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10:00 am – 11:15 am                 



Joseph R. Carico, Esq., Executive Director, Southwest Virginia Legal Aid

Session 1: Why Victims Stay

Lauren M. Lester, LPC, CSAC, Cumberland Mountain Community Services Board, The Laurels, Lebanon, VA

In this presentation, Licensed Professional Counselor Lauren Lester addresses what observers of domestic violence just don’t get: It’s complicated. While it is
common in our society to suggest that victims “should just leave,” do we ever stop to ask why they stay? Or more aptly put, what are the obstacles in the way
of their doing anything but that? Mental health and/or substance abuse issues, the financial, social or logistical challenges that these Individuals may be facing...
Rather than rush to judgment, Lauren urges us to look at each individual situation in its entirety. 

Session Moderator: Debbie Marshall, Intake Paralegal, Castlewood Field Office, Southwest Virginia Legal Aid



WHY VICTIMS STAY: Towards a Better Understanding of Victims' Lived Experiences


Understanding Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)


ACEs Questionnaire for Adults


ACEs Study: Narrative and Learning Opportunities

50 Obstacles: Why Victims Stay


1:00 – 2:15 pm                 


Session 2: Culturally Informed Safety Planning

Ruth Micklem, Community Initiatives Manager, and Cathy Coleman, Project for the Empowerment of Survivors (PES) Advocacy Manager,

Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA), Richmond, VA

Safety Planning that is not culturally informed is neither trauma informed nor effective safety planning. The Art of Safety Planning must begin with an understanding of the survivor’s perspective, integrate the advocate’s knowledge and resources into the survivor’s framework, and ultimately value the survivor’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, and dreams. This workshop will focus on understanding culture and cultural perspectives, how survivors make meaning of their experiences, the risk factors survivors consider,
and how to meaningfully engage with survivors in planning for their safety and that of their family.

Session Moderator: Stephanie Bryson, Community Engagement Coordinator, Women’s Resource Center of the New River Valley






3:00 – 4:15 pm


Session 3: Navigating DSS Involvement Within the Court System: Law, Policy, Process

Anne Park Brinckman, Esq., Brinckman & Brinckman, Blacksburg, VA

This session will provide a broad understanding of the structure of Departments of Social Services and sources of law and policy that govern child welfare law.  In
addition, the session will more specifically address child protective services cases from the complaint through the investigation, including safety planning, to each potential outcome – whether that be unfounding of a case or continuing to court intervention and foster care.  As we move into a discussion of court intervention, we will look at the specific statutes, including timelines, that come into play.  The goal of the session is to provide a working understanding of the complex matrix of law and policy that a family law practitioner may face when dealing with DSS involvement.

Session Moderator: Susan Richardson, Managing Attorney, Christiansburg Field Office, Southwest Virginia Legal Aid



Navigating DSS Involvement Within the Court System: Law, Policy, Process

Course Outline

APPENDIX: Orders (in effect as of 9/2020)


4:30 pm


Closing Remarks

Daveena Sexton, Director of Advancement, Southwest Virginia Legal Aid




Lauren M. Lester, LPC, CSAC, holds a BA in Counseling Psychology from Florida Institute of Technology and an M.Ed. in Counseling & Human Development from Lindsey Wilson College. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor. Lauren has worked in the field of mental health for 10 years, with a focus on Solution-Focused Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In her practice, she strives to teach individuals to focus on positives – not negatives – understanding that while bad decisions happen, we are still worthy and have positives within us waiting to be tapped. Lauren currently serves as a Recovery Team Counselor at The Laurels, a residential treatment facility of Cumberland Mountain Community Services Board, in Lebanon, Va.


Anne Park Brinckman, Esq. worked as a foster care and foster care prevention social worker for the Montgomery County Department of Social Services for two years following graduating from Virginia Tech and before attending law school at William & Mary. After graduating law school and passing the bar, she returned to Montgomery County and soon thereafter began representing the Montgomery County Department of Social Services (MCDSS) in 2007. Through her work with MCDSS, Anne participated in the Court Improvement Program’s Best Practices Court program, where she received specialized training on best practices within child dependency and welfare cases. In 2013, she began representing the City of Radford Department of Social Services, and in 2020, the Floyd County Department of Social Services. For approximately seven years, she also served as Guardian ad litem in DSS cases and as court-appointed counsel in DSS cases. 

In addition to her DSS-related work, for many years Anne’s practice centered on custody and divorce matters, and she has represented relatives in custody petitions for children involved in DSS cases. As such, she has had the benefit of seeing cases from each side of the courtroom, providing her with insight about both the benefits and the difficulties that can come with DSS involvement. 

Cathy Coleman has provided leadership and direct support services at the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA) for over 26 years. She previously coordinated the Virginia Family Violence & Sexual Assault Hotline and now manages the program’s Empowerment of Survivors Advocacy.

As a leader and trainer in Virginia on diversity issues and a specialist in outreach to underserved populations, particularly women of color, immigrants and faith communities, Cathy has developed training materials and resources to help local domestic and sexual assault agencies improve their cultural response to these populations. She served a lead role in the development and statewide implementation of “Break the Silence,” a special initiative for the African-American community on cultural recognition and response to signs and acts of domestic and sexual violence. 

A survivor of domestic and sexual violence herself, Cathy brings a profound understanding of the links between violence, race, and economics to the work. Her efforts over many years have helped Virginia provide more inclusive and accessible services to all victims of domestic and sexual violence through direct and legal services.  

Ruth Micklem is Community Initiatives Manager with the Virginia Sexual and Domestic Violence Action Alliance (VSDVAA). Ruth has worked with survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence for over 35 years. She began her career in a homeless shelter, has worked as a legal and outreach advocate, SART coordinator, and program director of a rural program. She previously served as Co-Director of the Action Alliance where she spent 19 years developing statewide programs and addressing statewide and national policy on sexual and domestic violence. She has spent the last four years training new advocates and providing statewide training on a variety of topics that help communities enhance their response to sexual and intimate partner violence. 



Magistrates & clerks - 4.0 continuing legal education credits

Guardians ad litem for children - 3.75 credit hours 

Attorneys - CLEs pending

Law enforcement - 3.0 hours PIC-3 credit (1.0 hours cultural diversity, 1.0 hours legal, 1.0 hours career development)



Course materials are posted above, underneath each session.


Videotaped Recording, Session 1

Videotaped Recording, Session 2

Videotaped Recording, Session 3