v. 14 Winter 2015 Assessing Public Sector Reform Impacts on Domestic Violence Service Delivery




Beth M. Rauhaus

University of North Georgia




Representative bureaucracy is a theory that scholars use to suggest that diversity in public organizations may lead to representative decision-making, or active representation in public service delivery. In the case of domestic violence, many agencies – governmental and non-governmental- have unique roles, which can be considered as gendered, in addressing domestic violence. While men may be victims of domestic violence, policymakers craft legislation to prevent violence against women and to provide services to the victims suggesting that (1) the state recognizes the potential victimhood of women and that (2) the government is responsible for contributing to gendered policymaking. This research applies the theoretical notions of representative bureaucracy and the feminization of poverty to explore how states may adequately address the needs of women in cases of domestic violence and how partnerships with non-governmental units may meet the needs of vulnerable populations. Public organizations and states have begun to collaborate and outsource with various agencies and organizations in attempt to achieve active representation, or assist the victims adequately, a goal that is commonly associated with non-profit or community organizations. This work contributes to a growing understanding of how gendered public service delivery may be impacted by public sector reform measures such as having a representative bureaucracy and creating partnerships with non-governmental units to deliver services adequately.

Domestic violence is an issue that affects individuals globally leading governmental and non-governmental agencies to develop policies and administer programs to address the needs of the victimized. The scope of the problem of domestic violence is difficult to define singularly or to rely on state and local police departments throughout America alone to address, as incidents may range from misdemeanors in the case of simple assault, to felony offenses of rape or aggravated assault (Chaney & Saltzstein, 1998). The widespread consequences of domestic violence further marginalize the victims. According to the World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, there has been a greater “recognition that acts of violence against women are not isolated events but rather form a pattern of behavior that violates the rights of women and girls, limits their participation in society, and damages their health and well-being” (2013, p.1). Violence against women, which occurs in many different forms, is a violation of human rights and freedoms, which is a “manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between women and men” (United Nations Statistics Division, 2010, p.127). In order to maintain and protect a healthy population and a responsive administrative state, the need to assess how public managers can combat domestic violence effectively is imperative.

This is an arduous task, as states responsible for administering services to the victims of violence recognize the importance of implementing laws to deter acts of domestic violence against women. According to Conway and others, “public policy can empower women and lessen their dependence on men or on the patriarchal state,” (2005, p. 6) which implies that active policymaking is in important tool in addressing violence against women. The importance of collaboration in the efforts to meet the policy challenges   associated with domestic violence is noted by Padayachee and Manjoo when they state, “victim support groups, victims, the courts, the police and professional agencies must work together… if strategies for dealing with domestic violence are to work in the interests of the victim[s]” (1996, p. 73).

Similar to the administration of many other public services, there are challenges in being effective, responsive, and representative or fair when addressing violence against women through public-private partnerships. Public administration scholars have to address collaborations, partnerships, and outsourcing, as a means for addressing the multilayered challenges of domestic violence. Bryson, Crosby, and Stone find that existing literature focusing on addressing the ineffectiveness of public service in complex social problems through collaborative partnerships “indicates how complicated and challenging collaboration can be, even though it may be needed now more than ever” (2015, p. 647). Due to the rise of public sector collaborations to address social ills in states globally, it is necessary to assess how such reform measures, like multi-sector collaborations, impact service delivery. The goal of this work is to examine how public service collaborations may be used to address effectively a social problem that persists globally, namely domestic violence. Typically, the goal of public service reforms is to save resources without sacrificing effectiveness; however, research fails to examine how effectively multi-sector collaborations can approach gendered policies and administrative practices, which are used in the delivery of services to domestic violence victims. This work contributes to the development of scholarship on collaborations and contracting-out, by examining how gendered approaches to domestic violence can be included in such partnerships and collaborations.

Domestic violence is a social ill that requires governmental agencies to partner with non-profit agencies and community-based groups to address its multi-faceted aspects. Domestic violence policies and programs are a bit different than other types of policies. First, domestic violence is an issue that requires various public agencies, institutions, or bureaucracies to collaborate and coordinate efforts in attempt to address violence against women. While regulatory agencies, such as local police departments are responsible for responding to incidents of domestic violence, redistributive public, non-profit agencies and organizations are charged with an equally important responsibility of providing services to the victims. Researchers have found that nonprofit agencies and organizations that provide support to the victims of domestic violence through shelters for battered women or through victims’ rights advocacy also have led to more proactive and responsive police practices (Frisch, 1992; MacManus & Van Hightower, 1989). The responsibility of addressing domestic violence victims’ needs is shared among various organizations and sectors, signifying the essential role of public administrators in managing and planning collaborations thoroughly. Chaney and Saltzstein’s research suggest “that the interactive nature of bureaucratic control/ response requires considerable fine tuning” (1998, p. 763) in order to effectively address the severity of domestic violence. Subsequently, domestic violence is gendered with economic costs to female victims. Evidence strongly suggests that women tend to be the victims of domestic violence.  Feminist scholars have characterized the public/private divide as ideological by arguing that that women have been historically assigned roles in the private sphere and kept from participating in society and politics. This placement in the private sphere assigns women “gendered roles of domination and submission,” (Kelly, 2003, p. 32) which is often cited as a source of tension leading to acts of violence.

