Mayor Michael Brown and others, Grand Forks, column: Grant could help shield GF youth from violence

By Michael Brown, Kristi Hall-Jiran, Janell Regimbal and Jody Thompson GRAND FORKS -- A Grand Forks delegation will travel to Washington next week to make a case for $2 million in federal funding to prevent and reduce childhood exposure to violen...

By Michael Brown, Kristi Hall-Jiran, Janell Regimbal and Jody Thompson

GRAND FORKS -- A Grand Forks delegation will travel to Washington next week to make a case for $2 million in federal funding to prevent and reduce childhood exposure to violence in Grand Forks County.

Part of a U.S. Department of Justice initiative called "Defending Childhood: Protect, Heal, Thrive," Grand Forks was one of eight communities selected in 2010 to participate in a demonstration project to address children ages 0-17 who are exposed to all types of violence.

It is an immense privilege to have been chosen along with cities such as Boston and Portland, Maine, demonstrating the tremendous commitment we have toward our young people and the incredible collaboration we have across public and private sectors.

The Grand Forks project, called "Safer Tomorrows: Ending Childhood Exposure to Violence," now will complete with the seven other communities. Each of the top four will get a $2 million grant; the remaining four will receive smaller awards.


Spearheaded by the city of Grand Forks, the Safer Tomorrows project includes 51 local partners, including extensive involvement from the Community Violence Intervention Center, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and Grand Forks Public Schools. The Grand Forks County Sheriff's Department and the United Way of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Area also will oversee initiatives.

Over the past year, Grand Forks received federal funds to conduct a needs and resources assessment of the prevalence of local violence and current efforts of responding to and preventing violence impacting youth. The forms of violence include physical and sexual abuse, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, witnessing domestic violence, bullying and community violence.

The assessment provided the information we needed to identify our strengths and challenges and to develop a major strategic plan to prevent and reduce local childhood exposure to violence.

The strategic plan recently was submitted to the Justice Deparment, which will hear oral presentations on Tuesday. Grand Forks delegation members will include the authors of this column as well as Safer Tomorrows project supervisor Julie Christianson, who works at the CVIC.

The project initiatives will encompass three major areas: violence prevention, intervention and data collection and analysis.

Prevention initiatives include reaching nearly 10,000 children by providing violence prevention curricula in 22 public and private schools across the county, as well as 18 Head Start classrooms and 60 child care sites. In addition, we will sponsor a major media campaign to promote healthy relationships and expand a home visitation program for new parents.

Intervention initiatives include coordination of interdisciplinary city and rural coalitions, expansion of services to rural areas, an interpreter resource list to help professionals in working with clients with limited English proficiency, training for professionals, public education and expanded restorative justice and therapeutic services for youth impacted by bullying, dating violence and sexual assault.

The data analysis initiative will boost our community's understanding of and response to childhood exposure to violence by establishing a system to collect data to identify trends and gaps.


Exposure to violence has long-lasting effects on our youth, causing repeated trauma and beginning a cycle of violence and risky behavior. Our Safer Tomorrows project is one of the most exciting efforts ever undertaken in our community and one that truly will provide a safer and more promising future for our youth.

We extend a heartfelt thanks to the many individuals who have contributed thousands of hours to this project and who have made commitments to participate in initiatives if we are awarded funding.

Herald readers who are interested in becoming involved should contact Julie Christianson at 746-0405. For our children and their future, we welcome your involvement.

Brown is mayor of Grand Forks, Hall-Jiran is executive director of the CVIC, Regimbal is vice president of Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota and Thompson is assistant superintendent of Grand Forks Public Schools.

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