Best Practices for ACPs
If you are in immediate danger, please contact your local authorities. Enrolling in an ACP is only one part of a survivor's comprehensive safety plan. If you are in need of resources, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit their website.
Below is a list of several ACP best practices based on our analysis. Importantly, no one ACP incorporates all of these features, and there is always room for improvement across all programs. We highlight innovative programs amidst a general discussion of our findings.
States with ACPs that include a broader group of eligible participants go the farthest in protecting the confidentiality needs for state residents. For example, some states may allow all survivors of intimate partner violence, family violence, sexual assault, stalking, human trafficking, or harassment to enroll in their programs, while others allow only those individuals with a history of intimate partner violence. States can update eligibility, including those in certain professions at risk for harm, such as public health workers in California or abortion providers in Massachusetts. Minnesota's and Maryland's programs are the most inclusive, going as far as to include anyone with a safety need. Also important to ACP effectiveness is a program's coverage of not just the participant but also others living in the household with them, including minors, dependents, and any other roommates/partners.
To make participation in an ACP as impactful as possible, programs that allow a participant to use their assigned substitute address for as many formal purposes as possible are most beneficial. While some states just allow participants to register to vote using this address, it is advisable to allow them to be used for other governmental purposes such as school registration, driver's licenses, and marriage licenses. Some states, such as Indiana, even allow participants to use their fictitious addresses when purchasing property, and Maryland offering participants deed shielding..
Decreased Administrative Burdens
Administrative burdens are barriers that applicants face when going through the process of applying to their state's ACP. Ideally, states seek to remove or limit the impact of as many of these barriers as possible to allow for greatest use of the program by those in need. Administrative burdens can vary in their complexity but often take the form of requiring the help of an in-person application assistant (with few assistants or no public list of assistants, or what to do if denied by an application assistant, particularly if application assistant are not government employees), proof of victimization through legal documents or witness corroboration, or that participants take extra steps like contacting their county's registrar to maintain address confidentiality once enrolled in the program. States like New York allow applicants to apply directly to the program without any additional evidence but also provide a list of trained application assistants should an applicant need help.
ACPs that have a well-functioning and information-rich internet presence via websites, in addition to a dedicated email address and dedicated phone number are most effective at educating potential participants and decreasing administrative burdens. States should include copies of their applications, even if they require application assistant so that applicants may be informed about what may be required of them in advance. States like Ohio and Maryland feature another important safety feature on their public websites: exit buttons which allow browsers to quickly leave the page if they fear confrontation with an abuser. States should make sure information is available in the different language needs of their communities. Some states, such as Arizona, provide annual reports on their programs as well as information on the different agencies that may accept the confidential address alternative.
ACPs are only beneficial to participants insofar as they legitimately conceal the residential address of those participants and take care not to jeopardize the safety of potential applicants. A potential threat to the security of confidential information housed by ACPs across the country is their vulnerability to unwarranted access by law enforcement. As some survivors who utilize ACPs may be victims of abuse at the hands of law enforcement officers, it is important that ACP data be accessible by law enforcement only through court orders, as is the case in states such as Oregon, Maryland, and Montana.