Acts of domestic violence occur in communities globally, signifying the need for collaborative efforts that use a bottom-up approach to adequately address the problem. Domestic violence is “perpetuated by traditional and customary practices that accord women lower status in the family, workplace, community and society, and it is exacerbated by social pressures” (United Nations Statistics Division, 2010, p. 127). Women also have a lower status in society because of their economic standing, leading to the acceptance of traditional gender roles. According to Ford, the “single best predictor of poverty in America is gender” (2011, p. 333). Put differently, the increasing number of single-parent, female headed households living in poverty has led scholars to term this phenomenon the feminization of poverty. This concept can be further applied to explain unequal pay and the lessened value on feminine occupational traits and skills (Ford, 2011; Kimenyi & Mbaku 1995). When women are victims of domestic violence, they become, in a sense, vulnerable and in some cases, subject to economic instability. Victims, who actively escape violence from within their homes, seek shelter and become dependent upon public assistance.

The state, which is typically described as patriarchal by feminist scholars, has been criticized for its lack of commitment to effectively ending domestic violence.  For example, police departments in American cities, such as Oakland and Detroit, have been “largely indifferent to domestic violence” (Zorza, 1992, p.47).  These departments have given low priority to such incidents or classified occurrences as “social work” rather than legitimate law enforcement. Zorza notes that street-level bureaucrats being socialized as police officers in these local departments were taught “that domestic violence was a private manner, ill-suited to public intervention” (1992, p.47-48) and such occurrences should be ignored. This example further highlights the public/ private sphere ideology public agents such as police officers, may reinforce the idea that violence occurring in the household is not a serious crime and the state should not intervene. This example further acknowledges a patriarchal culture engrained in police departments, which contributes to the marginalization of women.

While police departments and regulatory agencies are often questioned in their ability to serve domestic violence victims well and achieve active representation, the issue goes beyond adequate provision of services and representation. Chaney and Saltzstein’s (1998) work illustrates active representation, as they find that an increase of female police officers in American municipalities correlates with an increased arrest rate. However, contrary evidence is found in other studies focusing on similar types of regulatory agencies due to the organizational hindrances such as masculine norms and socialization, in achieving active representation (Meier and Nicholson-Crotty, 2006; Rauhaus, 2014). Patriarchal approaches to lawmaking hinder the ability to achieve representation for women.

As domestic violence, in many forms, continues to persist in communities globally, states have turned to outsourcing as a form of service delivery. Private-public partnerships as one possible way of outsourcing, is currently used throughout the US to support services to domestic violence survivors. These partnerships are contract- based and authorize civil society organizations with experience in the field to provide the service. This delegation of authority raises the question of how well contract-based delivery of this specific service addresses the complexities of domestic violence. One such complexity of domestic violence is recognizing the needs of the victims. While policies and laws are written to prevent violence against women, women experiencing forms of domestic violence come from different backgrounds. In this work, the challenge of providing a contract-based service to domestic violence survivors is examined from the perspective of its ability to represent service users. This work illustrates how elements of representative bureaucracy and gendered approaches to service provision may be applied to the discussion of governmental reforms, such as partnerships, contracting out, and collaborations.


The Challenge of Representation

States globally are presented with a number of challenges in adequately addressing the health concerns associated with domestic violence, and according to the World Health Organization, “multi-sectoral efforts are needed to combat this deep-rooted problem” (WHO, 2015). Table 1 below illustrates the “global prevalence estimates have been calculated based on all existing data from population-based studies showing that worldwide, 35 percent of women have experienced either intimate partner violence (physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner) or non-partner sexual violence or both in their lifetime” (WHO, 2015). Table 1below illustrates that domestic violence, in the form of intimate partner violence is a global phenomenon, with low-and middle-income countries experiencing slightly higher levels of violence than high-income countries.  Data do not explain how states and public servants assist victims with different cultural or religious affiliations, race, and economic status or gender identities. To explore the challenge of representing victims’ needs, I turn to two case studies of domestic violence service delivery in the UK and Australia.



