WINSTON-SALEM — After more than a year of discussion and planning, Family Services and our community partners will welcome staff from the San Diego-based Alliance for HOPE International on January 29 and 30, 2019 for a comprehensive two-day Family Justice Center Study Tour. 

The visit is the next step toward the establishment of a Forsyth County Family Justice Center as outlined in the 2017 commissioned assessment of Family Violence and Sexual Assault Resources in Forsyth County.

Family Services invited the Alliance team to help Forsyth County begin planning for a Family Justice Center to help survivors of family violence and their families get the resources and support they need at a single location,” according to Family Services Director of Clinical Services Rebecca Nagaishi.  

“We are excited to join other communities across North Carolina already involved in this work and affiliated with the Alliance – including established centers in Buncombe, Guilford, and Alamance County and developing centers in Wake and Mecklenburg County,” Nagaishi said. 

Alliance President Casey Gwinn and his team are the visionaries behind the rapidly expanding Family Justice Center movement throughout the nation and they will be bringing together law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, advocates, therapists, civil attorneys, community volunteers, and many others from throughout Forsyth County, according to Nagaishi.

The first Family Justice Center was created in San Diego in 2002 and the multi-agency collaborative model has since been identified as a best practice in the field of domestic violence intervention and prevention by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to Gwinn.

“When a community starts the process of a Family Justice Center, it says to all victims that we care and we are here for you for the long haul,” Gwinn said. 

During the Study Tour, the Alliance team will educate the community about this rapidly developing and expanding model that seeks to put families first and bring professionals together under one roof. 

More than 13 years ago, the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office secured funding to create Safe on Seven, North Carolina’s first one-stop shop designed to help victims of domestic violence successfully navigate the criminal justice system, according to Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neill.

“I was proud to serve our community during that period of time as the county’s first dedicated domestic violence prosecutor,” O’Neill said. “To help better serve today’s victims of domestic violence, the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office welcomes the opportunity to again partner with the community in support of a Family Justice Center.”

The Study Tour will gather all key stakeholders together to learn more about the Family Justice Center movement at a Community Forum, which will be held at SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art) from 8:30 to 11 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The public is welcome to attend, but seating is limited. Please contact Michelle Kline at mkline@familyservicesforsyth.org or 336-722-8173 if you would like to reserve your spot

The Alliance team will also hold focus groups with community leaders, potential on-site partners, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault to learn more about how the system currently works; identify strengths and gaps in services; gather the community’s history of coordination and collaboration among domestic violence and sexual assault service providers; determine the community’s level of readiness; and identify key next steps for the Center’s development process. 

The need for the Family Justice Center model in Forsyth County was evidenced by a domestic violence survivor who said that after their assault, it was confusing, stressful, and difficult to find everything they needed in order to feel safe. 

“I almost gave up on getting help,” the survivor said. “I never want another survivor to feel the same way that I did — navigate a jumbled system that feels like it’s working against them. That is why I believe so much in the Family Justice Center. I believe that a Center in Forsyth County would provide empowerment, access, confidence, growth for survivors in my community, and hope for a brighter future.”

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About Alliance for HOPE International

Alliance for HOPE International (Alliance) operates the Family Justice Center Alliance, the Training Institute on Strangulation Prevention, Camp HOPE America, the Justice Legal Network, and the VOICES Survivor Network. The Founders of the Alliance launched the nationally recognized San Diego Family Justice Center in 2002. The San Diego Family Justice Center was featured on Oprah and was the inspiration for the President’s Family Justice Center Initiative in 2003. At the request of the U.S. Department of Justice, Casey Gwinn and his team were asked to take a leadership role to support new and developing Family Justice Centers across the country. Within two short years, the Alliance team helped open 15 federally funded Family Justice Centers.  Today, there are more than 100 operational Centers in the United States with international Centers in 20 countries. There are more than 100 centers currently developing in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.