Agencies collaborate to address violence

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JANESVILLE - Three local agencies now will be able to better address family violence after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Friday.

Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, YWCA Rock County and Rock County Children, Youth and Families signed the MOU in order to improve the way these agencies collectively address this violence.

Kelsey Hood-Christenson, director of survivor empowerment services at Family Services, said her organization regularly works with families who also are working with the Rock County program.

"This creates a good foundation for us," Hood-Christenson said. "We can really create a good flow with these families and be as effective as possible."

Katrina Carlson, YWCA communications director, said this collaboration is part of a statewide initiative started by End Abuse Wisconsin. Carlson said Rock County is the 12th county to get involved in this streamlining process. She said the goal is build up relationships.

Carlson said families have to work within a complex system of community providers that can either enhance or hinder other agencies' or the client's goals, as there tends to be overlap between domestic violence, sexual abuse and child maltreatment.

"It is critical that the professionals involved coordinate their interventions so that families feel supported in navigating services and are able to achieve what is best for their family," Carlson said.

Hood-Christenson said the organizations would like to start with cross-training to make sure all three agencies have a detailed knowledge of the services provided by the other organizations.

"Domestic violence in a household creates a lot of safety concerns for both the children and adults," Hood-Christenson said.

Carlson said the collaboration promotes flexible services to families and provides a more consistent, articulate voice to the community while closing the gaps between services provided by each agency. A team comprised of staff from the three organizations is leading this collaboration.

"The MOU formalizes the commitment of these agencies to work together to ensure safety and promote well-being for children and families," Carlson said. "The team is committed to their partnership and value outreach to other systems and agencies as a united team to further improve the response toward families who have experienced domestic violence."

Hood-Christenson said the intention is for this to be an ongoing partnership to address the changing needs of survivors of domestic violence. She said the Beloit Domestic Violence Survivor Center is seeing an upward trend of domestic violence survivors. However, she said it's difficult to ascertain whether this is due to an increased awareness about domestic violence and the center or if rates of domestic violence actually are increasing.

"We're continuing to reevaluate our outreach," Hood-Christenson said. "Every year we continue to see more families."

A representative from Rock County Children, Youth and Families couldn't be reached by press time.

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