Case Studies of Domestic Violence Service Delivery

In Britain, the Southall Black Sisters (hereafter SBS) exist to address the inefficiencies of the state in providing representative services to victims of domestic violence (Patel, 2000). This non-governmental agency was awarded a grant from the Greater London Council in the 1980s to establish a black women’s center as a first step in achieving active representation. SBS was tasked to provide “a comprehensive front line advisory service to black women whose needs were overlooked by statutory agencies, voluntary groups and even organizations established by the progressive anti-racist” (Patel, 2000, p. 168). While this example of outsourcing service by providing grant funds illustrates the inability of governmental units to actively reach domestic violence victims of racial minorities. Patel further concludes that religion and culture play important roles in addressing the inability to reach underrepresented groups and immigrants. In a study focusing on Asian women immigrants in Britain, Ali (1992) finds that the state has difficulty addressing problems of minority communities, particularly problems, such as domestic violence because of the different cultural expectations of the role of women. In this case, community leaders tend to be men, religious, business or socially-conservative, which impacts their view of domestic violence, leading to an inconsistent view of the severity of domestic violence and gender roles among Asian women experiencing domestic violence. As Patel writes,


in the name of tolerance or ‘cultural differences,’ the rights of women are dismissed, and many Asian women seeking support to escape violence or forced marriages are often told by state agencies that seeking alternatives, for example asserting their legal rights, is not an acceptable method of resolving conflict within their families and communities. (2000, p. 176)


In an attempt to truly serve those in need of assistance from domestic violence, states and communities alike should take the lead in recognizing the severity of the crime, the needs of the victims, and focus on which practices may be most beneficial in reaching vulnerable populations. In another case study, Keel examines members of indigenous communities in Australia experiencing sexual assault, the ineffectiveness of state governance to address the problem and the impact service providers have in addressing this population’s needs. In this study, “three Indigenous service-providers, and one non-Indigenous service-provider, who work specifically in the area of sexual assault” (Keel, 2004, p. 12) are interviewed to assess their work in counseling, education and advocating. While all service providers confirm that indigenous men and women are likely to openly discuss sexual violence, the researcher also found that “workers readily identified the importance of using visual images or artwork as a more culturally familiar and less confrontational way of talking about sexual assault” (Keel 2004, p. 15).

In Keel’s case study, the important of representation, diversity and training is highlighted. She also finds that the center plans to appoint a male officer to work with the female service providers interviewed in attempts to provide information to male victims. As noted in Keel’s study, a service provider asserts,


We have male and female counselors for men’s business and women’s business. The only time we have a male counselor see a female client or a female counselor see a male client is usually at the client’s request, because they feel more comfortable with a person of that gender – for example, a male client who has been sexually abused by a male and prefers to speak with a female counselor. (2004, p. 16)


Thus, these examples of service providers having shared values, a condition often associated with active representation, is an instrumental element of effectively assisting domestic violence victims, in a manner in which they are comfortable. When contracting out, public service entities should keep in mind the goal of active representation and ensure that this goal is understood by all prospective parties desiring to collaborate.


Goals of Research

Scholars have been interested in examining and assessing the effect outsourcing has on effective public service delivery. Literature within the field of public administration also extends theory to practice in explaining the effects of and the implication on public management, as managers who can successfully outsource services have an understanding of “the importance of monitoring systems that assess cost, quality, and citizen satisfaction” (Hefetz & Warner, 2004, p. 184). Kettl further explains that the rapid growth in state spending has led many nations to use indirect ways to provide public services, as he claims outsourcing has increased 30 to 40 percent in Finland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Denmark, Belgium, and the United States (2015, p. 26). This work assesses reform measures that states with masculine notions of power, use in providing services to victims of domestic violence, which should incorporate feminine elements, such as care and compassion. Existing literature discusses the contemporary reforms of public service. Yet, there is a gap in the literature regarding how feminine traits, such as care and compassion, in the bureaucracy fare in the gendered aspects of privatization and collaborative partnerships in service delivery.

There are two ways in which this research contributes to the understanding of gender and public sector outsourcing. First, public services can be gendered by examining the purpose of the service, the function of the agency involved in the provision of service, and the clientele of those beneficiaries of the services. Existing research merely acknowledges that privatization may be beneficial in some service areas, while other areas, such as daycare facilities, elderly programs, prisons, and homeless programs are more likely to be contracted back to the public sector (ICMA 1992, 1997; Hefetz & Warner, 2004). This leaves a void in understanding how gendered public services may be impacted by privatization, collaboration or partnerships.  This works uses the feminist perspective to highlight the need for a greater dialogue of the feminist experience by arguing that gendered and diverse skills and approaches are needed to support domestic violence victims from specific racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. This work also provides a framework for contract-based outsourcing to include diverse personnel in the administration of services.

