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GUIDELINES FOR ESTABLISHING AND COORDINATING
A FIDUCIARY ABUSE SPECIALIST TEAM

The guidelines for establishing and coordinating a Fiduciary Abuse Specialist Team (FAST), which are presented below, are intended to assist other communities interested in forming a similar team. The guidelines are based on the experience of the Los Angeles County Area Agency on Aging FAST. Each community is unique, and its FAST must be tailored accordingly, in order to meet the community's needs. Flexibility and adaptability are crucial in creatively harnessing community resources to combat elder financial abuse.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES OF THE FAST:

The Los Angeles County FAST differs from typical multidisciplinary teams, as follows:

  • The FAST specializes in financial abuse. Financial abuse usually does not occur in isolation, however, and is frequently accompanied by other forms of elder abuse or neglect. Although each case presented to the team has financial abuse as its primary focus, other forms of elder abuse are addressed, as necessary.
  • FAST Consultants include members from both the public and private sectors, including financial experts such as a banker, securities broker, real estate broker, financial planner and insurance expert.
  • The FAST provides both training and case consultations. Most of the FAST Consultants have participated in developing and conducting formal training programs relating to recognizing, investigating, stopping and preventing elder financial abuse. All of the FAST Consultants have participated in providing case consultations.
  • The FAST membership is comprised of both Consultants, who give case consultations, and "fiduciary abuse specialists", who receive case consultations. All team members make a commitment to attend all FAST meetings. The designated Adult Protective Services (APS), Ombudsman and Public Guardian (PG) fiduciary abuse specialists have developed into specialists in serving victims of financial abuse, as a result of their regular participation on the team. They serve as internal consultants to other caseworkers in their respective units or programs. They obtain telephone consultations from FAST Consultants on an emergency basis on behalf of themselves or other caseworkers in their respective units or programs. They may also make comments and recommendations regarding cases presented at FAST meetings.
  • The FAST Consultants make a formal commitment, as part of the Memorandum of Understanding, to provide telephone consultations on an emergency basis, up to two hours per month. These consultations are in addition to the case consultations at the monthly FAST meetings.

ESTABLISHING A FIDUCIARY ABUSE SPECIALIST TEAM:

The following steps serve as flexible guidelines to assist in setting up a similar team and do not necessarily need to be followed exactly or in the order specified:

  • Establish a planning task force, and identify a chairperson. Include on the task force a representative of each of the key organizations that both serve victims of elder financial abuse and are interested in establishing a FAST (e.g., APS, Ombudsman Program, PG, law enforcement, District/City Attorney's Office, public interest law office/private law office, care management program, and/or Area Agency on Aging).
  • Determine the goal(s) of the team and the primary objective(s) to be accomplished (e.g., The goal may be to decrease elder financial abuse in your community by preventing or stopping such abuse; an objective may be to improve the ability of APS workers and Ombudsmen to investigate reported cases of elder financial abuse, in order to assist victims in recovering or preventing further loss of their assets).
  • Determine secondary objective(s) that may be achieved as part of a long-range plan (e.g.,To increase awareness and knowledge of bankers regarding elder financial abuse).
  • Determine how the primary objective(s) will be accomplished (e.g., case consultations at monthly FAST meetings, telephone consultations, educational presentations, training programs).
  • Determine which programs/services should appoint fiduciary abuse specialist(s), based on the objectives specified (e.g., APS, Ombudsman Program, PG, care management programs). These programs/services will be presenting cases at the FAST meetings and are the recipients of the case consultations.

    If any of the identified programs/services are not participating on the planning task force and are not yet supportive of establishing a FAST, analyze why there is resistance. Develop a strategy to overcome obstacles and to obtain support, based, in part, on the benefits of participation. Attempt to elicit the participation of each of the identified programs/services on the task force, as early in the planning process as possible. At a minimum, attempt to elicit their participation on the team.

  • Determine what basic training should be provided to the fiduciary abuse specialists and other caseworkers in their respective programs/services, possibly to other service providers, and possibly to the Consultants, prior to launching the team, in order to maximize the impact of the team meetings and case consultations.
  • Determine resources required to operate the FAST: Review the Job Descriptions of the Coordinator and Facilitators. Identify how all costs will be covered (e.g., special funding from public and/or private sources; operating budgets of selected lead organizations; any creative way to access needed resources).
  • Determine who will coordinate the FAST: The identification of an organization to be responsible for coordinating the team is crucial. It is important that one person be designated by the identified organization to be the Coordinator as part of his/her official duties. In selecting an appropriate organization/individual, it is helpful to consider that the Coordinator should make every effort to be as "neutral" as possible. The Coordin-ator's function is to facilitate the team process and help all team members gain a better under-standing of each other's roles and responsibilities. The Coordinator should not promote his/her program/ service/agency, to the detriment of the group process. In addition, the Coordinator needs to be skilled at working effectively with volunteers, in order to retain volunteer Consult-ants who are recruited. The role and responsibilities of the Coordinator, including recruitment of FAST Consultants, are outlined in the Job Description for the FAST Coordinator.

    WISE Senior Services, a private non-profit multi-service organization which serves older adults and operates the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program serving Los Angeles County/City, coordinates the FAST. WISE has a long-standing history of working effectively with volunteers.

