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Greenbook Reflection

Judge LuceroHon. Katherine Lucero, San Jose Model Court Lead Judge

Summary: Being selected as a Greenbook site changed the way that Santa Clara County organizations worked with each other and the families they serve.


Several years into the Greenbook Initiative, Jerry Silverman said, “Greenbook is a state of mind.” I couldn’t agree more. As the years pass in “post-Greenbook” Santa Clara County, it becomes increasingly apparent that being designated as a Greenbook site has changed the way we do business—and think about doing business—forever.

Selected as a Site

It was a typically warm day in San Jose when the press conference about the good news of having been selected as a Greenbook site was held. Everyone who had any political sense was present, including: the chief of police, the district attorney, the presiding superior court judge, the county board of supervisors, the directors of at least two major domestic violence agencies and the Department of Family and Children’s Services director. Of course, members of the press were there along with lawyers, social workers, and other community members who were curious about what all the hoopla was about.

A Lofty Goal

Santa Clara County had received $5 million dollars from the federal government to change the way the county responded to families and children involved in domestic violence. The Holy Grail was a single slender National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges publication that told us how to change our ways and get the job done: Effective Interventions in Domestic Violence and Child Maltreatment Cases: Guidelines for Policy and Practice. The publication came to be known as the Greenbook.

A Philosophical Sea Change Was Required

The impact of that moment cannot be understated; an entire network of government and community systems was given permission by each of their leaders to move forward with a formal collaboration to accomplish a task. Professionals in agencies that often suffered from bureaucratic gridlock and territorialism were told to change their responses to families in order to do no further harm to women and children involved in domestic violence cases. We were told to involve both the client and the community and to think in terms of paradigm shift. So we began.

Processing, Logic Models and Meaningful Self Examination

The journey was often overwhelming, painful and fraught with mistrust. There were meetings, and meetings and more meetings. We had to sit together, admit our shortcomings, and make changes. Not unlike those in a 12-step program, we had to figure out a new way of life without using our traditional patterns of coping. We had to be brave and even more challenging, open minded and willing to change. We had a running start thanks to a Hewlett Packard planning grant that had given us a year to “gear up.” But the reality of actually becoming a Greenbook site was another thing altogether. Here was where the rubber hit the road.

Opening the Airwaves to New Discussions

Over the years, we developed our goals, we tailored our outcomes, and we changed things. We uttered phrases and questions that had never been uttered out loud in public. For example, “Remove the batterer and not the child,” and “Who is really failing to protect?” We talked about continuums of domestic violence, the reintegration of the batterer and cultural differences. We organized the community and held forums, developed tool kits, and got buy-in from priests, pastors, and rabbis. Petition language changed, a specialized domestic violence unit was formed at DFCS, and we trained hundreds of professionals and citizens on the overlap of child maltreatment and domestic violence. We were in a Greenbook frenzy for five glorious years.

After the Dust Settled and the Money Ran Out

In the aftermath, we began to reflect on what actually did change and on what we could sustain. We had made significant changes in Santa Clara County: 

  • Advocates and social workers now have alliances that are not just based on personal connections.
  • Law enforcement now has one of the best family violence centers in the state.
  • Children are rarely, if ever, brought into protective care based solely on domestic violence.
  • Restraining orders are now available in juvenile court so that they can be issued readily and conveniently when necessary.
  • Judges are now trained and there is a Judicial Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee that meets monthly to ensure that judges are coordinating their court orders.

However some changes could not be sustained:

  • Small stipends paid to domestic violence advocates co-located with law enforcement are no longer available in certain parts of the county.
  • Generally, domestic violence advocates are less available at the court and in system meeting because of lack of funding.
  • Training that focused on the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence has been harder to organize, fund and facilitate.
  • The infrastructural examination, a big part of the Greenbook initiative, no longer exists because of there is no funding to hire staff dedicated to ensuring that this examination continues.

I am not sure how things would have been different if we had made sustainability planning more of a focus early on. I think that a lesson we learned was that sustainability must be on the agenda from day one of the collaboration. We ran out of time to plan for it, to be honest. Currently, with our new grant opportunities, it is the priority at every meeting and in all our discussions with policy makers.

Greenbook Made Us Different

We know that we cannot work in silos if we want to help our citizens. We developed a baseline mindset that we need meaningful interventions for real people because of the Greenbook. We now know that we won’t disappear into thin air if we have necessary courageous conversations about working with our profoundly disadvantaged populations. So, although we started out with a bang, we ended with no ceremony other than a PowerPoint and a final report.  We can never go back to how we were. We now know too much. We know better. That is really the good news.


Editor’s Note: In October 2010, Hon. Katherine Lucero will receive the Leonard Edwards Champion of Peace Award. The award is presented by the Santa Clara County Domestic Violence Council each year in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This award is designed to recognize the contributions that individuals in our community make to promote peace and stop family violence. The first recipient of the Peace Award was given to Hon. Len Edwards, for whom the award is named. Candidates must have demonstrated a commitment to peace in the family and community for a minimum of 20 years.  

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