“If you’re a veteran who comes back from war with PTSD, the fact that you’re no longer getting shot at doesn’t mean that everything can just go back to normal.
“The same is true for survivors of domestic violence. We can give them safety, or new housing, or even a new job. But for them to overcome the trauma of violence, to be able to be self-sufficient and move on with their lives, they need long-term counseling.
“That counseling is resource intensive, and with just two therapists on staff, we didn’t have the resources we needed to give our clients the help they needed.
“With the support we’ve gotten from the Healthcare Foundation, we’ve been able to change that. We now have five therapists working in our behavioral health services program in English, along with one and a half working in La Paloma, our program for Spanish-speaking clients. In the past, Spanish speakers would come to us for temporary help. Now we have bilingual, bicultural staff who can meet clients where they are and gain their trust. It makes a world of difference. They still get short-term help and referrals, but now they also get the long-term treatment they need to achieve self-sufficiency.
“We’re also expanding in other areas, launching a new co-location program with DCFS and another with the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. At the jail, we’ll be doing a domestic violence program for offenders—essentially, we’ll have a part-time therapist providing group therapy in the jail. With DCFS, we’ll have a full-time advocate based at DCFS who will respond to calls and help investigators assess domestic violence events as well as a part-time person serving offenders that come to the attention of the agency, and we’ll have a full-time advocate based at DCFS who will respond to investigations of child abuse linked to domestic violence.
“Say DCFS gets a call about a mom who is having trouble functioning as a parent. If the mom’s behavior is a reaction to the trauma she is enduring from a violent partner, the best way to help the children may be to stop the violence and help the mother heal, not remove the children from the home.
“The idea is to work collaboratively with DCFS staff to increase their understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence, so that they can work differently with its victims. It’s part of a national research project funded by the Children’s Bureau that is going to have significance in the state of Illinois and nationally—and we were one of only three counties in the U.S. selected to participate in the project.
“Even with the additional programs and staff, we’ve reached capacity again—the demand is so great. But with every increase in services, we are closer to meeting the needs of people experiencing domestic violence, and that’s always been our dream for A Safe Place. The Healthcare Foundation has been instrumental in making this dream happen.”