  • Determine the types of technical expertise needed on the part of Consultants, and identify organizations and individual professionals to recruit from both the public and private sectors, including the financial community, in order to meet the needs. Some recruitment considerations are as follows:
    • All key organizations/programs/services that are authorized to serve victims of financial abuse, such as law enforcement/ APS/Ombudsman investigators, conservators and prosecutors, should be represented on the team.
    • An individual's communication skills and ability to be a "team player" are as important as his/her technical expertise in serving as a FAST Consultant.
    • If an individual's expertise may only be required infrequently, she/he may be invited as a "Guest Consultant", as needed. A ConsultantŐs time is valuable and should be used wisely.

COORDINATING THE FAST:

The FAST Coordinator should work closely and collaboratively with members of the planning task force, including the identified FAST Facilitators, during the planning and recruitment phases prior to the orientation program and first team meeting. After the team has been launched, close collaboration between the Coordinator and planning task force is also important, as modifica-tions will likely be made as the dynamic team develops over time. The following guidelines relate to important aspects of the process of coordinating:

  • Recruitment and retention of FAST Consultants:

    Extensive networking is one of the keys to effective recruitment. In addition to brainstorming with members of the planning task force, recommendations can be gotten from members of the FAST as they are recruited. Networking as broadly as possible is helpful. For example, several of the financial experts on the Los Angeles County FAST were recruited as a result of networking with members of the Board of Directors of WISE Senior Services, which coordinates the team. Whenever possible and appropriate, get at least three recommendations for each position. One of the individuals may be suitable to serve as a "back-up" Consultant to the person recruited as the Consultant. Initial screening may be done by telephone. Whenever possible, a follow-up interview is strongly advised. Written materials should be provided in order to ensure that the potential Consultant is clear about the expectations (e.g., To attend all meetings listed on the annual schedule which includes dates, time, location and parking options).

    In an effort to develop and maintain the interest, involvement, motivation and commitment of the Consultants, who are unpaid volunteers, the Coordinator needs to apply key principles of working effectively with volunteers. It is important that the Coordinator develop a mutually supportive and collaborative working relationship with the FAST Consultants.

  • Confidentiality:

    Client identities must be shielded at team meetings. All FAST members must agree to keep discussions and case information confidential. Professional guest observers must sign an Agreement of Confidentiality and do not receive any case-related written materials. The Coordinator should mark as "Confidential" envelopes sent through the mail and the cover sheet for facsimiles that contain any case-related or other confidential information.

  • Scheduling meetings:

    Ask for the preference of team members during recruitment and attempt to accommodate the member with the most restrictive schedule. Get consensus from team members, and schedule the meeting for the same day, time and location each month.

  • Orienting team members:

    A formal orientation program should be planned by the Coordinator in consultation with the Facilitators and planning task force. It is recommended to show a video tape on elder abuse such as: "Lifeline: Recognizing and Reporting Elder Abuse", produced by the California Attorney GeneralŐs Office and Department of Aging.

    Begin case consultations at the first (three-hour) meeting.

  • Preparing for meetings in advance:

    Begin planning two to three weeks ahead. Decide on a topic for the educational presentation and schedule a speaker. Obtain handouts from the speaker in advance, if possible. Mail the agenda, case summaries and minutes of the previous meeting five business days prior to the meeting. Determine what audiovisual equipment is needed and confirm the arrangements for the equipment.

    Make a reminder call to the Facilitators responsible for case presentations three to five business days prior to the due date for receipt of the written case summaries. The due date is specified on the annual schedule for case presentations. Prepare sign-in sheets for the FAST members and guests.

  • Chairing/facilitating team meetings:
    1. Convey clear expectations about what is expected from each item on the agenda.
    2. Let team members know the kind and amount of participation expected.
    3. Start and end the meeting on time.
    4. Make sure that clear decisions/recommendations are made, when appropriate, and understood by all team members before moving on to the next agenda item.
    5. Get agreement on and assign the necessary follow-up action steps to implement a decision or plan.
    6. Get constructive participation from members of the group.
    7. Avoid talking too much and shutting off others from contributing.
    8. Wait to state your own views or opinion until others have had a chance to state theirs.
    9. Ask questions to draw others into the discussion.
    10. Clarify what others say to ensure team members' views are heard and understood.
    11. Periodically summarize what has been said to help the group move ahead more quickly.
    12. Ensure that the case presenterŐs supervisor summarizes the case recommendations and follow-up actions at the end of each case consultation.
    13. Talk about ideas, points of view and recommendations without linking a team member's name to them.
    14. Lead the meeting by directing the way to approach issues and by keeping the meeting moving at a good pace, not by giving a lot of personal views or information on the issues at hand.
    15. Encourage team members with different points of view to speak on a subject.
    16. Respond positively to opinions that are different from your own.
    17. Quickly move to shut off personal conflicts between team members in order to keep them from taking valuable group time or destroying a positive group climate.
    18. Take a firm grip on the team and get it back on track when someone disrupts a productive discussion by talking too much, getting side-tracked on to unrelated issues, holding side conversations which distract, making critical comments to others that are not constructive or by clowning around too much.
    19. Talk with a team member privately about behavior that disrupts a meeting.
    20. Listen to other team member's/guest's ideas.
    21. Know how other team members feel about issues.
    22. Thank presenters, other team members and guests for their contributions.
  • Following-up after the meetings:

    Ensure that minutes of the meeting are completed. Based on the minutes, prepare the case-related follow-up action forms, and send them to appropriate team members within one week of the meeting.

    Summarize the results of the feedback forms completed by team members and guests at the end of the meeting. Review the summary and take follow-up action, as required, including sharing the feedback with appropriate persons within one week of the meeting.

    Thank the educational presenter(s).

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