The Family Justice Center movement is a logical extension of the domestic violence movement. The Family Justice Center model has grown rapidly over the last ten years as the need for efficient and effective co-located multi-disciplinary service delivery models has been recognized as a best practice model by the Department of Justice.
1989 – The Family Justice Center Model Vision is Born
The vision of the Family Justice Center model was first proposed in 1989 to the local District Attorney and City Attorney by then Deputy City Attorney Casey Gwinn. The premise was simple: victims would have an easier time receiving needed services if they only had to go one place to get all the necessary help. It was not a new concept, but it was clear that the system was too hard for victims to navigate. Gwinn never received a formal response to his proposal. It was fair to say that a co-located multi-disciplinary service model for domestic violence victims was an idea whose time had not come.
1990 – Multi-Disciplinary Professionals Co-Locate
The City Attorney’s office remained determined to move forward with the concept. By the early 1990’s, other government agencies and community-based organizations began to co-locate at the City Attorney’s office. It became abundantly clear that the idea was the right one. Victims could get a restraining order and see a prosecutor. They could talk to a detective and meet with an advocate from Children’s Hospital.
1998 – The Partnership and Planning Begins
In 1998, David Bejarano became the Police Chief of San Diego. Bejarano and City Attorney Casey Gwinn sat down and talked about two initiatives: 1) Creation of a Neighborhood Prosecution Unit; and 2) Creation of a co-located multi-disciplinary service model for victims of domestic violence. They took the idea of co-located services to the next step. A feasibility study was ultimately completed by Sgt. Monica Kaiser from the San Diego Police Department.
2001 – The City Approves the Family Justice Center Proposal
In 2001, City Attorney Casey Gwinn and former Police Chief David Bejarano, with the support from the community and the San Diego Domestic Violence Council, were ready to formally propose the creation of a Family Justice Center in the City of San Diego for victims of domestic violence. After public comment, the PS&NS Committee unanimously directed Gwinn and Bejarano to submit their plan to the City Council for their review and approval.
2002 – The San Diego Family Justice Center Opens
With the unanimous vote from the Mayor and City Council, the Family Justice Center opened on October 10, 2002. Gael Strack leaves her role as Assistant City Attorney and becomes the Director of the Family Justice Center. Victims of domestic violence in the City of San Diego could now come to one location to talk to an advocate, get a restraining order, plan for their safety, talk to a police officer, meet with a prosecutor, receive medical assistance, counsel with a chaplain, get help with transportation, and obtain nutrition and pregnancy services counseling.
2003 – The President’s Family Justice Center Initiative is Launched
In 2003, President George W. Bush announced the creation of the President’s Family Justice Center Initiative. The President based his Initiative on the San Diego Family Justice Center model. The $20 million Initiative began a movement toward more co-located, multi-disciplinary service centers. The Initiative specifically set out to create fifteen additional Family Justice Centers around the nation.
2006 – The National Family Justice Center Alliance is Launched
The National Family Justice Center Alliance was launched in 2006 as a program of the San Diego Family Justice Center Foundation and in response to the increasing demand for technical assistance from existing and developing Centers across the world.
2008 – Family Justice Center Alliance becomes its Own Non-Profit Organization
Due to the tremendous demand for technical assistance by new and emerging Family Justice Centers around the world, it became clear to board members of the San Diego Family Justice Center Foundation that a new governance structure was needed to ensure a continued focus on the San Diego Family Justice Center, Camp Hope and also the growing National Family Justice Center Alliance. In January 2008, the National Family Justice Center Alliance was officially launched as a new and separate non-profit organization with a new board of trustees. The National Family Justice Center Alliance quickly became the clearinghouse for developing and operating Family Justice Centers across the United States and around the world. The Family Justice Center Alliance also created a VOICES Survivors Advocacy Network and its Leadership Training Institute to enlist the support of survivors in advocating on behalf of the Family Justice Center movement and help support leaders in Family Justice Centers and community-based domestic violence and sexual assault agencies.
