Ascend Justice has undergone significant shifts over the past 30 years, from its start in 1982 as a program of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, to its incorporation in 1989 as Pro Bono Advocates, a rebranding as the Domestic Violence Legal Clinic and most recently a merger with Family Defense Center in 2019 that resulted in the organization that Ascend Justice is today. Our current mission is to empower individuals and families impacted by gender-based violence or the child welfare system to achieve safety and stability through holistic legal advocacy and systemic reform.

Our approach is unique and holistic. We have expanded our suite of legal services for survivors: economic legal services, family defense, family law services, orders of protection, immigration services, and civil remedies for incarcerated survivors. We are working toward strong communities where people have the power to navigate fair systems and overcome violence.

With an increase in organizational capacity, evolving client needs, and a renewed focus on building and sustaining an equitable organizational culture, Ascend Justice recognized the need to assess current practices and processes in a formal strategic planning process.

Ascend Justice engaged in a collaborative process involving a core staff team, board members, partners, client voices, and peers to answer the following key questions:

  1. What kind of change is Ascend Justice trying to accomplish and how do we demonstrate the impact?
  2. How do we cultivate a sense of shared identity understood and articulated by all?
  3. How do advocacy and systems change become more embedded throughout the organization?
  4. How do we attract top talent and support program operations for the provision of holistic legal services?
  5. What are the inclusive communications structures and systems needed for long-term sustainability?

The primary outcome is a call to center the leadership and lived experience of clients in decision making, program creation, communications, and organizational development.

Goals and Strategies

In order to respond to the needs of survivors and their communities, achieve the desired impact, and fulfill our mission, Ascend Justice commits to the following goals and strategies over the next 3 -5 years.

    • We utilize client input and goals, on an individual and collective basis, to inform the provision of holistic services and to identify and address gaps.
    • We ground our efforts at systemic reform in our clients’ lived experiences and expertise.
    • We apply our understanding of client experience to drive the development of new partnerships and strengthen our relationships with client communities to identify needs and assets.
    • We prioritize the involvement of former clients and those with lived experience and expertise in programming, advocacy efforts, and leadership.
    • We strengthen relationships and share information, resources, and motivation among the staff, Board of Directors, and Young Professionals Board.
    • We prioritize the involvement of former clients and those with lived experience and expertise as partners, Young Professionals Board and Board of Directors members, and staff.
    • We provide a structure for recruitment and mentorship of involved former clients, community members, and other professionals to join the Young Professionals Board and the Board of Directors.
    • We cultivate donors and supporters to be loyal to our mission and part of the Ascend Justice community.
    • Our staff are supported in their work and know that they are valued.
    • We grow professional development opportunities and smooth pathways for people to advance within the agency.
    • We memorialize knowledge, processes, and procedures and communicate them effectively and in a variety of learning styles to ensure high quality services, ease transitions, and promote agency stability.
    • We build communications capacity across the entire organization so that everyone, including our staff, Board of Directors, and Young Professionals Board, can be proactive ambassadors of the organization.
    • We build internal awareness of and opportunities for participation in systemic advocacy and legislative efforts.
    • We seek client feedback and input about their individual and collective goals in order to measure and communicate the impact of our services.

get help now


if you are in immediate danger


24/7 Illinois Domestic Violence Hotline


(877) 863-6338

Orders of Protection

Ascend Justice Remote OP Hotline:
Monday through Friday, 8:30 am to 5 pm