Family Justice Center opens in White Plains

Starting today, victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking in Westchester County will have a centralized place to get legal advice, counseling, shelter, child care and other services — all for free.

The county’s Office for Women opened its highly-touted Family Justice Center this afternoon in the “low-rise” building in the Westchester County Courthouse. With a $1 million federal grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, the justice center replaces the intake unit in Family Court with a “one-stop shop” for victims’ needs. By merging such services under one roof, victims no longer will have to bounce from agency to agency repeating their story of abuse.

The family justice center will have victim advocates — including those who are bilingual — who specialize in stalking, elder abuse, disabled victims and immigration. The Pace Women’s Justice Center, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Empire Justice Center, My Sisters’ Place, Hope’s Door, Victims Assistance Services and the Department of Social Services will have staff on-site, along with volunteers from the Interfaith Caring Community of Greenburgh.

District Attorney Janet DiFiore said putting these services under one roof — a concept she has championed since 2006 — will make it easier for victims afraid to report abuse. She said the center will help prosecutors “protect victims and give them the support, services and guidance necessary to assist them in the criminal justice process.”

The center will be open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Victims will be seen by appointment only and should call 914-995-3100 to make an appointment.  Eventually the center will take walk-ins. Retired Ossining town police chief Kenneth Donato is the center’s director.

Photo: Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, left, and U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Family Justice Center. Photo courtesy of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office.