Plans for the New Haven Family Justice Center, intended to serve as a “one-stop shop” replete with resources and services for victims of domestic violence, have progressed gradually since the center’s conception in 2012. But five years since the idea for the center was born, concrete arrangements for its opening, funding and operations remain elusive.
Proposals for the center emerged shortly after the formation in 2012 of a domestic violence task force comprised of different service agencies in the greater New Haven area, said Julie Johnson, the project coordinator of the Family Justice Center in New Haven. One of the participants in the task force, the Umbrella Center for Domestic Violence Services, received a grant in October 2015 to sponsor a project coordinator position for the family center.
“There is so much work to do because there are so many different agencies coming on board,” admits Johnson.
Johnson, a retired New Haven police captain, was hired in August 2016 to spearhead the planning for New Haven’s Family Justice Center. She said there are still no concrete plans in place, but since the conception of the center, there has been progress.
If New Haven ever opens the center, it will become part of the Family Justice Center Alliance, a program established by Alliance for HOPE International, one of the leading national organizations focused on addressing the needs of survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault as well as their children. The program, which began in 2002 in San Diego, is centered on a “multi-agency model,” in which one service center offers at least three different service agencies from different disciplines under one roof.
The current objective of the center’s dedicated advisory committee is to iron out who will be in charge of the center, Johnson said. She added that the center could fall under the authority of the city, the police department or even operate as its own agency. Once the advisory committee decides on the jurisdiction of the center, discussions on funding and location will begin.
According to the mayor’s office, the process for the Family Justice Center was accelerated last year when Connecticut relinquished responsibility over the New Haven Detention Center to the city as a result of budget difficulties. Mayor Toni Harp learned that many of those arrested and held are brought in on suspicion of domestic violence-related charges.
“There is a gap to be filled in terms of matching those people [affected] with programs and services that might address the number of domestic violence cases there are in New Haven,” said mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer.
In Connecticut, there are nearly 40,000 victims of domestic violence each year, according to Liza Andrews, the director of Public Policy and Communications of the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (CCADV).
Andrews said the Family Justice Center model prevents victims from having to go to multiple agencies to receive different services.
James Clark ’72, the founder, executive director and attorney for the Victim Rights Center of Connecticut, has been working closely with the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport for the last two years.
The multiagency model is “how it ought to be,” Clark said.
“Centers for family justice or things like them are the future of victim services because of their comprehensive nature,” he added.
In a statement to the News, Debra Greenwood, CEO and president of the Center for Family Justice in Bridgeport, said the different agencies within the center include police departments, prosecutors from the state attorney’s office, nonprofits, wellness providers and a variety of professionals who aid in self-sufficiency programs for the victims.
The Bridgeport Center for Family Justice is currently the only affiliated Family Justice Center in Connecticut.
Mariel Barocas | email@example.com