What We Do

Mission

The mission of MJM is to provide light and hope to families who have experienced neglect and domestic violence by providing free legal representation and ongoing support to ensure that the children are with a caring and protective caregiver.

By combining the power of the courts and strength of available resources, MJM follows careful and crucial legal work and free legal representation with equally essential counseling and financial assistance to help our clients find ways to meet social, emotional, spiritual, and financial needs.

How We Help

Providing a Path to Freedom from Abuse, Neglect, and Violence

Victims of domestic violence often feel trapped, lacking the financial resources and self-esteem to free themselves and their children. They also may believe that abuse is normal and deserved and therefore have trouble finding a way out of their situation. MJM provides a path toward freedom from abuse by accessing the power of the courts to help victims establish new lives that are safe and free from violence.

With MJM’s free legal representation, concerned family members or friends can find a way to protect and nurture children who have been living in a threatening environment. In addition to this legal protection, MJM offers services to help our clients find ways to meet their social, emotional, spiritual, and financial needs as they start on a new journey toward a life free of violence, abuse, and fear.

Offering Life-Changing Legal Services

MJM is the only pro bono legal organization in Tarrant County that will accept these sometimes-complicated cases that nearly always require a tremendous amount of time researching and securing documentation to present in court, along with providing counseling and financial assistance for ensuring a successful transition into a safe and nurturing home environment.

MJM takes legal action quickly to restrict access of the abuser(s) to these children — at times this may include the mother if she does not believe the child is telling the truth. About 80 percent of MJM cases assist abused children, and 20 percent of cases focus on providing legal representation to both women and their children.

By establishing trust with clients and thoroughly investigating their backgrounds before accepting their cases, MJM can focus on those women and children who are the most in need and most likely to benefit from our services. MJM generally does not represent women who have repeatedly disobeyed court orders or repeatedly reunited with their abusers in the past.

“Because cases are so well-researched, MJM has excellent credibility and the judges “treat us like gold,” they trust that our clients are telling the truth.”

— Brooks Harrington, MJM Founder and Legal Director

MJM lawyers assist individuals in imminent danger immediately, almost always filing petitions with the court within two days of the initial phone call. In 70 percent of the cases referred to MJM, children are removed from their homes where they are the primary victims of abuse. Working closely with the courts and Child Protective Services (CPS), MJM first tries to identify a loving family member or close friend who will seek custody and care for the abused or neglected child or children until they reach adulthood. Children who do not have a relative or close friend to care for them enter the foster care system and CPS retains responsibility for them.

“The saving grace of MJM is the people who step up to care for these children.”

— Jodie Connaughton, MJM Staff Attorney

Opening Doors to New Hope and Opportunity

By filing for and securing custody orders on behalf of these adults and children, MJM helps them enter a loving, stable home environment, often for the first time in their lives. This help is critical for the future health and well-being of these vulnerable children.

Following our legal actions, MJM provides access to an array of additional services to help women and children recover from abuse and establish their independence. MJM covers the cost of counseling fees with a licensed professional counselor and provides emergency financial assistance for basic needs, including tangible items such as car repairs, furniture, clothing, school supplies, and holiday gifts. Above and beyond providing these services, MJM surrounds our clients with love, support, friendship, encouragement, and prayer.

Success Stories

Amanda’s Story

After more than a decade of insults and beatings witnessed by their children, Amanda’s husband and the father of her children ejected her from their family home. Still, the husband continued to terrorize her and their children.

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Sometimes he would allow the children to live with their mother, and then, unpredictably, demand that they return to live with him. He refused to contribute any financial support for the children when they were with Amanda. He repeatedly told Amanda and the children that he would have her killed if she filed for divorce. He threatened to injure Amanda if she did not do whatever he ordered.

Often calling Amanda obscene names in front of the children, the husband blamed Amanda for all his failures. Once, when the older daughter tried to defend her mother against these insults, the husband beat her, even breaking the eyeglasses she was wearing as he punched her in the head. And then, when the son tried to defend his sister, the husband humiliated and beat him, as well.

