Montana Victim Advocate Academy at UM Earns Funding for Four More Years

December 10, 2015

MISSOULA – The Montana Board of Crime Control recently announced it will award annual funding for an additional four years the Institute for Educational Research and Service, a specialty unit of the University of Montana’s Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences. The grant will ensure the continuation of the annual Montana Victim Advocate Academy.  

The MVAA, originally funded by a grant from the U.S. Office of Victims of Crime, is a weeklong training for advocates in governmental or nonprofit agencies who work with victims across the range of crimes and jurisdictional systems.

The first two annual MVAAs, held in 2014 and 2015, prepared 48 advocates working in 38 Montana counties to represent the interests of victims. Recognizing the vital necessity of continued victim advocate training, MBCC agreed to provide funds to support MVAA program costs through 2018.

“This funding renewal for the annual Montana Victim Advocate Academy means our communities can continue to put the needs of crime victims first,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “This is good news for Montana’s law enforcement agencies, and we thank the Montana Board of Crime Control for its strong commitment to supporting the rights of victims while we work simultaneously to bring criminals to justice.”

A 40-hour, five-day residential course, MVAA is designed to provide basic knowledge and skills for individuals with fewer than three years of experience in the field of victim services.           MVAA faculty members are Montana leaders in legal, social work and academic communities. The curriculum is based on the National Victim Assistance Academy, which was developed by the U.S. Office of Victims of Crime. IERS adapted the curriculum to include Montana-specific content.

“By adapting the National Victim Assistance Academy curriculum to meet the unique needs of Montanans, we provide a common core of proven advocacy strategies,” IERS Director Rick van den Pol said. “The faculty of the Montana academy brings unique expertise adapting the national curriculum to meet our cultural, geographic and economic needs.”

IERS also will partner with UM’s School of Social Work to focus on development of an advocate supervision component. Ryan Tolleson Knee, chair of UM’s School of Social Work said, “The School of Social Work anticipates strengthening the existing partnerships with IERS and MBCC to develop an advanced training curriculum and opportunities for professionalization to help ensure that quality social services are delivered throughout Montana.”

In addition to supporting program costs for planning and hosting the academy at UM, MBCC funds will be used to supplement trainees’ registration and travel expenses.

“MVAA is committed to providing consistent training to victim advocates that advances professionalism through a research-based, high-quality curriculum and the use of expert faculty from around the state,” said Brooke Marshall, academy co-director. “This funding will allow MVAA to continue implementing a strategic plan to provide sustainable, evidence-based training for state victim assistance providers, and it will allow us to expand our reach to include county attorneys, judges, child advocates and other criminal justice professionals. We are grateful to the Montana Board of Crime Control for supporting this critical work.”

For more information on the Montana Victim Assistance Academy or the Institute for Educational Research and Service, visit http://iers.umt.edu/ or call 406-243-4973.

Contact: Brooke Marshall, director, Montana Safe Schools Center, and co-director, Montana Victim Advocate Academy, 406-243-5344, brooke.marshall@mso.umt.edu; Nancy Berg, associate to the director, UM Institute for Educational Research and Service, 406-243-4973, nancy.berg@mso.umt.edu.