It seemed fitting, in the words of Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles), that the Family Justice Center emerged from a building that people said was too broken to be salvaged.
“It was abandoned, it was torn,” said Cardenas, standing in front of the remodeled, modern facility in Van Nuys. “We celebrate this beautiful restoration of lives in a building that people said — don’t even bother.”
On Oct. 15, the congressman joined his fellow elected officials, including California State University, Northridge alumna and LA City Councilwoman Nury Martinez ’96 (Political Science), and CSUN leaders to celebrate the grand opening of the Family Justice Center, the first of its kind in Los Angeles County.
The Family Justice Center is a unique public/private partnership that houses multiple agencies under one roof to serve people of all ages who have experienced child maltreatment, domestic violence and sexual violence. The center’s partners include CSUN’s Strength United (formerly the Valley Trauma Center), Dignity Health Northridge Hospital Center for Assault Treatment Services (CATS), the Los Angeles Police Department, LA City Attorney’s Office, LA District Attorney’s Victim Assistance Program and Jewish Family Services’ Family Violence Project.
Located at 14651 Oxnard St. in Van Nuys, the building once housed an LA Department of Water and Power facility but had stood vacant since the 1994 Northridge earthquake rendered it unusable. Cardenas, a former member of the LA City Council, pushed hard to transfer ownership of the building to the LAPD and secure a commitment from real estate developer IMT Residential to remodel the building. Speaking at the celebration to a crowd of hundreds, from police officers to survivors of domestic violence, Cardenas moved many to tears as his voice broke.
“There are people here who look forward to coming to work every day — to look people in the eye and say, ‘We are going to help you put your lives back together … you deserve everything we are going to give you.’” he said. “This is a place where lives are restored.”
Previously, victims had to visit up to seven facilities for the services that are now available in one location. The new center, which opened its doors and has been providing services since fall 2014, boasts offices for LAPD major assault crimes detectives, medical exam rooms, forensic interview rooms with digital recording capability, therapy offices, training rooms — even a children’s play area. At the opening, the artwork of children already adorned the walls.
“This center is focused on the adults to be sure, but also focused on the kids,” said LA City Attorney Mike Feuer. “These child witnesses need us to wrap our arms around them and stand with them.”
Jorge Villegas, LAPD assistant chief, was just one of several civic leaders who thanked and honored the visionaries behind the new center: Kim Goldberg-Roth ’02, M.A. ’05 (Marriage and Family Therapy), Strength United’s executive director and a licensed marriage and family therapist; Kathy Adams, former clinical director of CATS — now retired; and Detective Angela Romeral of the LAPD. Villegas also thanked the center’s service providers, who include dozens of CSUN alumni and students. The undergraduates and graduate students serve in volunteer and internship roles, where they learn from mental health, social service and medical and law enforcement professionals.
“It’s the practitioners — the nurses, counselors, detectives — who provide the services day in and day out,” Villegas said. “They all know that every nine seconds in the U.S., there’s an incidence of domestic violence. Last year, we had close to 50,000 radio calls of domestic violence in the city of LA.”
Other dignitaries who gathered to celebrate the center’s grand opening included Michael Spagna, dean of CSUN’s Michael D. Eisner College of Education, who served as master of ceremonies; Saliba H. Salo, president/CEO of Dignity Health Northridge Hospital Medical Center; LA County District Attorney Jackie Lacey; First Lady of LA Amy Elaine Wakeland; LAPD Deputy Chief Bob Green; State Sen. Fran Pavley; and Brian Hammel, president of the Northridge Hospital Foundation.
Strength United is operated through the College of Education. It was founded 27 years ago by Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling faculty, including CSUN professor Charles Hanson. He continues to lead the center as executive administrator and principal investigator. Ninety percent of its staff are CSUN alumni.
Strength United serves thousands of children and adults annually. It provides 24/7 support and crisis intervention, along with long-term counseling, victim advocacy and prevention-education programs to individuals and families affected by domestic violence, sexual assault, child maltreatment and other crimes.
For more information about the Family Justice Center or to learn more about helping someone affected by child maltreatment, domestic violence or sexual violence, call (818) 886-0453 or (661) 253-0258.