Family Justice Center of Northwest Ohio opens
Defiance, OH: The Family Justice Center of Northwest Ohio (FJCNWO) opened its doors on Tuesday, October 17, 2006 at a ceremony at the Defiance College, Karl H. Weaner Center (Corner of Webster and Stadium in Defiance). Diane Stuart, Director of the U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women (OVW), presided over the ceremony.
Joining Ms. Stuart was Andrea Bottner, Deputy Director of the OVW, Sandra Thurston, Program Specialist with OVW, and Jim Barker and Diane McGrogan with the San Diego Family Justice Center.
The Family Justice Center of Northwest Ohio is a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault, and their children. It is a partnership among local governments in Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Putnam, Van Wert, and Williams counties and more than 70 community, non-profit partners who have come together to change, improve and coordinate their response to victims of domestic violence and their children, as well as to victims of sexual assault and stalking .
This new service delivery system is the result of a grant awarded in July 2004 to the Defiance Municipal Court under the Family Justice Center Initiative from the DOJ and the OVW.
“The $1,214,086 grant was awarded to fund a six county rural Family Justice Center, resulting in the first rural multi-county family justice center in the nation,” says Pamela Hayman-Weaner, project director and managing attorney of Legal Aid of Western Ohio, Inc. (LAWO). The Award is one of fifteen sites funded around the nation to create a national model to combat domestic violence, stalking, and sexual assault.
According to Hayman-Weaner, “The coordinating office for the FJCNWO is located in Defiance County with victims assisted locally in Fulton, Henry, Putnam, Williams, and Van Wert Counties and at Rural Opportunity’s Migrant Rest Camp in Liberty Center.
“Defiance College assists with educational programs and direct service projects through the social work and criminal justice departments, its new forensic crime investigation program and the McMaster School. The Defiance College is also the training site for the Family Justice Center.”
When victims contact the Family Justice Center they will be referred to trained professionals who can assist them with direct services; advocates who can obtain counseling and explain the legal process; law enforcement officers who can take reports and conduct follow-up investigations; civil legal aid attorneys who can help victims obtain protective, custody, and supervised visitation orders; and professionals who can help with emergency services and long term stabilization and safety planning.
“Our tag line, ‘where families come first and professionals come together,’ conveys our message of unity and strength,” explains Hayman-Weaner. “The Family Justice Center is one of the largest collaborative efforts ever in northwest Ohio. With more than 70 partner agencies supporting each of the eight sites, we are one step closer to breaking the cycle of domestic abuse among women and families in our communities.”
The Grand Opening will celebrate the innovative approach created by these partners, placing victims and their families first and bringing services to them, rather than expecting victims to navigate multiple agencies and systems at dispersed locations.