The community-level impact of a family justice center: indicators from the Guilford County Family Justice Center

Date13 January 2020
Publication Date13 January 2020
AuthorChristine Murray,Brittany Wyche,Catherine Johnson
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology,Aggression,conflict & peace,Sociology,Gender studies,Gender violence,Political sociology,policy & social change,Social conflicts,War/peace
The community-level impact of a family
justice center: indicators from the Guilford
County Family Justice Center
Christine Murray, Brittany Wyche and Catherine Johnson
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to describe the ongoingdata and evaluation strategies being
used to document the impactof the Guilford County Family Justice Center, which has been inoperation
for nearlyfour years.
Design/methodology/approach There are four primary ongoingdata and evaluation strategies used
to tell the story of the impact of the family justice center (FJC) on the community: tracking services
provided by theFJC, collecting annual data from partner agencies,conducting week-long censusesand
doing an annual surveyof professionals affiliated with the FJC and its partnerorganizations. (The current
paper reportson the first three of these strategies.)
Findings Methodologicallimitations of the evaluation strategiesused warrant caution in interpreting the
findings of the ongoing evaluationof the Guilford County FJC. However, preliminary evaluation findings
indicate support for the center’s positive impact on thecommunity it serves, including in the number of
clients served, a reduction in domestic violence-related homicide rates and the creation of new
communityresources that emerged throughthe FJC partnership.
Research limitations/implications Each of the evaluation strategiesused in this study holds inherent
strengths and limitations,which are discussed in the paper. Beyond the future evaluationof local FJCs, a
range of rigorous methodologiescan be used to further explore the impact of the FJC model. Qualitative
methods may be useful for gaining an in-depthunderstanding of victims’ and survivors’ perceptions of
accessing resources through an FJC,as well as for studying beliefs and attitudes towardFJCs among
various community stakeholders. Quantitative methods can be used to apply more complex statistical
analysesto comparing indicators of the impact of FJCs over time.
Practical implications The data and evaluationfindings from the Guilford County FJC addsupport to
the potentialpositive impact of the FJC model on communities.These preliminary data suggest that FJCs
can impact communities by offering support to victims and coordinating resources among partner
organizations. Collaborative partnerships can be leveragedto lead to broader community changes that
strengthen community-levelresponses to interpersonal violence throughgreater community awareness,
opportunities forcommunity members to contribute to solutions and the establishmentof new resources
that emergefrom needs identified through the partnership.
Social implications Overall, there is a pressing need for researchexamining various aspects of the
FJC model and identifying factors that contribute to its success at fostering collaboration, supporting
victims and survivors, holding offenders accountable and preventing future violence. With the rapid
growth of the FJC models, the need for research and evaluation to document the effectiveness and
limitationsof the model is high.
Originality/value Designedto serve as a one-stop shop for victims of domestic violence and other
forms of violence to seek help, FJCs offer, within a single l ocation, multiple services from a variety of
professional disciplines. These services include law enforcement, victim advocacy and
prosecution. Although the FJC model is expanding rapidly across the USA an d internationally,
research to date is limited, and thus, the current paper will add t o the research and evaluation basis
for the FJC movement.
Keywords Domestic violence, Interpersonal violence, Community interventions,
Coordinated community responses, Family justice center, Family violence
Paper type Research paper
Christine Murray is based
at the Center for Youth,
Family, and Community
Partnerships at UNC
Greensboro, Greensboro,
North Carolina, USA.
Brittany Wyche is based at
the Department of
Counseling and
Educational Development,
University of North Carolina
at Greensboro,
Greensboro, North
Carolina, USA.
Catherine Johnson is based
at the Family Justice
Center, Guilford County,
Greensboro, North
Carolina, USA.
Received 9 October 2019
Revised 20 November 2019
Accepted 9 December 2019
DOI 10.1108/JACPR-10-2019-0444 VOL. 12 NO. 1 2020, pp. 1-20, ©Emerald Publishing Limited, ISSN 1759-6599 jJOURNAL OF AGGRESSION, CONFLICT AND PEACE RESEARCH jPAGE 1
In 2003, US President George W. Bush launched the President’s Family Justice Center
Initiative to dedicate millions of dollars in funding to establish 15 family justice centers
(FJCs) across the USA (US Department of Justice, 2007). Since then, the FJC
movement has grown extensively, withcenters being established in communities across the
country and the world (Family Justice Center Alliance, 2019b). By serving as one-stop
shops for victims of domestic violence and other forms of violence to seek help, FJCs offer
within a single location multiple services from a variety of professional disciplines, including
law enforcement, victim advocacy, social services, forensic interviewing, legal consultation,
counseling and/or prosecution (Family Justice Center Alliance, 2019a). By fostering
interdisciplinary collaboration and bringing much-needed resources under one roof, the
FJC model aims to ease the burden of seeking helpfor victims in crisis and change the way
that communities respond to familyand interpersonal violence.
Research on the effectiveness of FJCs is limited, but a growing number of researchers are
beginning to examine the impact of FJCs. There are many challenges to the evaluation of
FJCs, in light of the facts that the clients served aretypically in a state of crisis, and that the
partner organizations involved use vastly different data tracking procedures. Thus, there is
a need for creative, methodologically sound evaluation research to document the impact of
FJCs on the clients and communities they serve. The purpose of this article is to describe
the ongoing evaluation strategies used to document the impact of an FJC that has been in
operation for nearly four years. Initial indicators of the positive impact of the FJC are
described, along with implications for future research and practice as the FJC movement
continues to evolve.
Review of the literature
Practitioners, stakeholders and researchers continually call for additional contributions on
the efficacy of FJCs to guide funding, design and implementation of policies and programs
to enhance community responses to domestic and intimate partner violence (IPV) (Abt
Associates, 2018;Murrayet al.,2014;Shorey et al.,2014). As the research on this topic is in
the very early stages, a need remains for research to determine best practices and the
overall, evidence-basedimpact FJCs have on their communities.
The lack of comprehensive outcome research is likely due in large part to the well-
documented methodological difficulties in measuring and capturing the impact of
community-based service organizations, such as factors like confidentiality, low client
response rates and a lack of experimental control in the data (Abt Associates, 2018;Allen
et al.,2013
;Giacomazzi et al., 2008). FJCs vary by communitybased on the existing needs,
resources and relationships prior to the establishment of the FJC, which can impact the
ability to synthesize data across FJCs as well. Thus far, researchers have focused on
defining FJCs and their services, distinguishing between process and outcome measures,
clarifying which outcomes need to be measuredto evaluate the efficacy and impact of FJCs
and how to accurately collect data and measure these outcomes (Abt Associates, 2018;
Giacomazzi et al.,2008;Hellman et al.,2017;Murray et al.,2014).
As practitioners and scholars grapple with providing evidence to key stakeholders on the
impact of FJCs in communities, clarifying between proximal and distal outcomes became
necessary. Proximal outcomes primarily focus on individual, client-level impact and include
outcomes such as the number of clients served,client demographic data, types of services
received and impact the services have on clients in areas like satisfaction, safety,
empowerment and hope. Distal outcomes may be more challenging to directly attribute to
the establishment of an FJC, but they are ultimately connected to long-term goals for FJCs.
Distal outcomes reflect the systemic changes that result in a community from the work and
presence of an FJC. These changes include outcomes like a decrease in homicides due to
intimate partner violence, an increase in issuance of restraining orders and an overall
increase in systemic effectiveness in preventing and responding to domestic and intimate

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