Prince George’s County Family Justice Center reflects back on first year of service

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. -- Every month about 75 clients walk into a heavily fortified building across the street from the courthouse looking for a special kind of help.

Denise McCain, director of the Prince George's County Family Justice Center, an initiative of the Circuit Court, is proud to tell you that help comes in many different ways for everyone.

“We call this the one-stop-shop service delivery,” said McCain.

Under the roof of the Family Justice Center you’ll find 23 partner agencies that can help zero in on an abuse victim’s needs to make getting help as easy as possible.

“We make the process for a survivor of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking or elder abuse very simple,” said McCain. “Traditionally an individual will have to go to four or five six seven places— perhaps take one two days maybe even longer to see the number of people they would potentially have to interact with to get the services and support they need.”

One of the victims helped over the first year since the center’s opening is Sharon Harley.

Harley said she didn’t even realize she needed help until she talked to the right people who recommended the Family Justice Center.

“It was the greatest thing since sliced bread because trying to get help for myself, I couldn't do it,” said Harley.

Harley said it’s important to have the support system that the center provides.

“You have good days and you have bad days,” said Harley. “Getting a restraining order in place or whatever the case may be it doesn't end there. You have times when you may smell something and you go back to something that was happening or you hear a song or you may just be thinking about what's going on.”

McCain said often times an abuser has conflicting feelings that can prevent them from doing the things it takes to get out of a dangerous situation.

“More often than not we're talking about survivors of domestic violence; many times they still love their partners despite the fact they may have been in abusive relationship, violently abusive relationships for years,” said McCain.

She said that’s why important to have so many different partners working together to provide the right kind of help. Those agencies include the Amara Legal Center, BTST Services, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington (Immigration Legal Services), Community Advocates for Family and Youth (CAFY), Courtney’s House, Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center (DV/SAC) - Prince George’s County Hospital, FAIR Girls, Family Crisis Center of Prince George’s County, House of Ruth, Maryland Crime Victims’ Resource Center, Maryland Legal Aid, Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI), Still I Rise, The NEHE Foundation, The Next Step, Women’s Law Center of Maryland, Health Department of Prince George’s County, Prince George’s County Department of Family Services, Prince George’s County Department of Social Services, Prince George’s County Police Department, Prince George’s County Office of the Sheriff, Prince George’s County Office of the State’s Attorney.

The groups are a mix of public and private groups that have been serving Prince George’s County for years. The key here is them working together efficiently for clients.

“One thing is not going to work for everyone that's what makes us unique,” said McCain. “We're seeing change we're seeing hope we're seeing that people who though there was nothing for them, they're hopeful they're optimistic they're willing to go forward and really change their lives.”

Harley can’t imagine what her life would be like if she hadn’t found her way to the Family Justice Center.

“I have found my strength and my own voice now. It's a hurtful situation what I've had to go through but I have found strength like never before to overcome this horrible situation that has happened to me,” said Harley.