My family, like many of you, takes turns naming things for which we are grateful before we dig into our Thanksgiving meals. That tradition (which usually results in at least a little eye-rolling among the adolescents and adolescents-at-heart around the table) will be unusually poignant this year. Health? Family? Home? Security? 2020 has laid bare just how fragile these blessings are, even for the most fortunate among us. And we’ve seen that for many, these most basic of blessings have been unattainable because of deeply rooted inequity, racism, and unjust systems.
If we have been lucky, COVID 19 has strengthened ties and revealed which of our relationships can be sustained with puzzles and Zoom calls instead of happy hours and vacations. But too often, this pandemic has intensified the types of stressors that left unchecked, destroy families and lives. Gender-based violence and child welfare system involvement have increased. Parents and survivors find themselves faced with impossible choices: unsafe homes vs. the uncertainty of a pandemic; tenuous, under-paid “essential” employment vs. lack of childcare.
Now, as we have since 1989, Ascend Justice has stepped in to support people and families in crisis and to fight for fairer, more just systems. At the outset of the pandemic, we converted our Order of Protection Clinic into a hotline, allowing us to serve as a unique resource for people who are trying to stay safe from violence and the coronavirus. We have served hundreds of people, including many elderly and immunocompromised people who were vulnerable to illness as well as abuse. Our other practice areas are also working remotely, serving the legal needs of undocumented survivors of violence and parents impacted by the child welfare system – even as we try to help them meet basic needs, like safe housing, unemployment benefits, and in some cases, PPE required for their jobs!
Like many of you, our staff members are doing their jobs while caring for children, trying to keep loved ones healthy, and too often, grieving for those we have lost this year. I’m grateful to them and to you, our supporters, who have made this work possible. As this year comes to an end – and we hope for better things of 2021 –please make an end-of-year gift to sustain our work. Your support and your generosity are key ingredients to ensure that those blessings we give thanks for – health, family, and security – are attainable for everyone.
Margaret R. Duval