Twenty-seven months ago, Mayor Michael Bloomberg stood in Kew Gardens and talked about how domestic violence creates financial, emotional, and at times, physical scars, and “by making it as easy as possible for victims and their families to access services, many New Yorkers are given the opportunity to start over again.”
Bloomberg made those remarks in July of 2008 at the opening of the Queens Family Justice Center, the second one to open in the city, which provides many services for victims of domestic violence and their children – all under one roof.
Since its opening, the Family Justice Center has seen nearly 18,000 client visits with more than 7,000 visitors taking advantage the multitude of services the center offers, according to executive director of the Family Justice Center Alexandra Patino, who spoke at a meeting of the Borough Board in July.
At the Queens Family Justice Center, which is a walk-in center open to all domestic violence victims and their children, many different agencies and organizations have space to make it easier for victims to access services that include counseling, legal aid, spiritual guidance, and elder abuse advice. The center even has a children’s playroom named “Margaret’s Place,” which was funded by the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation – one of the city’s key partners in the Family Justice Centers.
“By having a center where we have so many resources available to the victims where they can talk to somebody, have their children get counseling, speak to someone who speaks their own language or work with an attorney, obviously it gives us an opportunity to have the victim feel safer and in a better position to move forward with their lives and not have them be totally dependent on the defendant,” said Scott Kessler, Assistant District Attorney who heads up the Domestic Violence Bureau, which is located in the center.
According to the Mayor’s Office of Domestic Violence, the Family Justice Center offers a number of services that first-time visitors and repeat clients can utilize:
Case Management: Victims can meet with a case manager to discuss how to stay safe and learn about what services can help them do so.
Counseling: Counseling is available for victims and children including individual and support groups.
Legal Help: Lawyers and paralegals are available to speak with victims about legal issues such as custody, visitation and immigration.
Police: Police Domestic Violence Prevention Officers from the New York City Police Department are there to help victims report a crime or give information to about how the police can help keep victims safe.
Prosecution: The Domestic Violence Bureau of the District Attorney’s Office is located in the center and will work with victims about prosecuting their cases and answer any questions about the criminal justice system and the process.
Self-Sufficiency: The Self-Sufficiency Coordinator can help victims with public assistance information, job training and educational programs.
Children’s Room: Kids age 3 and older can go play in the Margaret Place children’s room while the victim is meeting with other professionals and receiving help.
Patino said that the Family Justice Center has recently added programs targeting youngsters including a children’s literacy programming stressing the importance of reading.
Jessica Spector, a staff attorney of the Domestic Violence Project at the Urban Justice Center, which is located in the Family Justice Center, said her clients have been grateful for being able to take advantage of all the center has to offer.
“I think for most of my clients the partnerships that we have here at the Family Justice Center are really, really great for them.” Spector said.
Tiffany Rosario, a domestic violence survivor, said she felt safe coming to the Family Justice Center and praised the work of the counselors
“They’re here for you,” said Rosario, who described them as a girlfriend who was only a phone call away whenever she had a question.
The Family Justice Center is a walk-in center located at 126-02 82nd Street in Kew Gardens. The center is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you are returning for continued services, you should schedule a follow-up appointment, 718-575-4500.
– With additional reporting by Jessica Lyons
For more on Part III of our domestic violence series:
Orders of protection and other laws