Study session to focus on family justice center plans

 

Canadian County District Attorney Mike Fields say his agency is beginning the process of creating a one-stop shop to help victims of family violence.

Fields said Canadian County is exploring the possibility of creating a family justice center with the help of the national Alliance for Hope International.

A family justice center brings together under one roof all the services that victims of family violence need. That includes law enforcement, prosecutors, victim advocates, therapists, civil attornies, community volunteers and others.

The goal, Fields said, is to help survivors of family violence and their families to gain the assistances and support they need in one location.

“Family violence in all its forms — domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse and exploitation — can have devastating consequences for its victims as well as for our entire community.  In Oklahoma and nationally, the family justice center model has become one of the most innovative and effective ways to deal with family violence. That’s why we’re so excited to begin the formal planning process for a family justice center in Canadian County,” Fields said.

There are about 100 such centers across the nation, including at least two in Oklahoma. One is in Shawnee, while the other is in Oklahoma City.

The first family justice center was created in San Diego during 2002 through a partnership between the San Diego city attorney and the San Diego police department.

Since then, the program has evolved to incorporate other agencies.

The Canadian County proposal will begin with a study session Jan. 8 and Jan. 9, when a team from the Family Justice Center Alliance will meet with community leaders. The event will be held at the Canadian Valley Technology Center and is open to the public.

Sheriff Chris West said he supports the proposal.

“All too often, victims of family violence don’t know where to turn to get help. Navigating through the process can be overwhelming. So, I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do to make it easier for victims and their children to get the help they need,” West said.

Fields said the study tour is the first step in the planning process and will bring together elected officials, policy makers, and government, community-based agencies to start the process for a co-located service facility.

The meetings will be from 8 to 11 a.m.

“The study tour in January and the strategic planning meeting a few months later will help make the dream of a Family Justice Center become a reality.  But it will need the stakeholders to come together to dream big and create a shared vision unique to Canadian County,” said Gael Strack, the Alliance’s chief executive officer and the director of the first family justice center in the country.

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