180’s Family Justice Center Opened in Freehold

A one-stop shop to aid domestic violence and sexual abuse victims has opened its doors in Monmouth County and is ready to start changing lives.

180 Turning Lives Around, a nonprofit organization working to halt different types of abuse affecting county residents, will operate a new Family Justice Center out of the county courthouse, located at 71 Monument St.

Before the Family Justice Center, victims in the darkest times of their lives were tasked with navigating the choppy waters of the criminal justice system to seek help, said Anna Diaz-White, 180’s executive director. Now, everything they need is in one place.

“I think it’s going to be a game changer in the way that victims can access services,” she said.

An intake center at the courthouse’s lower level will be the first step, where 180’s staff can ask questions and guide victims in the right direction.

The Family Justice Center is located at 40 Monument St., connected to the courthouse’s parking lot. Different services will be available, Diaz-White said. A lawyer from South Jersey Legal Services is on standby, available to provide legal guidance. Detectives from the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will be on-call from the Freehold office to assist in pressing charges and filing police reports.

The building also provides shelter for victims with children who may fear returning home. Access to local food pantries, counselors and job assessment and training are other services now readily available. The two-story-home-converted center will have no public access and will only be open to people who pass courthouse security.

In Monmouth County, the numbers of abuse victims are significant, said Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni. There were nearly 4,000 calls or reported incidents of domestic violence last year, and family courts in Freehold also heard requests for 1,600 restraining orders from domestic violence victims, he said. Those numbers put Monmouth County sixth-highest in New Jersey.

Diaz-White said her organization receives about 5,000 calls a year and not every incident they hear is reported to police. She said the main demographic for sexual and domestic violence victims is 20- to 40-year-old women. Diaz-White estimated 85 percent of victims in Monmouth County are women.

“We hope that it will stop the traumatization from here on out,” Gramiccioni said. “When somebody comes here, they get direction, they get assistance, they get what they’re entitled to.”

Monmouth County’s Family Justice Center is the fourth such center in New Jersey; others are located in Essex, Morris and Union counties. Diaz-White toured the state with Gramiccioni and elected officials over the past year to find the best solution for Monmouth County.

State Sen. Jennifer Beck (R-11), who volunteered as a rape crisis advocate years ago, said the center is a necessity.

“They’re already stressed, they’re already emotionally fragile,” she said of victims. “They don’t need five locations to sort out life and get things moving.”

The building was provided by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders at no cost, said Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry. It was previously used as the county’s Weights and Measures offices.

“This Family Justice Center will provide both comfort and justice to these victims and their families by offering so many services in one place,” Burry said.

Plans for the center began when 180 was awarded a $145,000 grant last year by Impact 100 Jersey Coast which will contribute to staffing and overhead costs. Grant money was provided by 145 women who each pledged $1,000 for a greater cause.

The new Family Justice Center is another piece of the large footprint 180 has established in Monmouth County. Main administrative offices are located in Hazlet and a secondary location, the Shore Regional Outreach Office, is based in Neptune.

180 also operates a 45-bed safe house and a 10-family transitional housing center in the county, both in different, undisclosed locations. The nonprofit also partners with Amanda’s Easel, a creative arts therapy program in Middletown.

As Hollywood executives, journalists and other prominent people are being called out for their alleged prior sexual assaults, Diaz-White said it spotlights the importance of the Family Justice Center.

“Of course these make headlines,” Diaz-White said, “but for every one of those, there are thousands of women, men and children suffering in silence trying to navigate their and their children’s way out of seemingly impossible situations.”

 

By Jay Cook |

This article was first published in the Nov. 2-9, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

 

180 Opens Family Justice Center

180 Opens Family Justice Center

Facility to provide services to domestic violence victims

FREEHOLD, NJ –  180 Turning Lives Around Family Justice Center marked its grand opening at the Monmouth County Courthouse with a ceremony attended by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, State and local officials and members of the community on Thursday, Oct. 26.

“The Board is proud to help facilitate the opening of this important resource in the heart of Monmouth County by making the space available in the Courthouse,” said Freeholder Director Lillian G. Burry. “By placing the Family Justice Center in the Courthouse, domestic violence victims and their families will be in a safe and secure location that is monitored by law enforcement during all hours of operation.”

The Family Justice Center is a collaborative effort between 180 Turning Lives Around and numerous members of the Monmouth County community to provide victims of domestic violence and their families with crisis support, legal assistance and counseling services all in one safe place.

“Family Justice Centers are a proven model that save lives and improve outcomes for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Anna Diaz-White, 180’s Executive Director. “We are grateful to Impact 100 Jersey Coast and the Monmouth County Freeholders for providing the seed funding and space to coordinate and begin this wonderful, lifesaving collaboration for our county, and to our partner organizations for contributing their staff’s time and talents to this important endeavor.”

The Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders unanimously approved an agreement to provide the space for the Center at no cost.

