35 years fighting family violence in Mount Vernon

35 years fighting family violence in Mount Vernon

This past week I made the following remarks before the Board of Directors of the Family and Children’s Trust Fund of Virginia and I hope that you will find them of interest.

“I am extremely honored to be a recipient of the Family and Children's Trust Fund (FACT) 35th Anniversary FACT Award. Thank you so much for this recognition. I want to thank the Chair, Alllison Lawrence, and the board of directors and the executive director, Nicole Poulin, for all of the hard work that FACT (as the Trust Fund is affectionately called) does. Indeed, I would like to thank all of the many dedicated Virginians who have served on the board since its inception. Without them we wouldn’t be here today. Imagine a Commonwealth without FACT these past 35 years. It would be a much grimmer place for too many victims of family violence, and the local community based agencies, and statewide and regional networks, working without FACT support. Instead, FACT has provided millions of dollars of donated funds focusing on efforts to address family violence prevention and treatment from children to the elderly.  

Fighting to prevent and address family violence has always been at the forefront of my mind, both in my legislative work as a Delegate and in my professional career as a nonprofit attorney. That includes work with a charity dedicated to empowering domestic abuse survivors and their families and finding them safe places to live. Indeed, one of the bills I introduced and passed strengthens the penalty on those who use technology like low jack and even smart phones to track their victims. For too long judges could only slap these criminals on the wrist with a small fine. Now they can be incarcerated, and this allows their victims to find new safe housing with less fear of being discovered.  

I was honored to also serve on the Family and Children’s Trust Fund as a Trustee for eight years appointed by two Virginia Governors, Governors Mark Warner and Tim Kaine. And to see what FACT is doing today with its new initiatives focusing on trauma-informed care and oversight of the Child Abuse and Neglect Advisory Committee is exciting and makes me proud of my early service on this important board.

While my time on the board at FACT has long ended, I remain strongly supportive of its mission and to finding a dedicated source of revenue to replace the dwindling tax check off and way too competitive license plate income. Back in my day as a board member there were only a handful of these license plates that produce revenue for charitable causes. Now there are hundreds! In my current role as a member of the Appropriations and General Laws Committees, I was proud to be able to negotiate for a portion of funds gathered from future casino revenue in the Commonwealth to go towards the Family and Children’s Trust Fund, and efforts to include funding proposals to benefit FACT in the Governor’s budget each year.

This past year has been difficult for each of us, but even more hardships have been faced by families who do not experience peace at home. FACT’s mission to support at-risk families is more important now than ever.

It was my State Senator, the late Joseph V. Gartlan from my home of Mount Vernon, who first put forth legislation to create the Family and Children’s Trust Fund in 1986; and, as a young man he took me under his wing and brought me to Richmond to learn how the General Assembly works. Years later I asked Governor Warner to appoint me to the FACT board not just because of its importance and its potential, but because it was Senator Gartlan’s legislation that created it. Joe Gartlan was a great man who served in the Senate for 28 years and chaired what was then called the Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee. He was a giant in the human services world and left a legacy of empathy and compassion I endeavor to follow and continue as I serve in the House of Delegates, now entering my 4th term. I still have 20 more years to go to get to Senator Gartlan’s record.

Thank you again for this honor. I am truly humbled to receive it and I will never stop fighting to support your life affirming efforts to strengthen Virginia’s families and the positive impact FACT is making on our communities across the Commonwealth.”

You can support FACT’s mission to amplify community programs and initiatives focused on the prevention and treatment of family violence and the protection of children through funding and awareness by purchasing one of their revenue-sharing license plates. The Kids First license plate that I have on my family’s car is $25 per year, in addition to the regular annual registration fee. FACT receives $15 from each one, each year. There are three other FACT plates, with a star, heart or hand symbol, which are also $25 per year. The revenue from these three plates is split between FACT and the Virginian Department of Health’s Safe Kids Coalition. A portion of your specialty license plate fee may be tax deductible. Buy one for your vehicle today and show Virginia that you put “Kids First.”