By Kim Reynolds, CCASA Blogger
When I first began working for the Address Confidentiality Program (ACP) five years ago, I knew very little about sexual violence or victim advocacy. Actually, if I’m completely honest, I was naïve and ignorant, but I knew that I wanted to make a difference somewhere. I have learned much since then, some of which I would like to forget. Fortunately, I have also learned that Colorado has a strong advocacy community which is full of caring, dedicated people who are also determined to make a difference for survivors. I am proud that the ACP is a part of this community, and I am pleased to introduce myself and this program to those of you who may not have heard much about it before now.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The first confidential address program began in 1991 in Washington State. Survivors of domestic violence were frustrated with their inability to vote due to the fact that voter registration records are public and easily available. Survivors had to risk being found by an abuser in order to exercise a right that many Americans take for granted. The Washington Secretary of State proposed an innovative solution: Provide survivors with a legal substitute address, accepted by state and local agencies, and a mail forwarding service. These services provided survivors with a way to vote and keep their actual address out of public records.
Slowly, but surely, other states began to create similar programs. Legislation for the Colorado Address Confidentiality Program passed in 2007 and the program began accepting participants in July of 2008. Currently, there are similar programs in 34 states across the country. Each program has its own laws and rules and each functions somewhat differently than the next, but each state has the same two core services (a substitute address and mail forwarding) and, at its roots, the goal of helping survivors feel safe in their own home.
A SUMMARY OF THE COLORADO PROGRAM
The legislative intent of the Colorado ACP is to protect the location of a survivor’s actual address and reduce the risk of future harm. The ACP laws, found at §24-30-2101, et. seq. C.R.S., created a statewide program that provides survivors of domestic violence, sexual offenses, and/or stalking with a legal substitute address that all state and local government agencies must accept. In Colorado, the ACP substitute address is made up of an actual street address and a unit number. The substitute address is also the location of a secure state mail facility. Some uses for this substitute address include:
- Drivers license and state identification cards
- Motor vehicle titles and registrations
- School enrollment and school record transfers
- Human services benefits
- Police reports
- Court records
- Recreation center ID cards
- Bank accounts
- Additional protections on voter registration records
- Special protections on Comcast, Xcel Energy, and other utility accounts
The ACP also provides a confidential mail forwarding service. Participants begin using the substitute address as if they have actually moved to that address. They begin creating and changing public records to their new substitute address. Soon, their mail begins arriving at the ACP office where staff then sorts, repackages and forwards all first class mail as well as mail from schools and religious and non-profit organizations to the participant at their actual address. The ACP cannot forward magazines, packages or junk mail, but we can forward bank checks and provide participants with strategies for receiving packages.
The Colorado ACP currently has over 2,400 active participants and has served over 3,500 participants since its opening. The ACP is primarily funded by a $28 surcharge, assessed on stalking and other convictions with a domestic violence aggravator.
HOW CAN I ENROLL MY CLIENTS?
A survivor who is interested in applying for ACP services must meet with a person who provides counseling, referral or other direct victim services, and has been trained and registered by the ACP. These folks are otherwise known as “Application Assistants.” Application Assistants discuss program eligibility and determine whether ACP services should be added to a client’s safety plan. The ACP is required to accept and process all complete applications that are submitted by a trained and registered Application Assistant. The ACP typically processes applications and assigns a substitute address within two business days.
So, you want to become an Application Assistant, right? The process is quick, easy, and free. If you have an hour to spare, you can take the online training, which can be found on our website at www.colorado.gov/acp. Click on “Application Process,” then follow the “Application Assistant” link. There, you will find instructions for registering and completing the online training.
Let’s say that you and all of your colleagues would like to take the Application Assistant training. If that is the case, we would be more than happy to send someone to your agency for an in-person training that typically lasts about an hour and a half. If you’ve got a smaller agency, but know people at other agencies that are interested, feel free to invite them along too. The best way to schedule the in-person training is to contact us either by phone at 303-866-2208, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The ACP is only one part of a comprehensive safety plan, but it’s a critical part of any safety plan where the goal is to keep a survivor’s address confidential. This service can only be offered to survivors if there are registered Application Assistants in every corner of the state. We look forward to hearing from, and maybe even meeting in person, many more of you.
Looking back on what I have learned and accomplished while working for the Colorado Address Confidentiality Program, I wonder, “Have I made a difference?” I believe that, in small ways, I have, but I also know that I am still working on it. My intention for these blog posts (something that I’m completely new to, by the way) is to provide more specific information about how survivors can combine participation in the ACP with other strategies to feel safe in their own home again. A lofty goal for sure, but one I believe we can accomplish, together.
Blogger Bio: Kim Reynolds has worked for the Colorado Address Confidentiality Program since 2010 and has come to appreciate the value of online anonymity. She is, however, thrilled to be able to spread the word about the ACP, an underutilized, yet highly effective, survivor resource.