We have been selected to receive a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to implement a Justice for Families (JFF) program in Maine. Twenty-five other programs across the country have also received funding to implement their own JFF projects. Maine’s three-year grant will help establish free supervised visitation and safe exchange services in Androscoggin County, where these services currently do not exist, despite a demonstrated high demand for them; and it will provide Maine’s family court professionals with nationally recognized training and tools to improve screening for domestic abuse and violence and help our family courts produce safer and more workable outcomes for Maine families.
“The safety of children is a priority for everyone intervening in domestic abuse and violence: the parent caring for the children, the advocates helping navigate pathways to safety, the guardians ad litem bringing information to the court, the attorneys attending to the legal rights of both parents, and the judges issuing parental rights and responsibilities orders with long lasting impact for everyone in the family. We hope that this project will support the resilience of children throughout our state whose young lives have been disrupted by abuse imposed by the adults in their lives,” says Francine Garland Stark, MCEDV’s Executive Director.
Grant partner Home to Home has been offering supervised visitation programs in Brunswick since 2012, and will begin offering these services in Androscoggin County. This will make it easier for more families who need supervised visitation services due to a Protection from Abuse order or family court order related to domestic abuse and violence to access such services at no cost, and close to home.
“After 25 years of service in the Midcoast area, Home to Home is honored to be a partner in the Justice for Families Grant, making possible the expansion of our supervised visitation model of affordable and accessible supervised visitations. In partnership with Safe Voices and St. Mary’s Hospital, we look forward to having an expanded presence in Androscoggin County as an impactful first step in larger plan that strives to provide opportunities for all Maine children to have positive, safe, conflict-free access to their noncustodial parents,” says Annie Sarbanis, Home to Home’s Program Coordinator.
“My office commends the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence for their commitment to Maine families experiencing intimate partner violence across the state. The establishment of these critical services for families in Androscoggin County is so encouraging, and I am confident it will serve as a model for all counties across Maine. Resources like those being supported by the OVW grant will help children and parents heal and serve to prevent future violence,” said U.S. Attorney Darcie McElwee.
We will also work with Maine’s Judicial Branch and the Battered Women’s Justice Project to provide a statewide training to at least 150 court-based and court-related professionals and others regarding best practices for screening, assessing, and responding to domestic abuse and violence, recognizing that no two cases are alike. This training will help survivors, and the professionals working with their families, decide which options make the most sense given the full picture of the risks and resources. Ongoing consultation and collaboration regarding best practices will be provided to training participants throughout the grant period.
Our grant partners for this program include Safe Voices, Home to Home, St. Mary’s Hospital, Battered Women’s Justice Project, the Maine Judicial Branch, and the Maine Bar Association. We are looking forward to partnering with them on this exciting new initiative.
You can learn more about Justice for Families on the U.S. Department of Justice’s website. We will be sure to keep our blog updated about the project as it develops.