By Margaret Dudley, Supervising Attorney, Elon Legal Services
“The mission of the Guilford County Family Justice Center is to empower family violence victims to live free from violence and abuse and hold offenders accountable by providing easily accessible, coordinated, and comprehensive services in a single location.” This mission statement is also upheld and practiced in the Alamance County Family Justice Center.
Domestic violence is a vehicle of disruption and devastation to two of the most important places where we need to find solace and comfort, our home and our family. Removing oneself from the source and or place of the violence takes courage, and the process of getting to a safe place is often permeated with injury, threats, intimidation, and fear.
A key component to helping children and their families who have been affected by domestic violence is the provision of effective, comprehensive, wrap around services which can be provided in a timely manner. This most definitely includes legal services. The Elon Legal Services Program is the partner inside the Family Justice Centers which provides on site civil consultation to our clients primarily in the areas of some Family Law Issues, Immigration, and Elder Abuse.
At the Alamance and Guilford County Family Justice Centers, we see adults and children who are in various stages of acute distress. They need help in a variety of ways and we provide that. They may need a court order to stop the beatings and abuse. Parents may need advice about how to get their children out of a violent and abusive situation and into a caring and stable environment. They may need assistance regarding their undocumented status and may need money for food and housing. They may be elderly and victimized by the ones that they thought they could trust. They sometimes need help in acquiring the basics, a safe place to live and the ability to survive with dignity.
The Elon Legal Services Program has experienced, compassionate attorneys who can help clients by talking with them to see what they and their children need and who can offer practical advice regarding the various legal procedures which are available to help address their specific situation. The attorneys often confer and collaborate with other FJC partners to help evaluate the needs of children in order to develop and provide a comprehensive safety plan for them.
We also very often interface with other partners in and out of the Family Justice Centers to assess related criminal cases that have been filed as a result of domestic violence. The clients are reassured and taught about what can be an intimidating process, the navigation of the legal system. They are made aware of the different types of cases that they may be involved in and how the judicial system works, what to expect, and how to present themselves in a courtroom. We diligently strive is to help clients determine the most effective ways to gain stability for themselves and very often their children.
The motto of our program is “Carriers of Hope.” When a person who is involved in the throes of domestic violence can talk face to face with a lawyer and get advice as to how to best address the situation, they are relieved and given hope. When a parent is given advice from an attorney as to what legal steps to take to get their child into a loving, safe, and stable environment, the legal system has dramatically and positively impacted both lives. Our goal is to help children and their parents be safe and free from danger, two of our most fundamental human rights.
Margaret Dudley is the Supervising Attorney for the Elon Legal Services Program, which is housed in the Alamance and Guilford County Family Justice Centers. To learn more about this program, please visit the following web-site: https://www.elon.edu/e-net/Article/144491.