Secondly, privatization has a significant impact on personnel and recruitment of qualified individuals to the public sector. Light (1999) reasons that the new public service has to compete with private and non-profit sectors for the best employees, which may have direct impacts on representative bureaucracy. Existing research does not extend the theory of representative bureaucracy to the discussion of outsourcing. However, when there is competition in personnel selection, there is a potential of neglect of the need for diversity in the administrative state. This disconnect may have important implications for active representation, responsive bureaucracy, and the fulfillment of the needs of the public.

Ultimately, this research seeks to bring the important element of gender into the discussion of governmental reforms in multi-sectoral partnerships, collaborations and outsourcing. Regulatory agencies, such as police departments, have traditionally questioned the severity of domestic violence and taken an inactive approach to remedying the issue. With diversity being valued, the ability to actively represent and respond to women’s needs has increased. Therefore, the recruitment of personnel should be detailed in contracts to ensure representation is achieved. Personnel administering services to the survivors need extensive training in recognizing the needs of victims, speaking the language and understanding cultural norms of survivors in order to provide the appropriate responses to the needs. When public-private partnerships occur, services are contracted and outsourced with goals of saving costs, but often the effectiveness of service delivery is questioned. Epstein (2013) criticizes public-private partnerships of soft services, such as the delivery of welfare, or in this case, the provision of services to survivors of domestic violence. When soft services are contracted out, problems arise such as the difficulty in clearly defining and measuring the service provision and the appropriate amount of administrator discretion (Epstein, 2013). Therefore, it is important to further explore how public–private partnerships may effectively address gendered policies while also incorporating elements of representative democratic norms.


The Waves of Reform in Public Administration

The study of public administration often centers on reform measures that strive to promote efficiency and effectiveness of public service delivery. There have been many approaches to governmental reforms over the years and in varying political systems. According to scholars, “modern conservative political movements in the United States, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere have adopted privatization as a means for reducing the size of the public sector, curbing the power of the state, and making public bureaucracy more productive and competitive” (Brudney et al., 2005, p. 403). Therefore, outsourcing is a practice that is commonly used worldwide for various reasons in attempts to scale the power of the bureaucracy due to political and economic pressures.

Peters (2001) argues that there are four dimensions of public administration reform, which are applicable to outsourcing measures. These dimensions of reform include diagnosing the problem, developing a normative approach to bureaucratic organization, developing a management model, and understanding the role of the policymaking process. While many public service reforms have used Peters’ dimensions in achieving quality public service and the need for a representative bureaucracy, there have been many waves of reforms exploring how market principles may impact public service delivery. In Waldo’s 1968 work, “the founders of public administration solved the conundrum by accepting democracy as the guiding principle of the American political system, but keeping it external to their professional interests through the politics-administration dichotomy” (Frederickson & Smith 2003, p.45).  Since then, scholars and theorists alike have offered empirical analysis and normative theoretical approaches contributing to the discussion of public service reforms as well as challenged the politics-administration dichotomy. A paradox of public service reform is the importance of democratic principles, such as equity, consensus, or representation of interests, all of which are not necessarily efficient (Frederickson & Smith, 2003). To highlight the importance of incorporating democratic principles in public service, representative bureaucracy theorists focus on reform measures that recognize bureaucracies as institutions within a political system with an important task of representing the public being served. According to Phillips, “all theories of democracy deal with the question of popular control,” which contains elements of gendered power (1991, p. 75). She further explains that feminism and democracy are useful elements in examining inequalities, which can be extended to “economic or bureaucratic power of non-elected bodies” (1991, p. 15).

A major tenet of representative bureaucracy is to allow community, representation –typically those under-represented– in policymaking and administrative decisions. Furthermore,  no “a representative bureaucracy, reflecting the backgrounds of the citizenry and similar values and beliefs, would provide an avenue for citizens to feel a connection with government, to see their needs and desires reflected in the actions of government, actions that would reflect these similarly held values and beliefs” (Sowa & Selden 2003, p. 701). This strife for equity and representation may hinder efficiency of administration, which clearly contradicts normative theories implying that market principles, such as privatization and competition, are fit for public service.

While representative bureaucracy conflicts with the quest for efficiency in public service, reformists and theorists have continued to explore methods of innovative public management that can incorporate democratic values. For example, the Minnowbrook Conference and the work Toward a New Public Administration illustrate a movement for participatory management in theory and practice as scholars recognize the value of bureaucratic responsiveness and involvement. Responsiveness and involvement in job tasks can span both public and private sectors, to bridge the gap for theorists seeking reforms without abandoning the idea of business practices in administration. Stillman considers American democratic public service principles as a means of governing that are “not destructive of human values for either employees or clients” (1991; Frederickson & Smith 2003, p. 53). While this focus is imperative to democratic governance and public service, it minimizes a focus on efficiency and market based principles that are often incorporated in public sector reform measures.