“It is essential for elected officials to work with the community and organizations such as 180 Turning Lives Around to help our residents that need support,” said Freeholder Deputy Director John P. Curley, liaison to the Monmouth County Department of Human Services. “The Family Justice Center is a great example of what can come from these partnerships and we hope that those in need of the services offered here will take advantage of them.”

Seed funding was awarded to 180 Turning Lives Around by a generous grant from Impact 100 Jersey Coast.

“Impact 100 Jersey Coast is proud to support the Family Justice Center initiative.  As a women’s grant making collaborative, we are thrilled that our $145,000 inaugural grant could make this vision a reality.  We seek to fund projects that address unmet needs and reach underserved populations,” said Deirdre Spiropoulos, Co-founder and President of Impact 100, Jersey Coast. “The FJC exemplifies those goals and will be an invaluable support for victims of domestic violence. We are truly impressed by the leadership and collaborative efforts of 180 Turning Lives Around and the many other partnering agencies.”

Victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and human trafficking can go to a Family Justice Center and obtain most of the services they need, the same day.  Everyone collaborates in real time, all under one roof.

“These victims deserve efficient, effective and compassionate care, which is exactly what they will receive at the Family Justice Center,” said Freeholder Serena DiMaso, Esq. “I had the opportunity to tour other Family Justice Centers in the state and I knew that it would be a great resource for Monmouth County victims of domestic violence.”

A Family Justice Center is proven to reduce homicides, reduce recidivism, reduce the barriers and fragmentation of service and they reduce trauma and the re-victimization of victims and their children. Family Justice Centers increase victim safety and increase conviction rates.

“We can make a difference in people’s lives with the Family Justice Center, especially in the life of a crime victim. What we will accomplish here will broaden our scope to provide much-needed services to the community. These services will result in increased awareness, accessible and coordinated services and much-needed help for victims of crime who need help navigating the complicated maze of government, law enforcement, social services, health and legal services,” Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni said.

“I’m proud to have worked closely with 180 Turning Lives Around to help create Monmouth County’s first ever Family Justice Center –one of only four in New Jersey. As a former rape crisis advocate, I know the work that 180 does is critically important for our communities,” Senator Jennifer Beck said. “The new Monmouth’s Family Justice Center will coordinate resources like counseling, legal services and family support into one location so domestic violence and sexual assault survivors will have easier access to those services. Today would not have been possible without the hard work of our many dedicated 180 volunteers and staff; I am very proud to have played a role in supporting their efforts.”

This will be the fourth Family Justice Center in New Jersey. The others are located in Essex, Morris and Union counties.

An update from 180’s Executive Director

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and Staff of 180 Turning Lives Around, I would like to take a moment to update you on some of the exciting projects that are a direct result of the generosity we receive from our community:

Our new Safe House has welcomed over 250 women, men and children since we placed our first families in February 2016.  The fact that we were at capacity just a day after opening our doors and have continued seeing a steady stream of survivors cross our threshold, underscores the magnitude of the need for this service here in Monmouth County.  Thousands of domestic violence incidents are reported in our communities each year and it is well documented that victims are at the peak of danger when fleeing.  Our shelter not only provides the basic necessities for families but provides supportive services onsite so that families can begin the healing process.  This type of intervention is highly beneficial, and sets victims on the path to long term independence.

Another model program that has been underway in 2017 is our Keeping Families Together Project.  180 has been providing supportive services to a pilot group of families who are homeless.  This program has shown to be a key factor to decrease child welfare involvement while keeping families together in permanent housing.  180 provides comprehensive, evidence-based, trauma-informed, therapeutic and concrete supports to these families. This program enhances a survivor’s self-sufficiency, assists victims to regain control of their lives and helps families heal from the trauma of violence.

180 is proud to have received the first Impact 100 Jersey Coast Grant of $145,000 to create a Family Justice Center in Monmouth County. Based on a nationally proven model, 180’s Family Justice Center will address the root of the hardships many domestic violence victims face when trying to break from their abuser’s coercive control. The FJC will be a one-stop shop where multiple services and service providers work collaboratively to meet the needs of survivors and their families. No longer will survivors  have to relive the trauma through multiple recounting of their abuse; complete a multitude of paperwork; find the time and means to travel to multiple locations; and wait (sometimes over the course of days or weeks) to keep the process moving.  With this project we will coordinate a team of professionals who will provide the following under one roof: legal services, counseling, case management, advocacy, art therapy, coordination with civil court, and more.   This method has proven to reduce homicides, increase prosecutions, reduce recantations, and improve overall outcomes for victims and their children.

Because of the support from our community, our 180 families are on a new path for healing, and indeed, turning their lives around. We are grateful that so many members of our community have contributed and supported our life-saving and life-changing services and programs for families experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, and child abuse.

On behalf of the Board of Trustees and all staff at 180, we wish you and your family a safe and restful summer.

Thank you again for your belief in our mission!

Anna Diaz-White, 180 Executive Director