Published March 3, 2020
By Karen Florin

New London — Safe Futures, the agency that provides services to domestic violence victims in 21 southeastern Connecticut towns, is hosting a two-day strategy session at Connecticut College March 12 and 13 to meet with community stakeholders as the agency builds a framework for a Family Justice Center.

Katherine Verano, chief executive officer of Safe Futures, said that implementing the Family Justice Center model in New London has been a goal of hers for years. The center would provide comprehensive services for clients who need help with multiple issues, including legal problems, counseling, housing, employment and education.

Verano said victims and service providers alike would see a more synchronized and streamlined approach to combating the myriad of personal and societal issues associated with domestic violence.

"In bringing community partners together, it offers wrap-around services for victims," Verano said. She added that it may one day be a goal of Safe Futures to create a centralized office where public and private agencies can work side by side to help victims.

The Family Justice Center Alliance was developed by Alliance for HOPE International, and first implemented in San Diego, Calif., in 2002. According to Verano, communities that adopted the Family Justice Center model documented a variety of positive outcomes, including reduced homicides, more efficient coordination between service providers, greater autonomy and empowerment for victims, and dramatic increases in community support services to victims and their children.

The two-day strategic planning session will be led by Casey Gwinn and Gael Strack, both of whom are co-founders of Alliance for Hope International. Strack ran the first Family Justice Center in San Diego. Safe Futures is able to host Gwinn and Strack through a grant awarded by the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut.

"Without a question, New London is uniquely positioned to move forward in the development of a Family Justice Center," said Gwinn, president of Alliance for Hope International. "The need is clear, the commitment of key partner agencies to participate in the model is strong, and key leaders all appear to support the emerging vision for a Family Justice Center."

Local attendees include representatives from various police departments, prosecutors, probation officers, mental health experts and substance abuse specialists. New London Mayor Michael Passero also will be on hand to mark the opening of the event on March 12.

Attendees will participate in establishing the values and the mission of New London County's Family Justice Center. Following this two-day event, participants will continue to work toward implementing the program during the coming months.