Bexar County Family Justice Center

The Bexar County Family Justice Center opened its doors on August 1, 2005. This exciting and challenging journey began in January, 2004, following the announcement of available federal funding from the Department of Justice-Office on Violence Against Women. The $20 million Presidential Initiative was patterned after an innovative approach to serving victims of domestic violence - the San Diego Family Justice Center.

In 1986, Casey Guinn, City Attorney for San Diego, California evaluated the formula for Children's Advocacy Centers and the feasibility for a "one stop shop" for victims of domestic violence. In April, 2002, the San Diego Family Justice Center opened with more than 20 on-site partners offering counseling, food, housing, transportation, military advocates, District Attorney Victim/Witness Advocates and Police Investigators, chaplain, a forensic medical unit, and 55 volunteers, as well as an additional 15 off-site agencies.

Guinn took his vision to Washington, D.C., and in October, 2003, President George W. Bush announced his plans for a pilot program that would provide $20 million across the country for the planning and development of comprehensive domestic violence victim service and support centers.

Susan D. Reed, Bexar County Criminal District Attorney, brought together a powerful and successful collaboration. Upon announcement of the eligible funds, collaborative efforts began between the District Attorney's Office, Bexar County Housing & Human Services, San Antonio Police Department, University Health Systems and the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative. Throughout the planning process, excitement grew and new agencies were added daily to the efforts. In January, 2004, several members of the Bexar County District Attorney's Office traveled to San Diego to attend a special conference designed for this grant solicitation and also toured the well-known San Diego Family Justice Center. Bexar County filed its completed grant application on February 5, 2004.

April, 2004, brought the Department of Justice and the Office of Violence Against Women to Bexar County as San Antonio was chosen as one of twenty-four cities selected for a site visit. On Wednesday, July 21, 2004, Bexar County was notified that its proposal had been selected. Bexar County, the only Texas site chosen, was awarded $1,367,000. In total, fifteen cities were chosen to build centers throughout the nation. San Antonio was attractive to the DOJ-OVW because of the large military component and cultural diversity within our community. Both of these traits make San Antonio a unique and exciting city.

The planning of the Bexar County Family Justice Center involved over thirty public and non-profit agencies. The Family Justice Center is housed with the old Brady Green County Hospital, now known as The University Health Systems-Downtown Clinic facility. The Family Justice Center occupies more than 12,000 square feet, adapted for the provision of services. Efficiency and co-location are the bricks and mortar that build meaningful delivery of service.

The efforts of those involved have paid off. Victims of domestic violence have access to a variety of services under one roof at the Family Justice Center. Each client has the ability to see any and all service providers at no charge. The goal of the Family Justice Center is to take a victim from survivor to thriver. Through the consolidation of services offered at the Family Justice Center this dream is now a reality!

Article submitted by Bettina J. Richardson, JD, Bexar County Family Justice Center Director