Union County Family Justice Center celebrates fifth anniversary

UNION COUNTY, NJ — The Union County Board of County Commissioners has announced that the Union County Family Justice Center will celebrate five years of serving victims of domestic violence in Union County on Tuesday, Sept 13.

The FJC was established as a joint venture of the then–Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, YWCA Union County and other partner organizations. Family Justice Centers are a federally supported model and focus on reducing the number of times victims tell their story and the number of places they must go for help, and increasing access to services and support. In this way, they help reduce trauma and the number of days victims have to take off work or pay for child care.

“The board of county commissioners congratulates the Family Justice Center on five years of continued service to many vulnerable residents in need of assistance right here in Union County,” said County Commissioner Chairperson Rebecca Williams.

In 2017, the Union County FJC was the third such FJC to open in New Jersey; there are now five in the state and more than 130 in the country, with more in development.

“The FJC has been critical in our ability to provide victims of domestic violence with comprehensive support as they navigate the court system,” said William Daniel, Union County prosecutor.

Each year, the Union County FJC serves more than 500 unique clients and this year is on track to provide services for more than 600. From its inception in 2017 through June 2022, the Family Justice Center has worked with 2,561 unduplicated clients.

“The YWCA is proud to be the contract agency of the Family Justice Center for the county. The program enables us to serve even more victims of domestic violence, and the location at the courthouse helps clients access us in a convenient location. We are even able to provide clients who have spent several emotional hours in court with a calm, safe environment to have some tea or coffee, eat a snack and regroup,” said Karen Geer, interim executive director of the YWCA.

Clients of the FJC can receive services — including case management, court advocacy, safety planning, crisis management and referrals — directly from YWCA staff. Available services from partner agencies include legal assistance, medical care, mental health care, housing and rental aid, and employment and immigration services. Onsite partners include Central Jersey Legal Services, Partners — formally Partners for Women and Justice — Proceed Inc. and the Office of Victim/Witness. Offsite partners include Trinitas and American Friends Service Committee.

This fall, the Family Justice Center will be launching the Court Advocacy Volunteer Program. After completing 40 hours of domestic violence training, as well as specialized training in being a court advocate, volunteers will provide emotional support to victims by accompanying them through the court process, answering questions about the legal process and helping clients connect with additional resources. Those who are interested in getting involved can email Lisa Poris, the director of the Family Justice Center, at [email protected].

For more information about the FJC or to receive services, call 908-527-4980.

Victims of domestic violence in need of immediate assistance should call the 24/7 Domestic Violence Hotline at 908-355-4357.