Cass County Sheriff's Corner: Family Service Network, a critical service

This month I would like to recognize a very important partner of the Cass County Sheriff's Office that some readers may not know about. The Family Safety Network of Cass County provides assistance and support to victims of domestic violence throu...

This month I would like to recognize a very important partner of the Cass County Sheriff's Office that some readers may not know about.

The Family Safety Network of Cass County provides assistance and support to victims of domestic violence throughout Cass County and portions of the Leech Lake Reservation.

The FSN has been working to support victims since 1993 and over the years they have provided critical services to more than 5,000 victims. FSN provides confidential, personal and legal advocacy for those experiencing domestic abuse and violence.

They assist victims with completing and filing protection orders with the court and provide support for victims who need to interact with the Court system, be it in civil, family or criminal courts. Some victims may, in fact, have cases in each of those three different courts at any given time.

FSN also provides education and community awareness regarding domestic violence and the many effects those crimes have on our communities. It takes everyone working together to address this behavior, hold the suspects accountable and provide advocacy for the victims.


The follow-up that FSN provides for victims is very important, as once the suspect is arrested or the deputy leaves the scene, questions about the process often come up. FSN is available to assist with what can sometimes be a complicated legal process.

The FSN staff advocates, as well as our trained volunteer advocates, respond to crisis calls 24-

hours a day, seven days a week. FSN made this service a priority several years ago when, along with the Cass County Sheriff's Office, a policy was drafted and implemented that requires officers responding to calls for service that involve domestic assaults-both physical and verbal-to contact the on-call FSN advocates. In addition to contacting the FSN Office, deputies provide crime victims with a crime victim's service card, which has information about victim rights, including contact information and phone numbers for further assistance as they follow their case through the legal process. The victims can choose if they want follow up from the FSN office or they can contact them at a later time if they have questions about the process. FSN staff and the CCSO deputies and administration have worked closely over the years to address concerns of victims and also to explore new practices and policies.

Since implementing this policy, both agencies have seen a reduction in repeat victims. FSN works with fewer repeat victims, as they are able to get much-needed services at the time the incident is happening, instead of having to wait until "regular business hours" to be able to talk with an advocate. Most domestic violence victims want help to make the abuse stop-they just don't know where to turn for help!

With the working relationship between the CCSO and FSN, we are all able to meet the immediate needs of a victim and, in most cases, the children in the household, also.

The Family Safety Network is currently staffed with one full-time executive director/advocate, one part-time advocate and a part-time office assistant. The agency is a nonprofit organization

that receives about 40 percent of its overall funding from the state of Minnesota Department of

Public Safety-Crime Victims' Services. We are very fortunate to have many individual donors that support the work of FSN. We also rely on many volunteers to maintain our services and we are always in need of more volunteers. If you would be interested in volunteering with Family Safety Network, please contact the office at 218-547-1636-all required training is provided free of charge.


We would also like to take the opportunity to invite all community members to an event that Family Safety Network will be participating in on April 26 and April 27. FSN, along with Support Within Reach and Rising Hope will be hosting a film symposium featuring the documentary film "Sands of Silence." The purpose of the documentary symposium is to inform and engage the community of the real dangers of sex trafficking and sexual violence in a media format. We are very aware that sex trafficking is happening locally and look forward to bringing this information to the forefront. If you have any questions about the event, please contact Family Safety Network at 218-547-1636.

We are fortunate to have the partnership with the FSN in providing crime victim advocacy to all residents within Cass County. Their work is an important tool in our delivery of law enforcement services and making our communities a safe place to live.

If you have specific questions that you would like answered in this column or in person, please feel free to contact me anytime using one of the following methods: email or call 218-547-1424 or 1-800-450-2677 or by mail/in person at the Cass County Sheriff's Office, 303 Minnesota Ave. W., PO Box 1119, Walker, MN 56484.

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