According to Peters, “governments are now using performance and quality standards as a means for assessing management and policy, with economic efficiency being one of a number of standards that are being applied to managers and their programs” (2001, p. 21).  One approach to de-centralizing public governance is through privatization. Privatization, using private organizations to deliver public services, has been widely used in Western Europe where public ownership levels were particularly high. However, this process comes with concerns over the need for regulation (Wright 1994; Feigenbaum, Henig, & Hamnett, 1999).  The New Public Management (henceforth NPM) approach, for instance, has embraced earlier reforms focusing on business principles in administration to re-invent government. Frederickson and Smith note that the NPM has replaced traditional principles of public administration with “doctrines of contracting out, decentralizing, greater discretion to managers, citizen or customer choices, deregulating, organizing so that there is competition, and determining effectiveness according to outcome measurement” (2003, p. 124). In a similar fashion, Paul Light addresses the important changes in government remaining a competitive sector in his work The New Public Service. One central argument is that when private firms compete for public service work, employment opportunities are “tighten[ed] thereby reducing opportunities for hiring at all levels” of government (Light, 1999, p. 9). This narrowing of employment opportunities in public service has significant implications on equal opportunity, as well as long-term effects on achieving a representative bureaucracy. When collaborating to provide services to domestic victims, agencies should seek to incorporate diversity in recruitment and retention practices to ensure the victims’ needs will be met.


Domestic Violence Service Delivery through Multi-sector Collaborations

Public administration scholars and practitioners alike, rely on multi-sector service delivery collaborations when they examining social or welfare service delivery. Scholars claim that contemporary ‘wicked issues’, social problems that continue to persist, require a cross-sectional partnership, if service delivery is to be adequate (Andrews & Entwistle, 2010; Selsky & Parker, 2005; Gazley & Brudney 2007; Herranz 2008). While private organizations do not tend to have a dominant role in service delivery to domestic violence victims, public organizations and non-profit organizations tend to collaborate extensively in service provision. Public sector organizations are typically responsible for enforcing mandates and exerting power to address ‘wicked issues’, while the third sector of non-profits organizations, are often credited with having the ability to communicate and serve excluded groups of society and to “enhance the equity of service outcomes” (Andrews & Entwistle 2010, p. 680).

In the case of domestic violence services, partnerships are key. Public-public partnerships exist in order to address the many dimensions of governance associated with domestic violence. Governmental entities are responsible for the regulatory and legal aspect of domestic violence, while other public organizations focus primarily on the service provision component of domestic violence. In order to have comprehensive public administration, justice, corrections, human service departments at all levels of government collaborate to ensure services are provided and awareness is acknowledged. Andrews and Entwistle suggest that public-public partnerships are necessary when influence needs to be extended or when certain wicked issues “cut across or fall between these boundaries” (2010, p. 681). Domestic violence causes regulatory and redistributive public agencies to collaborate in attempts to address the social problem, enforce law, and protect the victims. Another type of partnership used in addressing domestic violence is public-nonprofit partnership. Nonprofit organizations bring distinct values and virtues to the collaborative partnership, as nonprofits “demand compassion and commitment to individuals, require extensive trust on part of customers or clients, need hands-on personal attention, and involve the enforcement of moral codes” (Osborne & Gaebler 1992, p. 46). These organizations are responsible for providing services to minorities and underrepresented citizens; services that are instrumental in reaching the goal of equitable outcomes (Andrews & Entwistle 2010).

A contemporary provision of adequate public service delivery incorporates care ethics. The ethic of care is a theoretical framework that aligns with policy application and service provision, which argues that administrators should look at human beings in different ways, understand their social problems, assess their needs, and critically analyze how governmental units should address these issues (Hankivsky, 2014; Hankivsky, 2004). Rather than relying solely on governmental agencies to provide an ethic of care, the public-nonprofit partnership may be a strong collaboration to achieve equitable service delivery as the third sector is often praised for responding to individual social problems in a compassionate manner. Rauhaus (2014) finds that public servants working with domestic violence achieve active representation when using care. This study illustrates representative bureaucracy leads to active representation when feminine traits, such as care and compassion, are valued by personnel assisting domestic violence survivors. As illustrated in Keel’s case study exploring domestic violence service delivery to indigenous groups, providers had a significant undertaking of becoming familiar with the history, culture, language, arts and imagery in order to truly help victims. These counselors demonstrate an ethic of care by developing a common connection to the victim in order to be able to assist adequately.


Implications of New Public Service Reforms on Representative Bureaucracy

The many changes and shifts in public service and civil service reform have been ongoing in efforts to achieve specific objectives that range from effectiveness in service delivery to developing a competitive environment to attract quality employees to the public sector. The decline in prestige of the public sector became evident in the 1970s and 1980s. Light (1999) refers to this time frame as the “quiet crisis,” which was a period governmental and bureaucratic inefficiencies were addressed by the media leading to public cynicism of public servants. This crisis greatly impacted the recruitment of individuals to the public service sector and led to greater market competition to appeal to workers.

