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Adobe Program provides independence for domestic violence survivors

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 | Posted by

YWCA CEO Madeleine Keegan O’Connell (left) and Jennifer Lake, director of operations, are the leadership team behind the Adobe Project. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat)

By ASA HESS-MATSUMOTO / Santa Rosa Correspondent

For many women who live through domestic violence in Sonoma County, the road to recovery begins with the YWCA.

That nonprofit agency maintains a safe house and preschool for families in crisis, but the help doesn’t stop there. Through the Adobe After Care Program, clients receive help rebuilding their lives for up to two years after they leave the safe house.

Sometimes, however, that first step can be intimidating.

“You kind of get into the victim role,” said Diane, a single mother of two who came to the YWCA four years ago. For confidentiality reasons, she declined to reveal her last name. “It’s never easy to look on our own shortcomings. You start to make up excuses as to why you shouldn’t call.”

Restarting a life from a place of pain isn’t easy. Many of the YWCA’s clients fleeing domestic violence bring a host of concerns, among them joblessness, homelessness and child custody hearings. While YWCA advocates bring an enormous amount of resources, it’s not uncommon for clients’ issues to persist after their eight-week stay ends at the organization’s Safe House.

Women leaving the confidential refuge are provided with an opportunity to enroll in the Adobe program. Like physical therapy after an emergency room visit, the program provides a continuation of services — including child advocacy, legal support and therapy — for up to two years after someone graduates from the safe house.

“We won’t abandon them,” said Sonoma County YWCA CEO Madeleine Keegan O’Connell. “It’s saying, ‘Okay, we’ve brought you to this juncture to begin creating your own home, and we’ll be with you through that.’”

Begun in 1999 by Jennifer Lake, YWCA director of operations, the Adobe program was conceived as a partnership with the Sonoma County Housing Authority as a way to subsidize the cost of permanent housing for clients. While that service has since been discontinued, the Adobe program has expanded to cover individualized care through one-on-one meetings between clients and their case managers.

“It’s a stepping stone to get them to be sustainable in that two-year period of time,” Lake said. “When they come to us they are in a state of crisis. We make sure that whatever challenge they come up with, they are constantly going to get the support they need.”

Despite a shrinking budget over the years, the YWCA of Sonoma County has been committed to maintaining the Adobe program. The results of ongoing support speak for themselves: nearly 70% of the families who graduate from the YWCA Safe House enroll in the program; less than 2% are known to have returned to their abusers.

At the annual Adobe project picnic in June, there was much to be celebrated as the women, many of them single mothers, recounted their victories. One had secured her certified nursing assistant license. Another said she began paying rent without assistance. Each announcement was both a triumph and a reassurance to the others that things can get better in time.

Having just completed the Adobe Program, Diane had this advice for other women who are just beginning the process.

“It always feels like you’re alone,” she said. “Realize that reaching out, although hard, is what you need to do to get out of where you’re at. It’s the first step to healing the hurt.”

For more information about theAdobe program or other programs for survivors of domestic violence, contact the YWCA at 303-8400 or ywca.org/sonomacounty.


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Ann Hutchinson is our Santa Rosa correspondent.
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