy changes as an influential stakeholder in the health and housing community. This report is informed by an analysis of SSCHC and Census data and interviews with SSCHC staff. These recommendations can improve SSCHC’s ability to connect patients with stable, safe, high-quality housing in Milwaukee, and position SSCHC to more effectively advocate for housing policies that benefit its patients.

Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism: Localization in Kenya, Kosovo, and the Philippines

The Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund (GCERF) supports local initiatives in vulnerable communities around the world to help strengthen their resilience to violent extremism. This report utilizes case studies of Kenya, Kosovo, and the Philippines to analyze how each country incorporates local level actors within their respective National Action Plan (NAP) to prevent and counter violent extremism. To understand local efforts, we completed a three-step analysis. First, we performed a literature review covering both decentralization and decision space analysis. Next, we reviewed each NAP, giving a summary of the plan, its goals, and the stakeholders involved. Finally, we developed a qualitative coding schema to comprehensively assess NAPs in terms of best practices laid out by the United Nations. The analysis suggests GCERF can strengthen their local effectiveness by focusing on the following policy initiatives: promoting empowerment, supporting capacity building, and connecting with development agencies and NGO’s to improve decentralization outcomes.

Climate Change & Child Poverty in OECD Countries

Climate change has wide-ranging negative effects on public infrastructure, socio-economic and demographic inequality, and physical and mental health outcomes. Children in poverty are at highest risk of experiencing these impacts. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development requested the completion of an analysis mapping out the connection between climate change, child poverty in wealthy nations, and childhood development. We propose policy options to ameliorate potential high-risk harms to children in poverty living in OECD countries from climate change and mitigation of climate change. We also identify gaps in literature and research that should be pursued to better understand this urgent issue.

Increasing Access to Emergency Assistance Grants for Domestic Violence Survivors in Wisconsin

Emergency Assistance grants are a means-tested, one-time payment available to people experiencing a housing crisis in Wisconsin. Survivors of domestic violence have experienced declining rates of approval for Emergency Assistance since 2010 while increasingly applying for these grants. In this report for End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, we examine the barriers that domestic violence survivors encounter when applying for Emergency Assistance. Barriers include a complex application process, difficulty accessing the necessary documentation safely, domestic violence screening practices, and insufficient training of W-2 caseworkers in domestic violence responsiveness. We provide 35 recommendations to reduce these barriers in the categories of: (1) procedures, (2) training, (3) screening, (4) financial benefits, and (5) organizational culture. We prioritize our recommendations based on potential impact to survivors of domestic violence and implementation feasibility, and we provide eight high-priority recommendations.

The Economic and Social Benefits of Affordable Housing Development: Examining the Impact of Movin’ Out in Southcentral Wisconsin

Movin’ Out, Inc. is a nonprofit affordable housing provider that has developed more than 1,100 units of affordable housing in Wisconsin, many of which are designated for people with disabilities. This report analyzes the economic and social benefits of disability-integrated affordable housing development and shows that Movin’ Out supports significant economic and social benefits. The report offers recommendations to help Movin’ Out combat regulatory barriers and community opposition to affordable housing. The report also includes best practices for community engagement and an advocacy agenda for state and local policy.

Over the Edge: An Analysis of the Implications of Benefit Cliffs Within Wisconsin Public Benefit Programs

In Wisconsin, many families working to move out of poverty and toward self-sufficiency face benefit cliffs – circumstances in which increases in income do not compensate for losses in benefits from state and federal programs. While many state agencies have studied means-tested program cliffs individually, few have looked across departments to see how these programs interact and create or temper cliff effects for Wisconsin families. This report uses eligibility and enrollment data from several public benefit programs to understand how and where cliffs emerge for households receiving support from various combinations of programs. The authors then provide recommendations regarding how to improve interdepartmental data collection and collaboration for mitigating these multi-program cliffs. Further, this report examines what other states and regions have done to combat benefit cliffs and recommends ways that the client, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, can leverage this information to better support low-income families.