Evaluation of Two Approaches for Responding to Allegations of Family Maltreatment in the U.S. Army: Coordinated Community Response Impacts and Costs

Richard E. Heyman, Amy M.Smith Slep, Danielle M. Mitnick, Sara R. Nichols, Kathleen M. Cracknell, Stacey S. Tiberio, Sangwon Kim, Daniel F. Perkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: The U.S. Air Force (USAF) conducted a program of research to develop and disseminate reliable and valid criteria for partner and child maltreatment (comprising abuse [physical, emotional/psychological, and sexual] and neglect). These criteria are now used in all branches of the U.S. military. The U.S. Army was the first service outside the USAF to adopt the criteria sets and computerized decision support tool but maintained the original committee composition (the "Case Review Committee"[CRC]) instead of adopting the entire assessment, allegation determination, and treatment planning process (the "Field-tested Assessment, Intervention-planning, and Response"[FAIR] system). The Army commissioned this study to compare the CRC and FAIR processes by testing (1) intra-committee process (i.e., three facets of committee functioning - fidelity to regulations, cohesion and team process, outsized influence of unit representatives); (2) coordinated community response to maltreatment (i.e., perceptions of fairness to alleged offenders and victims, impact on unit representatives, and (3) collaboration between the Family Advocacy Program (FAP, the military's maltreatment response agency) and outside agencies; and (4) the time expended and cost. Materials and Methods: New York University's Institutional Review Board approved the study protocol, and the Army's Human Research Protection Office provided permission to collect data. The ten Army garrisons with the most annual maltreatment cases participated. Committee members, FAP social workers, unit commanders, and independent observers completed assessments of individual meetings and of their overall impression of the processes. A test of whether the means significantly differed between phases was then performed separately for each outcome, and 95% CIs of the unstandardized mean difference between phases were estimated. Results: Independent observers rated FAIR meetings as significantly more faithful to regulations. Unit representatives (i.e., commanders and/or first sergeants) perceived the committee to function better during FAIR (although other committee members and independent observers did not perceive differences). Unit representatives not only rated FAIR as significantly more fair to both alleged offenders and victims (ratings from other committee members did not differ), but also were more likely to attend FAIR meetings and, when they did, rated their ability to serve soldiers and families higher during FAIR. However, FAP social workers rated their relationships with units as being better during CRC, and outside agencies rated their relationship with FAP as significantly better during CRC. Costs to the Army were nearly identical in the two committee structures. Conclusion: Results indicated that the CRC and FAIR processes cost almost identical amounts to run and that the FAIR system was superior in ways most likely to impact service members: (1) independent observers judged its meetings to be more faithful to Army and DoD Instructions; (2) unit representatives were more likely to attend and believed the FAIR system to be fairer (to both alleged offenders and victims) and better functioning. Care should be taken, however, in nurturing relationships between FAP and (1) unit representatives and (2) outside agencies, which may have weakened during FAIR.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E987-E994
JournalMilitary Medicine
Issue number7-8
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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