2009 — Family Justice Center Legal Network Launched
In 2009, after a local San Diego non-profit lost a federal grant and stopped operating the restraining order clinic at the San Diego Family Justice Center, the San Diego Police Department asked the Alliance to help operate a restraining order clinic. With support from the Avon Foundation, the Alliance launched the Family Justice Center Legal Network to provide restraining orders to survivors of domestic violence, both women and men, at the San Diego Family Justice Center. The Family Justice Center Legal Network eventually evolved into the Justice Legal Network program (discussed below). The San Diego Family Justice Center has a separate legal services provider operating the restraining order clinic at the San Diego Family Justice Center.
2011 — Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention Created
In 2011, after nearly twenty years of specialized work around near-fatal strangulation assaults, Gael Strack and the Alliance team created the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice. The Institute quickly became the most comprehensive training and research entity in the United States on the handling of strangulation assaults in domestic violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, and child abuse cases. Today, the Institute continues to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Justice and also provides fee-based training for communities across the United States and around the world.
2013 — Camp HOPE California Created
In 2012, the Alliance worked in collaboration with local agencies to take over leadership again of Camp HOPE, the camping and mentoring program first created by Casey Gwinn to serve children exposed to domestic violence who were receiving services at the San Diego Family Justice Center. Camp HOPE quickly spread outside of San Diego as the Shasta County Family Justice Center, under the leadership of then-Director Michael Burke, started the second Camp HOPE program in California. In 2013, Casey Gwinn and Michael Burke worked with Family Justice Centers across California to create Camp HOPE California. In 2013 and 2014, more than 500 children and teens from Family Justice Centers across California came to Camp HOPE California hosted at Kidder Creek Camp, near the California/Oregon border. The creation of Camp HOPE California also included the development of a new partnership with the University of Oklahoma in order to study the impact of Camp HOPE on children exposed to trauma and abuse. Today, Camp HOPE’s powerful results in the lives of trauma-exposed children are inspiring the the spread of Camp HOPE across the United States. The Alliance is working with local Family Justice Centers in states across the country now to develop an evidence-based camping program using the findings and outcomes from Camp HOPE California. The branding for Camp HOPE is now referred to regularly as Camp HOPE America. Casey Gwinn’s book, Cheering for the Children: Creating Pathways to HOPE for Children Exposed to Trauma, tells the story of Camp HOPE California and Camp HOPE America. All proceeds from the book go to support Casey’s vision for Camp HOPE America and the opportunity for every child exposed to trauma to go to camp every summer.
2013-2014 — Center for Solo Practitioners and Justice Legal Network Launched
In 2013, the Alliance partnered with Thomas Jefferson School of Law to create the Center for Solo Practitioners, a one year “incubator” program for new attorneys seeking to start their private practices while also donating time to help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The Alliance provides discounted office space to attorneys in the Center for Solo Practitioners and provides training for them in working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. After the first cohort of the Center for Solo Practitioners graduated, it became clear that many wanted to continue co-locating with the Alliance and supporting victims and their children. The Justice Legal Network was created to become the next level of engagement for graduating attorneys from the Center for Solo Practitioners. All attorneys partnering with the Alliance now join the Justice Legal Network and commit to provide 50 pro bono hours per year for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault and agree to take one “low bono” fixed fee case and one sliding scale case per year when requested by the Justice Legal Network. This exciting model is now being replicated in other Family Justice Centers and community-based domestic violence and sexual assault agencies across the United States.
2015 — Family Justice Center Alliance Re-Branding
In 2015, the Family Justice Center Alliance changed its name to Alliance for HOPE International. The two year re-branding process was developed to better capture the diverse work of the Alliance and the focus on using HOPE Theory and HOPE Evaluation to better capture the world changing work of the Alliance and its allied Centers, programs, and agencies in the lives of survivors and their children. During this re-branding process, the Alliance also concluded its formal involvement with day-to-day services provided at the San Diego Family Justice Center in order to better focus on its statewide, national, and international work. The Family Justice Center Alliance, and its work with Family Justice Centers across the country and around the world, has now become a program of Alliance for HOPE International along with its other flagship programs including the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, Camp HOPE America, the Justice Legal Network, the Leadership Training Institute, and VOICES Survivors Advocacy Network.