The Ursula Forem Domestic Violence Program Employment Fellowship
By Joan Faxon, Domestic Violence Program Administrator and Forem Fellowship Coordinator, NYS OPDV
March 10, 2016
The Ursula Forem Domestic Violence Program Employment Fellowship was created to expand the capacity of community-based domestic violence services, as well as inform the state of the needs and challenges faced by those programs. Many domestic violence programs struggle to provide services that address the long-term needs of victims in attaining independence and safety from their abusive partners. These vital services address such needs as economic stability, safe permanent housing, health and well-being and employment assistance.
The first two two-year fellowships were awarded in 2015 to the YWCA of Genesee County, Inc. and the North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence. While both programs are providing well-rounded experiences for their fellows, including training, advocacy, case management and community outreach, each of the fellows is working on specific projects within their agencies.
The YWCA of Genesee County, Inc. fellow, Amanda Bow, has focused on developing and implementing a trauma-informed and evidenced-based support group for victims of domestic violence, and has developed a mentor program to assist participants in the support group. In addition, Bow collaborates with Genesee County Child Protective Services and the Justice for Children Advocacy Center on developing and implementing trauma-informed and evidenced-based support group services for children who witness domestic violence.
Bow reports that the experience has been “inspiring.” “Working with these women and watching them day by day recover and grow from this unfortunate situation gives me hope that no matter how sour of a lemon life deals you, a helping hand can be just what you need to make lemonade. The most rewarding part is being that helping hand. I have tremendous respect for the women I work with and running the support group that was a part of this grant has become the highlight of my week.”
Jeanne Walton, executive director of the YWCA of Genesee County, Inc., reports that the grant has been an incredible opportunity to expand services throughout the county. In addition, “The direct interaction between clients in support groups and mentors/mentees that was established with this grant funding has added dimension to our program that provides clients with the ongoing support they need and ultimately with the strength they need to move on and make real changes in their lives.”
The North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence fellow, Isabella Velazquez, has focused on developing and implementing 15 one-hour training sessions on different topics related to domestic violence through the use of best practices and evidence-based intervention methods. In addition, she will be conducting an extensive evaluation of services in the community, recommending creative solutions to fill the identified gaps.
Velazquez shared that the position has allowed her to work within various community systems. This has widened her understanding of the obstacles victims face when interacting with the courts, law enforcement, social services, etc. “My hope for the rest of the Ursula Forem Fellowship is to continue to grow and identify my strengths to best inspire change on a larger policy level to challenge norms that negatively affect our communities.”
Patricia Ross, executive director of the North Brooklyn Coalition Against Family Violence states, “The coalition is so grateful for the fellowship, as it has enabled us to broaden our community outreach and education efforts. The fellowship has allowed us to develop trainings on topics such as safety planning, cultural competency and domestic violence, healthy/ unhealthy relationships, to name a few, all of which affect the communities we service. Additionally, our fellow has been a powerful advocate for our survivors and has a very sharp eye when it comes to identifying the obstacles and injustices faced by survivors.”
OPDV is proud to be working with our two current fellowship partners, and to announce that the 2016-2018 fellowships have been awarded to the following:
Lifespan of Greater Rochester, Inc.: The fellow will become a specialist in trauma-informed care with elder domestic violence abuse clients
Sanctuary for Families, Inc.: The fellow will provide direct services for underserved populations through community partnerships, collaboration, outreach and training.
For more information about this article and more go to Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence - Summer Bulletin.