The intervention was designed as a “family-centered model,” focusing on the strengths and unmet needs of clients as opposed to client “deficits” (Dunst, Johanson, and Trivette 1991; Sullivan and Bybee 1999). The family-centered model requires that families guide the services they receive, and that clients’ natural support networks are involved in the advocacy process. The efficacy of the family-centered model, and the positive implications for consumers served from a family-centered paradigm, have been established across different service domains (Marcenko and Smith 1992; Scannapieco 1994; Trivette, Dunst, and Hamby 1996; Weiss and Jacobs 1988; Weissbourd and Kagan 1989).

Although some family-centered interventions employ professionals to work with families, paraprofessional volunteers have been found to be highly successful change agents for numerous populations (Davidson et al. 1987; Durlak 1981). The use of paraprofessionals increases the generalizability of the intervention, as it is often easier and less costly for communities to locate, train, and supervise them. Therefore, the decision was made to train undergraduate college students to serve as the paraprofessional advocates.

The Community Advocacy Project is also a trauma-informed intervention. Simply put, this involves (1) assuming that most, if not all, women have experienced prior traumas and victimizations across their lives; (2) understanding that some of these traumas may still be impacting women psychologically and physiologically; (3) acting in ways that appropriately respond to behaviors that are likely a result of prior victimization or other trauma (e.g., extreme fearfulness, passivity or aggression that appears out of sync with the situation currently occurring) and (4) avoiding reminding the person of (or “re-triggering”) a traumatic event.