Contemporary approaches to governance continue to explore the benefits and costs of contracting out public services. In analyzing over thirty scholarly articles examining consequences of privatization, Hodge (2000) finds that cost savings are not as substantial as the theory would suggest and interestingly argues that the amount of savings is dependent upon what type of service is outsourced. Due to the dynamic nature of many policy types, many of public agencies have varying responsibilities in service provision, making it important to examine which services should be contracted out. Hodge (2000) further asserts that services that are not in complex areas are capable of being contracted out, implying that less complex areas may be contracted out. In general, reasons for coordinating domestic violence service delivery among multiple agencies and sectors include: “to avoid duplication of services; to promote a consistent rather than contradictory response; to increase awareness and understanding of domestic violence in both agencies and the general public; to identify gaps in service provision and work together to address these; to provide a more holistic intervention service” (James-Hanman, 2000, p. 270).  While contracting services out may not always be effective in terms of cost-savings, it is imperative to analyze the effectiveness of service delivery in terms of responding to victim’s unique needs.

Stivers’ intersection of feminist theory and public administration highlights the dilemma of the value of masculine traits in the state and notes that “publicness is problematic, because it is grounded in a historical understanding of the public sphere as a male preserve, distinct from the domestic realm that has been the primary life space and responsibility of women” (2002, p. 3). This assertion not only highlights the value of masculinity in the public sector, it further contributes to the notion of the feminization of poverty, which indexes violence against women. By acknowledging the masculinity of public administration, Stivers also implies that power distribution in society varies by gender. In regards to the provision of public services to the victims of domestic violence, elements of social injustice and patriarchal states’ stance on the privacy of domestic lives are apparent. As Kelly notes,


Despite these positive effects, legal responses to domestic violence can raise serious questions about whether civil actions instill the sense that battering is an appropriate problem for the community to take on….Although an order that the batterer leave the home is often crucial to a victim’s safety, it can result in impoverishment and greater economic vulnerability for the women and her children, who are typically left in her care. (2003, p. 75)


Kelly’s work illustrates the importance of the appropriate level of community involvement in addressing domestic violence, the feminization of poverty associated with women’s economic status, and the controversy of privacy. Since the issue of domestic violence effects communities in many ways and leaves the community and state to prevent further acts of violence, enforce law, and provide services to victims, there are ample opportunities to contract aspects of some services out to private entities or non-profit community partners. In general, the provision of public services to the victims falls in the realm of redistributive policies; yet the oversight of domestic violence laws is regulatory in nature. Saathoff and Stoffel note, “community-based domestic violence services have grown significantly since their emergence in the 1970s. Now more than 2,000 in number, domestic violence organizations have expanded their range of programs. In addition to crisis-oriented services, such as telephone hot lines and temporary shelter, many of these agencies provide legal, health, mental health, or vocational services or referrals, and assistance in finding housing, relocating, and planning for safety” (1999, p. 97). Since the functions of domestic violence policies and program may vary a great deal, the provision of some services may be outsourced effectively by allowing religious organization and non-profits to assist the victims.

The provision of care in public administration is effective in addressing the needs of vulnerable clientele, specifically victims of domestic violence (Guy et al., 2008 & Rauhaus, 2014). Non-profit organizations, religious affiliated organizations, community organizations, and redistributive public agencies may all meet the needs of caring for victims, which indicates that privatization may be useful, if there is value congruence. According to Hefetz and Warner “goal incongruence between government and their contractors may reduce privatization or increase contracting back-in” (2004, p.174). Thus, it is important for agencies from all sectors working on the same issue to collaborate in identifying key objectives of service delivery to effectively achieve goals of service delivery. Organizations that have a mission of caring for the victims tend to have elements of promoting welfare and assisting the victims in their quest to achieve social justice, are associated with feminine traits, such as care and compassion. Hankivsky offers a new approach to understanding and applying care ethics by focusing not only on gender, but also on social variables of class and race, may result in a greater recognition of social problems individuals experience and how to best respond to needs (2014). Padayachee and Manjoo, who examine domestic violence services in South Africa, find that “services cannot be adequately delivered if the professionals, who are supposed to be providing these services, have widespread disagreements and misunderstandings about the treatment of the problem” (1996, p. 74). Their research highlights the importance of all organizations involved in the provision of domestic violence services to clearly understand the policy, enforce the law in a consistent manner, and fairly administer services responsively. These vital elements of successfully privatizing services are essential to recognizing the severity of domestic violence and a step in preventing future acts of violence. James-Hanman’s work also reiterates this idea by suggesting that agencies have a shared philosophy, implementation strategy and commitment to equality in order to be effective in partnerships; otherwise, the partnerships may result in “worsening the situation” (2000, p. 271) of addressing domestic violence.

