At an April City Council meeting, a representative from Visions For The Family, a non-profit counseling service, gave a heartfelt presentation about the organization. His presentation began with a story about a woman who walked into their office. She was sobbing, suicidal and out of options. She had been turned down for care by two other institutions because “she didn’t have the money to purchase their time.”
According to Velda McDonald, program director for Visions For The Family, incidents like this do not happen very often, if at all. “For a client to just walk into our office and ask for help is unheard of,” said McDonald during an interview about the program.
“She had been praying every night that she wouldn’t wake up the next morning, and had we ignored her too, there probably would have been a morning that she didn’t wake up.”
McDonald spent four years making Visions For The Family become a reality. She established the non-profit completely on her own, without the help of an attorney. The organization was created to serve people who do not have access to treatment, but its specific focus is on the children who are witnesses to domestic violence. “It was hard, but it was a fight I was willing to fight because it needed to be fought. It was something I believed in, something that could be a game changer.”
The 10-week treatment program is different than many other programs for children in that it focuses more on empowering children than just protecting them. “Children are often overlooked. [Our program] is a safety plan for children. It teaches what to do when [the violence] happens again, because it will happen again.”
The program focuses on teaching a child the basics like their name, address, and phone number, as well as how to call 911 and other methods of getting help.
McDonald spoke about how domestic violence can literally rob a child of their childhood and the difference that their program can make. “It helps them reclaim a little bit of their childhood while teaching them how to control what they can. We teach them that this is not their fault.”
McDonald’s passion for helping children and her unconditional love for those she helps is evident as she relates her frustration that many of the programs for domestic violence do not take the children into account. Programs focus on the offender and the victim, forgetting that the child witness is a victim, too.
McDonald stated that many child victims will either become offenders or victims themselves, and that to truly remedy the problem with domestic violence, the children have to be the focus.
“There is nothing greater than helping a child find their light,” McDonald said through tear-filled eyes. “There’s going to be a child who’s going to be saved because of this [and] I will have done something with my life that matters.”
All of the work that goes into Visions For The Family, including promotion, awareness and treatment, is done on a completely voluntary basis. Nobody gets paid for the time that they spend, meaning that 100% of funding goes towards the cost of treatment and the development of the program.
McDonald expressed the need for counselors to focus on providing care to those who need it most, and less on the almighty dollar. “People have forgotten why they’re doing this. If you don’t have a heart, you shouldn’t be doing this.”
It is her passion for the program and example of giving freely that has so many volunteering their time to help. “When you truly believe in something, it’s contagious. [People] want to find something that they can identify with. We want to be a force in the community for change.”
This year, Visions For The Family did not receive the funding from Sandy City that they have in the past, but as McDonald spends countless hours writing grants, she is optimistic that they will have the funds they need. The organization is always in need of additional funding. “It really expands what we’re able to do for the community,” she said. “There is funding for awareness but not a lot for treatment.”
The annual motorcycle Ride Against Domestic Violence helps Visions For The Family to raise awareness as well as additional funds. This year’s ride is being held on August 22 and will support the Road Home Family Center as well.
For more information on Visions For The Family or the Ride Against Domestic Violence, contact Sandy Counseling Centers at 801-944-1666.