Remembering Dr. Ellen Pence

January 6, 2016

On January 6, 2012, the domestic violence field lost one of its tireless pioneers and we lost one of our dearest friends – Dr. Ellen Pence. Ellen worked for more than 30 years to end violence in the lives of women and children. As co-founder of the Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project in Duluth, MN, she introduced a model of inter-agency collaboration that has been adopted in 50 states and more than 17 countries. Her work as director of Praxis International, Inc., a non-profit research and training organization with offices in Duluth and St. Paul, MN, ushered in innovative tools that meshed academic research with community advocacy, such as the Safety and Accountability Audit, the Blueprint for Safety, and other models for intervention and practice improvement.
Through her work, Ellen helped administrators and practitioners re-evaluate their conceptual and organizational practices with an eye toward closing the gap between what people need and what institutions are structured to provide. She was a true leader in the emerging field of institutional ethnography, and a social activist with a compelling message of hope and institutional accountability.
Ellen inspired social workers, domestic violence advocates, and court professionals as our keynote speaker for our second national summit on the intersection of domestic violence and child maltreatment in 2009 (From Inspiration to Innovation: Leadership, Partnership and Change), and she served as faculty and as an advisor to NCJFCJ’s projects for many years. We are forever grateful for her existence on this Earth.
Today, on the fourth anniversary of her passing, chief program officer of family violence and domestic relations, Maureen Sheeran, shared the following, "It started with a phone call - 'Mo, I think we need to work together on this supervised visitation thing.' That phone call not only changed my life, it began Ellen's enormous influence on the NCJFCJ's ability and commitment to shrink the gap between what victims and children need in courts and what courts actually provide."
"She did this with great humor - truly one of the funniest people I've ever known - and a constant reminder that needs of institutions will override the needs of those they are designed to serve without purposeful and ongoing analysis of all aspects of the work. One of her last trips work trips was to Reno to meet with NCJFCJ leadership as we sought to design courts that provided equal access to justice and served the needs of those in court, without regard to the case type that brought them in the door. She changed the way we look at our jobs, and the privilege and responsibility of working with victims and their children."

To read more about Ellen’s amazing life and legacy, please visit the following websites:
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