Regulatory agencies tend to have command and control elements that illustrate the importance of government legitimacy in the provision of safety in communities and the state. Regulating and upholding laws can be effectively privatized if public leaders and bureaucrats are actively engaged in monitoring cost, quality and citizen satisfaction with service delivery (Hefetz & Warner, 2004). If public managers do not actively manage the contract, there is the potential of ineffective and inefficient public service, which may lead to public cynicism, dissatisfaction, or distrust. These values are not only important to democratic governance but are imperative in retaining legitimate standards of safety, primarily to the victims who have experienced human right violations.  Pierre and Painter argue that legal services should not be contracted out and the resolution of law must be institutional (2010). Their logic suggests that the responsibility of the state in the provision of justice should retain legitimacy and have supreme authority by remaining within the scope of government service, which illustrates values of patriarchy, which includes elite authority and masculine notions of power. This inclination of not privatizing such regulatory services may have important consequences on validating the severity of domestic violence crimes and violations. By approaching law enforcement and crime prevention in a legitimate manner and reserving those responsibilities for governmental agencies, there is the potential for reducing acts of domestic violence and signaling the effect to the community that domestic violence is a serious crime that will be addressed in a legitimate manner.

Victims seeking services and attempting to recover from violent acts may be set back in their recovery if their perpetrators are not legitimately detained or the violation of law is not taken seriously. In some nations, women continue to allow wife-beating as an acceptable consequence for their behavior and status within the home. Research illustrates that “attitudes of women in regard to violence to which they are exposed in their marriages and other intimate relationships is still largely based on concepts and constructs that heavily favor inequity and dominance of men in quite a few regions of the world” (United Nations Statistics Division, 2010, p. 138). Therefore, in efforts to change social norms and citizen perceptions of rights, the government should take a legitimate stance of recognizing human and civil violations and addressing the transgression appropriately by maintaining bureaucratic responsibility in the enforcement of law. Hawkins and Humes reiterate this point by stating, “domestic violence issues… require relatively high levels of state intervention in the traditionally private sphere of family life despite the fact that state agents are not causing the abuse” (2002, p. 256).


Implications of New Public Service Reforms on Public Personnel Practices

Traditionally, the decision to privatize public services was politically or ideologically driven, as the elected executives were ideologically motivated to contract out services (Wallin, 1997; Breaux, Duncan, Keller, & Morris, 2002; Sclar, 2000). Now, Brudney and others suggest that “contracting out as a governance ‘tool’ or practice may have entered a less ideological phase, in which its use has become less controversial and more accepted” as a means of implementing public policy (2005, p. 414). While the process has become less politically motivated, it is important to note that executives often have influence in making appointments and steering policy implementation in a direction that meets their objectives. This challenge to the politics-administration dichotomy and conservative approach to policy implementation may have significant implications for public servant behavior, personnel practices, and ultimately representative bureaucracy in practice.

The decision of privatization often aligns with fiscal policy and restraints, as a major incentive of contracting out services is efficiency. Decision makers who are politically motivated to contract out in the hopes of saving money may overlook the importance of representative bureaucracy. In theory, representative bureaucracy offers the promise of having an administrative state that reflects the population that is being served. There are many benefits of representative bureaucracy in democratic government, such as increased legitimacy, responsiveness and active representation of under-represented populations; however, striving for equal opportunities in bureaucracy may be sacrificed in times of privatization. When services are contracted out, hiring practices may not incorporate diversity in attempts to meet the needs of clientele groups thereby missing an important element of democratic values in equal opportunity employment. While more flexibility in personnel practices may be beneficial in some ways, the bureaucratic process of hiring should serve as a model for human resources focused on merit and diversity. When outsourcing occurs, government agencies should partner with private or non-profit agencies that have common values and in this case, a commitment to representative bureaucracy. Focusing on common organizational soft values such as care and compassion is important when collaborating to serve domestic violence victims who have specific needs.

When examining the needs of individuals, public servants and their partners should be mindful of the population they serve and the changing demographics of their clientele. The overload hypothesis implies that significant shifts in the size of a city or state population may cause an overload of public services to be delivered, which may be beyond the capacity of public agencies’ offerings leading to the decision to contract out (Greene, 2002). It is important to note that population shifts result in a more diverse population with unique needs. Therefore, when exploring the option of contracting out, it is important to consider changes in the types of needs in diverse population that constitutes in an effort to ensure effective representation and responsiveness. In particular, Chaney and Saltzstein (1998), highlight,


a significant link between the level of representation of women among the ranks of uniformed police officers and reported reliance on arrest in such cases thus is in keeping with general arguments in support of representative bureaucracy as well as specific arguments  regarding the potential influence of female police officers on the treatment of female victims; at a minimum, it may suggest that departments that are receptive to female employment on the force may also follow practices that are more sensitive to female victims. (p. 761)


