Saturday, July 22, 2017

Grand Jury Report takes issue with Solano County Family Justice Center’s current state

A Solano County Grand Jury report last month concluded that a local center created to help victims of domestic violence was failing to meet the standards established for itself place upon creation.
The Solano County Family Justice Center, first conceptualized after President George W. Bush issued an initiative in 2003 endorsing the concept of Family Justice Centers to combat domestic violence, began operating in 2011, under the guidance of the Solano County District Attorney’s Office.
The center’s objective: to offer resources and support to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, elder abuse, human trafficking and sexual assault by having the center serve as a central location for law enforcement and partner community-based non-profit organizations. Provided to the victims at the downtown Fairfield location are legal aid, health assessment, child and adult welfare case workers for consultations, and victim advocacy programs.
All the while, clients are guided to feel comfortable assisting in the prosecution of their offenders. A 2014 California Assembly Bill set forth the standards for which family justice centers must adhere to. The SCFJC is administered by the District Attorney’s Office of Family Violence Prevention (OFVP).
Through their research, the Grand Jury concluded there were a number of issues within the center. The first was that the center, at its roughly 10,000 square feet 604 Empire Street location, was incapable of accommodating on-site partners or providing privacy to victims. Namely, the report pointed out the absence of sound-proofed dividers to permit private group meetings.
Furthermore, the report adds that the present building is smaller than the one originally proposed, with little room to add on for incoming partners. In a statement signed by Solano County District Attorney Krishna Abrams, and SCFJC Director Angel Aguilar, both stated they partially disagreed with the claims.
While acknowledging the center’s limited space, the District Attorney’s Office confirmed that client privacy takes top priority. Moreover, Aguilar has designated each on-site partner an office, with private meetings seeing “white noise machines” placed outside rooms to ensure optimal privacy.
However, Abrams too feels the current post limits the reach of the SCFJC, adding that a new location is desired as the center continues to grow. The report also claims the SCFJC fails to meet the original goal of embodying a “one-stop shop” for victims of domestic violence throughout the county, for which the District Attorney’s Office partially disagreed once again.
The District Attorney’s Office and the SCFJC countered by mentioning the diverse set of employees on staff at the center, which ranges from law enforcement personnel to medical personnel, to social workers. When addressing the Grand Jury Report’s conclusion that transportation options for all Solano County residents to the center was lacking, the District Attorney’s Office and SCFJC argued that steps have been taken for individuals who reside a substantial distance from the center’s downtown Fairfield hub.
Additionally, they revealed that the issue of transportation for clients would be addressed soon during budget discussions. The District Attorney’s Office and SCFjC, however, did disagree entirely with the report’s statement that they failed to raise awareness of the center’s existence and its services.
The District Attorney’s Office pointed out the many events that are held throughout the county that are planned with those exact intentions. Moreover, the District Attorney’s Office agreed that the center’s resource guides and website would be updated before the end of June 2017.
In noting the increased funding for the Center, the report recommended taking an aggressive pursuit of grants and a non-profit foundation to better the organization’s financial stability.
Lastly, the report mentions that there is no regular calendar of meetings between domestic violence victim support agencies in the county to amplify more services for victims. In response to the report’s recommendation of quarterly collaborative meetings amongst support agencies, Krishna Abrams and Angel Aguilar disagreed, and responded that such meetings already occur regularly.
July 7, 2017
Vallejo Times-Herald
By Dom Pruett

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