By Conrad Dudderar
EL RENO – Canadian County is seeking a $500,000 grant that would help launch a new family justice center to help domestic violence survivors.
Canadian County Commissioners, at a special meeting Jan. 24, approved applying for an Improving Criminal Justices Responses to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Grant.
Kristie Chandler, project coordinator for Canadian County’s family justice center, submitted the grant application Monday morning to the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women.
The grant caught Chandler’s attention because it specifically has a project area of creating a family justice center. She found this funding opportunity while researching federal funding that would be applicable to the work of family justice centers.
“This particular grant has a purpose area to address the planning, development and establishment of comprehensive victim service centers, such as family justice centers,” Chandler said. “I also appreciate that it supports the activities of our law enforcement, prosecution and non-profit victim service provider partners.”
Plans call for a family justice center to open this year in renovated space inside the Canadian County Children’s Justice Center (CCCJC), 7905 E Highway 66 in El Reno.
“As a newly created family justice center, we thought it was a great opportunity to apply for this grant,” Assistant District Attorney Tommy Humphries said.
This grant opportunity is very competitive, and Chandler expects the peer review process to be rigorous.
Canadian County’s family justice center will be one place where domestic violence survivors can choose from various services to help them, according to Chandler.
“If the application is successfully awarded, I will be thrilled for the leaders that brought the idea of a family justice center forward to this point, for our partners, and especially for the survivors in our community that have told us the family justice center is a must have,” she said.
“This is important because meaningfully addressing the crimes of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking changes the trajectory of families that have been impacted by these crimes in Canadian County.”
Primary purposes of family justice centers are: To help domestic violence survivors and foster a community of support for them; to reduce or eliminate the trauma associated with victims’ involvement with law enforcement and the criminal justice system; and to better hold offenders accountable.
Canadian County will have Oklahoma’s fourth family justice center; the others are in Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Shawnee.
The family justice center concept was initially embraced by four Canadian County leaders – District Attorney Mike Fields, Associate Judge Bob Hughey, Commissioner David Anderson and Sheriff Chris West.
Together, the group collaborated with San Diego based Alliance for Hope International to study and develop a strategic planning report for a Canadian County facility.
$500k OVER THREE YEARS
If the Improving Criminal Justices Responses to Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Stalking Grant is awarded, it would provide Canadian County with $500,000 over three years for its new family justice center.
“To be a family justice center, you have to have four pieces: A prosecution piece, law enforcement piece, domestic violence service provider piece, and legal assistant,” Humphries said. “All four of those pieces are partners in this grant.
“Having those four core partners is our way of showing we’re serious and able to actually start one of these family justice centers,” Humphries said. “We have many other important partners but those are the ones we focused on with this grant.”
Under the proposed budget, grant funds would be used to cover:
- The director’s salary, computer and printer.
- 15 percent of the assigned prosecutor’s pay.
- A video and iPad to help the county sheriff office’s civil division serve protective orders.
- Half-time legal aid attorney.
- A contract with the Intervention and Crisis Advocacy Network (ICAN) domestic violence provider to provide training.
Opening of Canadian County’s family justice center is largely tied to construction ongoing at the CCCJC. A tentative summer completion is projected.
Receiving this domestic violence grant would help jump-start the family justice center effort.
“This is just one funding opportunity,” Humphries said. “We won’t know if we receive this grant until October. I think the doors will open some way, somehow. We can’t be contingent on this grant.
“These are three-year grants and you can only apply a second time. At the most, this is just six-year funding. This is not the type of funding where you sustain anything. It’s specifically designed to start something new. That’s why we’re a good fit, but we’ll still have to work on other funding sources to replace that.”
As project coordinator, Chandler said she’ll “continuously search” for available funding to support the collaborative efforts of Canadian County’s new family justice center and its partner agencies.
Applications are due in early March for the next funding opportunity for them to consider – the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funding.
Chandler, who started in Canadian County last September, has 17 years of experience working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, collaborating with other agencies and law enforcement and pursuing ways to improve the system’s response to these problems.