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Family_Justice_Centers

Under_One_Roof_copyThe Model 

The Family Justice Center model is the co-location of a multi-disciplinary team of professionals who work together, under one roof, to provide coordinated services to victims of family violence.  Many communities use the name “Family Justice Center” though some communities select a different name to describe their multi-agency service delivery models.  Family Justice Centers are specifically defined in federal law and refer to the co-location of staff members from multiple agencies under one roof.  While a Family Justice Center may house many partners, the basic partners include police officers, prosecutors, civil legal service providers, and community-based advocates. The core concept is to provide one place where victims can go to talk to an advocate, plan for their safety, interview with a police officer, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, receive information on shelter, and get help with transportation.

The Family Justice Center approach is based on the San Diego Family Justice Center model which opened in 2002. The model has been identified as a best practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention services by the United States Department of Justice. The documented and published outcomes in the Family Justice Center model have included: reduced homicides; increased victim safety; increased autonomy and empowerment for victims; reduced fear and anxiety for victims and their children; increased efficiency and coordination among service providers; and reduced recantation and minimization by victims when wrapped in services and support. (See Casey Gwinn, Gael Strack, Hope for Hurting Families: Creating Family Justice Centers Across America (Volcano Press 2006)).

To read about the history of the Family Justice Center movement click here.

The Need

Each year law enforcement agencies around the world respond to alarming incidents of domestic violence. The prevalence of family violence is even more alarming when one considers that experts estimate that only 25 percent of such cases are actually reported.  There are many reasons why victims often fail to report domestic violence, including love, fear, religious beliefs, threats to children, lack of money or resources, or simply not knowing that help is available.

Most criminal and civil justice systems make it difficult for victims to seek help and unintentionally wear them down.  Victims are often required to travel from location to location to seek services that are scattered through a community or region.  They have to tell their story over and over again to officials representing agencies, such as, law enforcement, courts, legal aid, medical, transportation, housing, social services, mental health, rehabilitation, financial assistance, and many more.  The criminal justice system unintentionally makes it easy for victims to become frustrated and ultimately stop seeking help.

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The Benefit

The Center can provide a combination of services and interventions from one location to help victims and offenders break the cycle of violence and develop healthy relationships. A collaborative effort provides more support to victims and children involved in family violence through improved case management and a more fluid exchange of information and resources.  Bridging existing gaps increases a victim’s access to services and resources and makes the entire process of reporting a domestic violence incident much less overwhelming for the victims and children involved. Visit the online Resource Library to read FJC evaluation and outcome findings.

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The Services and Activities

The Family Justice Center model can be expected to offer comprehensive medical and legal services, counseling to victims and children, links to Juvenile, Family and Criminal court, as well as access to on-site professionals providing civil legal services, job training and placement assistance, public benefits assistance, advocacy, and safety planning. It can also provide comprehensive prevention efforts such as outreach to young adults and underserved victims through community education.

Most importantly, each Center is different and is based on the needs of victims in each community.  The on-site partners and services at each Center often vary as well based on the unique characteristics of the organizations in a particular jurisdiction.  During a strategic planning process, each Center must identify which services are most needed and helpful for victims by being provided in a co-located service delivery model.  The services may be very limited such as the presence of police, prosecutors, and advocates.  The services may also be very diverse and include full health services, job training, comprehensive and long-term counseling services, camping and mentoring services for children, and a host of other assistance coupled with the basic services from police officers, prosecutors, and advocates.

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To learn how to start a Family Justice Center in your community click here.

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National Family Justice Center Alliance
707 Broadway, Suite 700, San Diego, CA 92101
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