When contracting out services for the victims of domestic violence, it is necessary to recognize the needs of the victims and train service providers with the necessary skills while also highlighting the importance of democratic values, such as integrity, fairness, and legitimacy all of which are important in assisting the victims who may also be members of disadvantaged groups. In privatizing services that assist the victims of domestic violence, public managers need to communicate the importance of representative bureaucracy to all partners, agencies and organizations, including those in  the non-profit sector and stress the necessity of having a responsive workforce to meet the needs of the victims adequately. In sum, public administrators working on domestic violence services should be open to multi-sectoral partnerships by outsourcing certain tasks to non-governmental units. When seeking reforms to meet efficiency objectives, public managers need to be aware of issues that may arise in partnerships, such as: goal conflict, incompatible organizational cultures, competition for scarce resources, and the costs of managing collaborations and partnerships (Romzek et al. 2013). Collaborative multi-sectoral partnerships work with clear goals that all parties accept.



Domestic violence is an issue that impacts not only the victims who are seeking assistance and experiencing issues of poverty, but also communities and governmental units. Since domestic violence requires regulation of law and the redistribution of aid to the victims, the stress placed on governmental organizations can be immense, leading governmental executives to contract out services. Gender and power are entrenched in organizations and decision making, yet they have not been fully integrated in the discussion about government outsourcing. In order to minimize such deficiencies that may be experienced when contracting out, public administrators and personnel directors need to take extra steps in ensuring collaboration and value congruence of partner agencies among all sectors working to address domestic violence. Since victims of domestic violence have needs to be addressed by many different agencies, all of which may instrumentally use care ethics in service provision, value congruence should focus on care ethics.

As government units are faced with social changes, economic pressures, and an increased need to provide public service, privatization and partnerships may be a necessary alternative to address community needs. It is necessary to explore how contracting out may impact community awareness of domestic violence, as the message of severity of the crime and the needs of the victims should be re-iterated by many legitimate organizations and agents. Further research should incorporate the impact of contracting out services on the recruitment and retention of diverse employees and how managers may effectively collaborate with other agencies in meeting the needs of vulnerable populations. By developing a model for personnel directors to use when training service providers with the necessary tools to address domestic violence, public administrators may be able to effectively contract out services in a consistent democratic manner.

Challenges in government outsourcing and private-public partnerships continue to emerge as new social, economic and political problems arise. Existing literature suggests that partnerships across sectors are useful in addressing public problems that each sector cannot fully address alone (Kettl, 2015). When examining public problems, scholars categorize the type of service needed based upon the population. Epstein’s focus on soft services illustrates the point that “complex human services” is where administrators need discretion to assist a “disenfranchised segment of the population” (2013, p. 6). This work aligns with Epstein’s findings and further expands the dialogue of providing public services to vulnerable populations by using a feminist perspective. This work further extends the discussion of governmental partnerships and contracting out by highlighting gendered perspectives of policy, organizations and service delivery. In this work, the importance of representative bureaucracy is stressed as a measure to ensure active representation when administering gendered policies and services. In democratic states, ideals of representative bureaucracy, such as diversity, may be used to strengthen collaborative efforts of motivation and engagement. In non-democratic nations, representativeness, in addition to, the recognition of domestic violence acts as a serious crime, may hinder effective service delivery to survivors. But keeping in mind that domestic violence, an issue that is rooted in gender inequality, it is imperative to create a framework in which partnerships can successfully address domestic violence. In non-democratic states with little-to-no emphasis on representativeness, this list may be useful to activists, religious, or community aid groups. There are eight practical recommendations that can be used by public managers and members of private-public partnerships when faced with decisions of contracting out, collaborating, or partnering with other agencies. The first recommendation is to familiarize all personnel with laws governing the state and the collaborative effort. This will ensure consistency among all actors and illustrate legitimacy in authority. Second, partners should recruit qualified service providers from all sectors that specialize in social services, legal affairs, and clientele outreach. Next, when collaborating with other sectors, governmental agencies should lead by example and routinely audit programs. The fourth recommendation is for government agencies to select partner agencies that demonstrate a strong commitment to understanding cultural, religious, and legal rights of the individual victim or group of victims; an emphasis on actively representing the victims’ needs; a vision that implores care, concern, and compassion for victims; and an emphasis on diversity in recruitment based upon cultural, racial, ethnic, and gendered needs. Once the partnership is made, collaborating partners should communicate regularly on changes in laws, programs, services, and the victims’ needs. The seventh proposal is to host training sessions to learn more about respecting cultural differences and working with vulnerable populations. Finally, workshops should be held and focus on best practices in collaboration effectiveness, exhibiting an ethic of care, sensitivity training, and cost savings.







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