Monday, March 23, 2015

Why Family Justice Centers?

By Cherri N. Allison, Esq.

Imagine that you are a domestic violence victim and the mother of two small children under the age of ten. You have been in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship for 12 years. You are a stay at home mom and your husband controls all of the family finances. You have just found out you are pregnant and are afraid to tell your spouse because the last time you did the violence escalated. You literally have nowhere to turn. The police have been to your home several times and you have been in the hospital emergency room more than once. Before the Alameda County Family Justice Center opened in 2005 you literally had to navigate dozens of agencies in a county that spans 821 square miles. You must maneuver a medical system; navigate criminal and civil legal systems, and a court system that is incomprehensible at best. At the same time you are experiencing extreme emotional and financial stress and the possibility of homelessness. There must be a better way!

Simply locating different organizations in one space is not necessarily innovative nor does it inspire systems change or movement building. However, when the people who lead those organizations and maintain those systems begin to reach across barriers, real or imagined, such as the language of disciplines, stereotypes and implicit bias, client service delivery changes. Letting go of the need to be right, demystifying program and systems content are at the core of the Family Justice Center model. We must make thinking outside the boundaries the norm and operate from a client centered, strength based perspective to implement systems change work that has positive implications for clients.

Serving more than 100,000 survivors since opening in 2005 the Alameda County Family Justice Center is systems change model, changing how service providers interact with each other and keeping the best interest of the clients at the forefront. The ACFJC seeks first to ensure client safety and healing, provide opportunities for self-empowerment and forgiveness for survivors of domestic violence and their children, survivors of sexual assault and exploitation and all manner of interpersonal violence and abuse located in one place, comprehensive and coordinated, culturally sensitive and responsive to client needs.

So visit if you can, see the possibilities, embrace change.

Cherri N. Allison, Esq. is the Executive Director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center. Ms. Allison holds a law degree from the University of Santa Clara, School of Law and a bachelor’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She has over 21 years of experience in the field of domestic violence prevention and family law. In 2007 and 2009 she co-authored Domestic Violence Remedies in California Law Cases, published by the Continuing Education of the Bar. In 2012 she authored a chapter entitled Traditional Response to Domestic Violence: Criminal and Civil Legal Systems in the United States, published in Violence and Abuse in Society: Understanding a Global Crisis: ABC-CLIO; 2012. Ms. Allison currently serves as the Co-Chair of the Domestic Violence Program Advisory Council, California Office of Emergency Management & Victim Services, is a member of the Judicial Council of California Access and Fairness Advisory Committee, and the Alameda County Domestic Violence Fatality Review Team. She was inducted in 2009 into the Alameda County Commission on the Status of Women’s Hall of Fame in the Justice category, honored in 2010 by the Santa Clara Law School Center for Social Justice and Public Service and recently selected as a recipient of the ABA Commission on Domestic & Sexual Violence 20/20 Vision Award.