After more than a year, Carroll County's only counseling program for men who batter their wives or girlfriends is set to start anew this fall.
The program, offered through Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, ended July 1994 when the Carroll office lost part of its state funding.
Since then, men who were ordered by a Carroll judge to attend a therapy program or those who sought counseling on their own had to travel to a program in Lochearn run by the Family and Children's Services office in Baltimore County.
Sandy L. Rappeport, district director for Family and Children's Services office in Carroll, said the group therapy program is crucial. A 68 percent decrease in the number of local men who have participated in group counseling for batterers since the program was discontinued clearly demonstrates the need for such services, she said.
Since the program ended, 18 county men have been ordered to attend the group therapy program in Baltimore County, Ms. Rappeport said. The previous year 56 men participated in Carroll's counseling program for batterers.
"Judges are more willing to order men for treatment when there's a local group," Ms. Rappeport said.
David P. Daggett, a Carroll assistant state's attorney, said that local men who have been ordered to the Baltimore County program frequently say they can't attend because of transportation problems.
"We've seen a lot of people coming back to court saying they didn't have a ride," Mr. Daggett said.
With the return of the therapy group to Carroll, local domestic violence offenders "won't have a built-in excuse anymore," he said. "We'll have a lot more control over the situation."
Family and Children's Services, at 22 N. Court St. in Westminster, is a private, nonprofit agency that offers a domestic violence program, family counseling and a sexual abuse treatment program. It is funded through a combination of county, state and federal money, the United Way of Central Maryland and fees charged to clients. The group therapy program for batterers was eliminated because the state Department of Human Resources cut $8,500 from the Carroll agency's $160,000 domestic violence program.
For fiscal 1996, the department awarded the Carroll agency $4,000 in one-time-only surplus money for the domestic violence program. And Ms. Rappeport said Family and Children's Services was able to come up with the additional $8,000 for program counselors by shifting money from other parts of its budget.
Family and Children's Services is taking referrals from county courts for men who may be eligible for the program. Ms. Rappeport plans to have the group organized by the end of October.
Men who are ordered to the program by the courts must attend the group sessions for 24 weeks. Before beginning group therapy, Family and Children's Services therapists conduct assessments of the participants about their history of violence and drug or alcohol abuse.
Ms. Rappeport said the group tries to teach men techniques other than violence to deal with anger, and help them confront their feelings of denial about their violent behavior toward their wives or girlfriends.
"My experience has been that if someone really wants to stop violent behavior they can," Ms. Rappeport said. "We don't guarantee that relationships will stay together because of counseling. Sometimes there's too much damage."