Message From The Director
My first year at the Family Justice Center was eventful – we opened two Centers, started new programs for community building and promoting health/wealth and implemented a new data system while engaging many partners, service providers and community members to get the word out that we are here. We are here to serve our clients who have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and human trafficking. We are here to provide not only crisis intervention, but also long term safety for our clients and their families. We are here to support our partners to achieve their goal of improving client services. And we are here to engage with our community to build a resilient and healing safety net.
What is Long Term Safety?
When I was a legal aid lawyer, I focused on fixing my client’s present problem, be that a restraining order or a workable custody arrangement. After my work was done, I promptly closed the case, hoping that my client would never return. But I knew that my fixes were temporary and did not address many other needs that my clients had. I also knew that many of my clients faced tough, uphill battles to climb out of their situation. Poverty, poor health, inadequate education and isolation were some of the life challenges keeping them down.
Here at the Family Justice Center, we try to provide our clients with long term solutions. We address their health, education, employment, wealth and social connectedness. We look to partner with service providers with expertise in these areas. We talk to our clients about their health, work with them to set educational and career goals, and discuss budgeting and financial management. We promote healthy eating and drinking and physical activities. Our Run Justice team is growing in number and popularity.
Long term safety means independence, i.e., freedom from the control of others. Long term safety is achieved through health, education, wealth and supportive community.
Courage to Keep Going
I have been working with survivors of interpersonal violence for almost twenty years. What has kept me going all these years is our clients’ courage. I am inspired by them and in awe of their strengths.
I had a 19-year-old client, a new mom. She came to me because her ex-boyfriend had repeatedly told her that she had to get back with him or he would take their baby away from her (as she was undocumented and uneducated). During our conversation, she told me about physical, sexual and verbal abuse committed by her ex. I counseled her about legal options, and she followed through by obtaining restraining and custody orders and making police reports. It was no easy task for her to get a ride to court and find a babysitter. It was hard for her to face and talk to the judge. She felt intimidated when talking to police officers. But, my client was ready to make change and succeeded.
I once represented another young woman who had been sexually assaulted by a family member. Nobody in the family believed her as he was a respected, older member of the family. But she had the courage to speak out and stop the violence.
Our clients, who are disabled, immigrants, limited English speaking, teens, elderly and single parents, amaze us with their resourcefulness, determination, dedication to their families, and their hope. I will keep going for as long as they are fighting for independence.
During my second year here, I would like to deepen and expand the Family Justice partnership to continue to improve our work together. I am also working on adding more health related programs, including yoga and meditation classes. Later this year, we will start working on developing trauma-informed children’s programming. In November, we will host the Second Innovations Conference, highlighting best practices and innovations in domestic violence and sexual assault response. In January, we will start our first legal incubator program, called “Lawyers for Family Justice,” designed to increase our legal service capacity.
One of my deepest commitments is to an open door policy. I keep my door open to all my staff and partners. My door is open to you, too. I would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts, ideas, criticisms and praise with us. Please stay connected.