Until relatively recently, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking and their children had to visit as many as 20 different service agencies over a period of days in multiple locations throughout a community to access necessary resources after a violent event. Besides causing additional trauma at a time that is most crucial for just basic safety and protection from lethality and more harm, a lack of transportation, access to services, loss of time on jobs over periods of days and lack of childcare prohibited most victims from getting the help they needed. In 1988 San Diego developed a model program to address the issue of access and decreased trauma by bundling the agencies providing these resources into a single location…literally a one-stop-shop of services a victim could access in one day, or two at the most. Under the Bush Administration in 2004, this model of service delivery called Family Justice Center (FJC) was nationally recognized as a best practice and the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a request for proposal to establish FJCs across the country. More than 300 communities responded to this call. Ultimately 15 communities were selected to house the first group of FJC models, and Tulsa was selected as one of the 15 to be awarded the President’s Initiative on Family Justice Center Grant. Today there are more than 90.
Established in 2006 after a series of community meetings over 2 years, the Family Safety Center opened its doors at 31st and Harvard. Organizing partners and their DOJ-required contributions of staff and program in the Harvard offices included the City of Tulsa, who was the original grantee for the FJC award; Tulsa Police Department with 7 detectives of the Family Violence Unit and forensic/SANE nurses for forensic documentation and sexual assault exams ; Tulsa County Sheriff serving protective orders; Office of the District Attorney for prosecution and victim-witness advocate; 14th District Court providing a video courtroom for emergency protective order docket; DVIS/Call Rape providing advocates, civil legal services, self sufficiency referrals, and childcare; Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry for spiritual support; RSVP for volunteer recruitment and YWCA for immigration and translation issues. The program was called “Family Safety Center” to avoid confusion with “The Justice Center”, the Tulsa based child advocacy program now known as Child Abuse Network.
A victim of domestic or family violence, sexual assault or stalking could now go to one place where an advocate would provide safety planning, danger assessments, and assistance with filing an emergency protective order that would be heard in a video court located onsite, connecting with the District Court downtown by Skype. Children could be cared for by a master teacher, while parent visited with advocates, or accessed a forensic nurse for exams and documentation of injuries. Victim witness statements and police reports could be filed with detectives onsite, and the prosecutor’s victim witness advocate provided information and assistance for financial compensation for victims, and follow through advocacy during prosecution. Victims would meet with an attorney for divorce or paternity and immigration cases. And a non-denominational chaplain provided spiritual support for those requesting it…all professionals working for independent agencies who located these resources and personnel in a single building to serve a special needs population.
When FSC opened in 2006, DVIS/Call Rape provided initial administrative services such as payroll, partner management for daily operations, and basic executive administrative activities. However, by 2011, it was clear that growth of the organization by expansion of the partnership and attendant increase in services needed by victims would require a change in administrative response and more-focused overall coordination. In February 2012, the CEOs of all the partner agencies agreed to the formation of a stand-alone 501 C 3 public charity to operate the partnership of agencies, fundraise for its future growth, and develop a strategy for sustainability over a longer period of time with even more services offered. The FSC received its IRS designation in April, 2012.
While the founding partners still engaged in the strategic planning process for a community wide response to DV and family violence a new board of community leaders was seated to address actual governance and organizational structure created to handle day to day responsibilities. Executive and administrative staff originally engaged by DVIS was retained and progress and growth continued.
In 2012, the FSC received its first contract for services in helping support the operation of the partnership of agencies from the City of Tulsa, through the Tulsa City Council. The FSC was also awarded a new grant from DOJ to form a High Risk, High Lethality Rapid Intervention Team to identify characteristics of and address and prevent homicide in the most lethal cases. Private sector and philanthropic organizations provided additional sources of revenues. The multiple sources of funding enjoyed today rather than the single source when founded in 2004 provides a sustainable mix of revenues, from local government contracts, to federal grants, to private and philanthropic gifts that all provide the “grease in the wheel” management to the partner agencies who all work under guiding principles and operating rules at the FSC agreed to in their Memoranda of Understanding.
With the need for expanded office space to house more partner agency staff and services and capacity for clients, the City of Tulsa and Police Department offered free space to the FSC in the Municipal Courts Building downtown Tulsa adjacent to the Tulsa County Courthouse. In October 2013 with the award of a HUD CDBG grant and additional significant private support by philanthropists, in kind gifts and services and the Cherokee Tribe, FSC moved to 14,000 sf of refurbished space in downtown Tulsa. This program of public private partnership, federal and tribal funds and the not for profit sector was showcased as a best practice by the National Community Development Association in early 2014.
Today, the FSC staff numbers 14 persons, 6 of whom manage initial client intake and navigation, a special project coordinator and 4 handle day to day activities of the staff and partners housed at the FSC, developing and implementing operating policies and procedures in a complicated system of multiple service delivery to a single client, external communications, building management, finance and strategic planning for the FSC board and partnership. Partners and services have expanded from the original 8 to include Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma who provide the other civil legal services required by our clients, including child custody, bankruptcy, protective order representation, medical services and Lobeck Taylor Family Law Clinic at the University of Tulsa for research and intern/externship opportunities.
Medical services have also been identified as a new resource as many of our victims suffer chronic and acute illness and injury as a result of their abuse, so partnerships with both OU School of Medicine and OSU Tulsa Medical School have been initiated to provide resident physicians/MDs/DOs onsite every day for general health assessments and referrals to outside providers. This provides a soft introduction to the healthcare system most of our victims do not access. It also helps in physician training in DV and sexual assault response.
As a response to developing resiliency in children of abuse and ensuring families actually access counseling to which they are referred, two new programs are in the works. A partnership with the YMCA of Greater Tulsa and OU Center for Applied Research for Non Profits, funded by the Tulsa Area United Way in an Innovation Grant received in 2015, allowed FSC to produce the first “Camp Hope” in the summer of 2015. This residence camp for the children of violent families is based on the successful California model, with research and findings provided by OU’s Dr. Chan Hellman on the value and importance of developing HOPE in healing the children of violence as vital to breaking the cycle. Lastly, the new program mentioned and further detailed in this grant with Parent Child Center of Tulsa will ensure the parent-victim of a child and the child receive trauma assessment at the time of the incident and a “gentle handoff” and introduction to counseling services to further assist and support healthy lifestyles.
Camp Hope research findings released by Dr. Hellman indicated a statistically significant increase in hope and resiliency in the kids following attendance at Camp. Camp Hope 2017 was just completed June 11 with 62 kids registered, 22 returning campers from 2015. The Verizon Foundation was the major sponsor for this years camp. In 2018, our Camp is scheduled for the first week of June.
As a result of its implementation of best practices, sustainability and growth in innovative responses to violence, the FSC was named in July 2014 as only the second Regional Training Center partner of the Alliance for Hope: National Family Justice Center Alliance in San Diego. The FSC is also one of 8 accredited Affiliated Member FJC of the Alliance for Hope.
At the conclusion of 2017, more than 5,600 first-time and returning clients, 2,000 children and 1,500 accompanying family/friends accessed services at the FSC, a 27% increase over the previous year. There was a 7% increase in cases referred by law enforcement to DA for prosecution, and an increase of 14% in the number of cases prosecuted. 92% of the victims filing for emergency protective orders received them, and 70% of those actually attended future protective order proceedings. The FSC receives consistently high satisfaction rankings of between 94 – 98%. Most significant however, is that none of the survivors accessing services at the FSC in 2013 -2017 were victims of homicide.