October is Domestic Violence Prevention Awareness month. Although Family Services of Metro Orlando does not directly investigate domestic violence cases, its Prevention and Diversion staff specialists often deal with its detrimental effects on multiple children and families each week. Tasked with the lofty goal of providing strong and effective supports to enable youth to stay safely in their homes rather than bringing them into state care, this department is driven by a kind of energy not often attributed to child-welfare service providers.
“At Family Services, it seems like we deal with the aftermath of domestic violence almost every day,” said Kyraneshia Coleman, Prevention and Diversion Specialist. “It’s stealing the childhoods of many of the children we serve… We just try to show our support for the victims of this kind of abuse in an active way. If we want to change the outcomes for domestic abuse victims in our community, our staff members know that we have to be willing to step up our game and be involved personally in the process.”
Coleman is one of three Prevention and Diversion Specialists with Family Services. For her as well as Hope Phillips and Dianna Curry, this often means participating in activities outside of the typical business work-week. Phillips heads the Orange County Domestic Violence Prevention Taskforce – a voluntary group consisting of several non-profits and government agencies including Family Services of Metro Orlando as well as Accredited Surety & Casualty Co., Inc., Beta Center, Inc., Child Protection Team, Coalition for the Homeless, CourtWatch Florida, Inc., Florida Department of Children and Families, Harbor House of Central Florida, Legal Aid Society, No Limit Ministries, Office of the Attorney General, Office of the State Attorney, Orange County Animal Services, Orange County Clerk of Courts, Orange County Corrections and Probation Department, Orange County Public Schools, Orange County Sheriff’s Office, Orlando Police Department, UCF Victim Services and Victim Service Center of Orange Co., Inc. – which meets once a month to discuss domestic violence activity about which each organization is aware. They then work together to share ideas and resources in order to stabilize the family or provide shelter and services to the victims. The task force meets the second Wednesday of each month from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 pm in the 23rd floor conference room at the Orange County Courthouse and membership is open to the community. Please visit its website here: http://www.orangecountydomesticviolencetaskforce.org/
The Family Preservation department has also been actively involved with collaborative community efforts to empower Orange and Osceola counties to create additional possibilities for children and families. In the past, they have held several community garage sales at the Community Service Center of Central Florida site. On Saturday, October 2, Coleman, Curry and Leticia Ubillus, a Child Welfare Specialist with Deveraux, supported the efforts of the American Humane Association’s first annual National Pets and Women’s Shelters (PAWS) Day in collaboration with Harbor House for Central Florida and other community partners to raise awareness of domestic violence. Over 100 dogs and their owners gathered at Lake Eola at 7:30 a.m. to hear remarks by Bob Smedley, Chair of Domestic Violence for the Orange County Police Department; Ming Sun Kin, Development Coordinator for Harbor House of Central Florida, and Dick Bachelor, of the Domestic Violence Task Force and Harbor House Advisory Board. Family Services of Metro Orlando staffed a table at the event, providing information about the need to strengthen families before violence occurs as well as information on adoption and foster care.
On November 5, 2010, the Family Preservation Team will host a baby shower event at Family Services location at 2600 Technology Drive in Orlando, Florida. The event will run from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. and is open to the entire community. Guests are encouraged to bring an unwrapped baby item to be distributed by the Prevention and Diversion Specialists to children who may not need to be removed from their homes if their parents receive the items they need to keep their children healthy and safe. These essential items include diapers, wipes, baby formula, blankets and more. Light refreshments will be served at the shower.
“We know that our community cares about our children,” said Coleman. “This baby shower will give them the opportunity to actively participate in making sure that kids who already have a loving family do not have to be removed from their homes unnecessarily due to tough financial situations… That’s what giving a child a childhood is truly about.”