The Outstanding Service Award for 2021 was presented to CHILD Inc., People’s Place II, and the Delaware Family Court, in recognition of the collaborative efforts and outstanding services these agencies continued to provide during the COVID-19 public health pandemic.
The Council annually recognizes individuals, or programs, that demonstrate an outstanding service in supporting those impacted by domestic violence. These agencies were nominated as all three entities and their staff acted as “first responders” for survivors in the First State throughout the pandemic, ensuring that survivors could access safety and much needed care. When the pandemic began in March 2020 all three agencies and their staff quickly acted to adapt policies and procedures, to allow critical emergency operations to continue, while ensuring the health and safety of staff and survivors.”
When the shelter in place requirements were implemented during COVID, it meant that survivors would be sheltering in place with their abuser, often for long periods of time. The Family Court acknowledged that the relief offered by the Protection from Abuse process was more crucial than before. The Court quickly worked with advocates and allied partners to create and implement a system for filing PFA petitions electronically, as well as allowing all hearings to take place virtually. The Court remained accessible to survivors, advocates, and allied partners throughout the pandemic. Leadership at the Court also kept an open mind and was willing to adapt or alter these policies to ensure that all litigants could access justice. These efforts undoubtedly led to many survivors obtaining the legal relief from the Court to keep them safe.
Child Inc., the agency which provides emergency shelter and supportive services to survivors in New Castle County, and People’s Place II, the agency which provides similar services to survivors in Kent and Sussex Counties had to quickly adapt to ensure the emergency shelters remained open, adjusting to social distancing requirements to ensure survivors seeking refuge could continue to be housed safely. Staff at both agencies also had to adjust and coordinate services to ensure survivors placed in hotels were safe and received the same supportive services that are offered to those in one of the shelters. These agencies had to be creative in trying to reach survivors in new ways when in-person contact was limited. They wanted to ensure that survivors knew that despite the pandemic, services were still available.
Staff and volunteers of the Domestic Violence Advocacy Program, which is CHILD Inc’s statewide program that provides legal advocacy to victims seeking PFA Orders, had to quickly adapt and worked with the Family Court to assist victims with filing PFA petitions electronically and appearing for hearings virtually.
The DV Treatment program staff at CHILD Inc and the Turning Point Program at People’s Place had to adapt to provide effective services virtually to individuals with a history of violence. The domestic violence treatment and intervention services, which can be court ordered or voluntary, are critical services for offender accountability and survivor safety.
Coordinated and collaborative responses to domestic violence result in better outcomes for victims and perpetrators. While each agency serves a different role, they all demonstrated great communication, collaboration, flexibility, and commitment. All of these efforts were done to ensure services were accessible to victims and survivors during the middle of a global pandemic.
The DVCC presented the awards to each agency during the VIRTUAL Governor’s Proclamation signing for Domestic Violence Awareness Month on October 28, 2021.