Family Center Provides Array of Support Services

Women & Family Life Center guides clients through raising healthy families, navigating retirement, divorce, job loss, financial distress and domestic violence.
Safe Search is a new program offered by Women & Family Life Center that provides access to technology and equipment, free of charge, to anyone in need. Photo courtesy of the Women & Family Life Center.

For twenty-four years the Women & Family Life Center in Guilford has been helping guide their clients through raising healthy families, navigating retirement, divorce, job loss, financial distress and domestic violence. While much of their work over the years has been referral services they are finding that working one on one with their clients, prior to referral, is much more effective and beneficial.

Women & Family Life has a myriad of programs in place including Mother and Infant Breastfeeding Support Group, Shoreline Women Recreating Retirement, Girls Coach/Girls Run, Divorce and Separation Support, Money Smart Financial Workshops, Self-Defense Classes and Sexual Assault Crisis Services.

In October, the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven awarded Women & Family Life a $60,000 multi-year grant to provide general operating support for education, enrichment, support and referral services that help women and families meet the challenges of daily living and personal development.

Safe Search, the center's newest program, has been established thanks, in part, to the grant from the Community Fund for Women & Girls. Presently Women & Family Life staff and volunteers are trained in the Safe Search program. The three year plan is to have the program "staffed appropriately and pull in our partners much more deeply," according to Women & Family Life Executive Director Peggy Britt.

This free service provides access to a telephone, computer, printer, fax machine, copier and locked storage for documents at the center, free of charge to anyone in need.

"A lot of the folks that we work with are in domestic violence situations and it's not safe for them to do whatever kind of research they need," says Britt.

"It's giving us an opportunity to work much more closely with people to assure that the resources we give them are utilized," she adds.
What the center is finding, explains Britt, is that women are arriving at the center "either with very complicated situations or they're so overwhelmed they can't figure out what the next step is."

Handing these women information about domestic violence intervention, food stamp or job opportunities is not terribly effective. Britt says many women just do not know how to even start the process on their own.

"They take that list and they don't do anything because they are so overwhelmed and they don't know how to start that conversation or they're embarrassed or have shame and don't want to call," says Britt.

Safe Search is in place to assist them in making that first call, complete the necessary research and to start the process of moving forward.

Women & Family Life is receiving very positive feedback from women using the Safe Search services. "When I came in here I had no hope left. You gave me hope again," says one client. While another says, "I thought I couldn't continue. Now I can. Now I can talk."

While there is a high level of respect and professionalism in every relationship between Women & Family Life staff and their clients, Britt says there is definitely a special connection that develops after working on such a personal level.

"Really these women become part of our family, in a way," says Britt. "We are very protective of them and root for them. As much as we're maintaining our objectivity, we also, in our hearts, just fall in love with these people.

"What you find is these are incredibly brave people facing horrible odds and the fact that they're working through it is truly amazing, so we do feel just a strong sense of connection and love for these folks and a responsibility to be here and be what they need us to be."

Did You Know

At least 20 percent of female abuse victims first experienced partner violence between ages 11 and 17. (Center for Disease Control, Violence Prevention 2010 report) The prevalence of bullying further aggravates the situation as many girls become conditioned to dominance and control behavior from unhealthy friendship behavior. Learn more at the CDC Violence Prevention web page.