Maureen Wishkoski, Court Advocate Manager
What do you do in your job at the WCA?
I manage the court advocacy programming at the WCA, assisting clients in navigating the civil legal system. We work with clients on issues ranging from civil protection orders (CPOs) to divorce to interstate custody. The four staff members of our department and three dedicated volunteers offer orientations for CPO petitioners each morning after a CPO is filed in Ada County Court, and we then continue that support and information throughout the CPO process: we are in the courtroom with the client and we also work with them outside of the courtroom, connecting clients with resources at the WCA and in the community.
And there is much more: we offer individual safety planning sessions for clients, guided by the client’s concerns and goals for their and often their family’s safety. Further, we provide Pro Se legal support for divorce and custody cases, connect clients with two volunteer attorneys who donate their time and expertise, or refer them to legal service agencies. One of our staff members provides case management for victims whose abuser’s criminal case is being heard in Ada County’s Domestic Violence Court.
Throughout our work, we help clients gain a better understanding of civil legal process and the resources available to them, while helping clients problem-solve and find and keep their voice in the legal process. Additionally, we provide education to the community and staff about resources and issues for victims. For example, two emerging issues clients are facing are: 1) concerns surrounding safety with technology and 2) safety after separating from an abusive partner when children are involved and some contact with the abuser is still necessary.
How long have you been with the WCA?
I am a newbie-just 6 months with the WCA and in Boise! I am delighted to be here as a part of the WCA and larger Boise community.
Where did you work prior to joining the WCA team?
I worked for a non-profit Jesuit high school in Seattle as a fundraiser while I completed my Master’s Degree. I managed their annual fund, supported their capital campaign and helped produce various publications for the school. It was a wonderful community and it was very energizing to be a part of a high school atmosphere, with all staff invested in the success of the students. It is very similar to the WCA, in that each staff member is invested in the client-defined success of each person that we work with.
What do you find most rewarding about your work at the WCA?
I had worked as a court advocate in Birmingham, AL several years earlier, and found that I really missed working in the anti-domestic violence field. I missed offering validation and resources to victims and education to the community. And I also found that I was never really ‘out’ of the field-family and friends continued to call on me to walk them through situations their loved ones were experiencing.
Which brings me to my work as the Court Advocate Manager. In reflecting, it is a tie for what I love most in my work. The first biggest reward is ‘opening the door’ with clients. By that I mean offering validation, belief, information–a soft landing where a victim can experience a bit of relief–that someone believes her, doesn’t think she is crazy or that the abuse is her fault. And my deep hope and belief is that these small interactions open the door for that victim to seek other resources, to access a network of people who will respond to her in their own way but in-kind. And that breaks the cycle. It breaks apart power and control. It rebuilds her sense of agency, it shatters her isolation. Of course, these things don’t happen all at once, but the journey begins with a single step.
The second thing that I find most rewarding about my work is identifying gaps in service and then working to fill those gaps, often by thinking outside the box or reframing how we think about the resources available to us. I am excited to increase our client’s access to civil legal attorneys, to make safety planning as effective as possible, to keep abreast of emerging issues clients bring to us and to then gather the information and resources that can assist them.
How have you changed or grown as a person through your work here?
I think even more about ‘voice,’ my own and our clients’ voices. I’ve grown in the way I value small expressions of speaking truth to power: a client speaking up for herself in court, or a staff member offering encouragement when a client has set positive boundaries, or even acknowledging with a client that it is okay to have layers of feelings about the violence that they are leaving.
Is there a memorable moment or story that you’d like to share that you have experienced at the WCA?
I am continually amazed at the care survivors offer victims. Countless examples of (mostly) women who have experienced abuse reaching out to friends or loved ones around them who are enduring violence. Many times in court a survivor offers support to the current partner (and victim) of their abuser, even though the abuser has tried to pit the two of them against each other. Instead, you witness an incredible level of compassion that outweighs circumstance–it amazes me every time.