Eventually the husband ordered Amanda to move to another city and to have no contact with her children, upon threat of death. During this time, the husband also forbade the three children from texting or calling their mother.

After Amanda was referred to MJM by another client, MJM obtained a protective order for the entire family, sole custody of the children for Amanda, denial of access to the children by the husband, child support, temporary spousal support, and an order that the husband complete six months in a batterer’s intervention and prevention counseling program. More than this, MJM has helped Amanda and the children become free of this man’s abuse by contributing financially to their rent, groceries, utilities, new eyeglasses, and living expenses.

Once you are an MJM client, you truly become family. Over the years, Amanda has utilized MJM’s professional counseling, a case worker to access community resources, along with MJM helping the older daughter in attending dental assistant school.

“The assistance we have provided in this case is very typical. When one of our clients thanks us, we tell her, ‘Don't thank us. Thank God.’”

— Norma Serrano, MJM Executive Legal Assistant

Sharon’s Story

Sharon is a young woman who had a son with a man who beat her repeatedly, especially when he was drunk or high on drugs. In these times, Sharon would take her son and hide from this man a few nights at a time, often sleeping on friends’ couches. When Sharon finally found the strength to leave the man completely, she moved in with her mother and quickly found a job at a downtown sandwich shop. Somehow, the man found out where Sharon was working.

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Luckily, she was not working when he came into the restaurant; the man threatened to shoot the other employees if they would not tell him where Sharon lived. The owner of the restaurant fired her immediately to avoid the danger to his employees and patrons. From then on, Sharon lived in fear that this man would find out where she was living and carry out his threats to shoot her and her mother.

Sharon was referred to MJM by the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office. MJM quickly obtained a protective order against the man and a custody order for the son, granting full custody to Sharon and denying the man any access to the child.

MJM then provided the funds for Sharon to move into her own place, including her initial rent and utility expenses, as well as help with job training. The man against whom MJM obtained the protective order is now in prison.

After the man was removed from her life, Sharon enrolled in a certified nursing assistant school, completed the course and passed her state exam. She is soon to enroll in a program to become a certified medication assistant and to work at a children’s hospital.

William’s Story

After William was sexually abused by his mother’s boyfriend when he was very young, and excessively disciplined by the mother throughout his life, he was placed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services with his grandparents, through a “voluntary” power of attorney signed by his mother under threat of William’s placement in foster care.

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Although William had been diagnosed with a series of mental illnesses, his mother failed to obtain his medications or seek counseling for him. Repeatedly in the space of a year, William attempted to kill himself by jumping from a moving vehicle, and he was hospitalized on multiple occasions.

In a court ruling obtained by the District Attorney of Johnson County, because the mother had committed family violence against William, a protective order prevented the mother from coming within 200 yards of William, his grandparents’ residence, or his new school. William improved greatly while the order was in place; he had no outbursts and made no suicide attempts. During this time William’s grandparents also sought and obtained help from MJM for William’s medication and counseling.

When the protective order expired after two years, the mother showed up at the grandparents’ door, demanding to take William away. The grandparents were frantic to obtain court authorization for them to maintain custody and restrict the mother’s access. MJM obtained temporary orders that severely limited the mother’s access to William.

Shortly after his mother’s return, William’s life began a downward spiral. Eventually, her repeated threats to take him away from his grandparents and punish for humiliating her led him to attempt suicide again. Then, refusing to acknowledge her part in causing William’s suffering and deterioration, refused to visit him when he was hospitalized and refused to particulate in counseling.

MJM stepped in to protect William by terminating the mother’s maternal rights. William still struggles with his past and his illnesses, but he is much better now, and MJM still provides support to William and his grandparents through its Safe Home Program and counseling services.

Adrienne’s Story

When Adrienne began babysitting for a mother with five young children and learned more about the family, Adrienne realized the mother was a drug user and a victim of abuse by the parade of men in her life. The only stability and safety in the lives of these five children was Adrienne.

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Adrienne started caring for the children for days, weeks, and then months without the mom returning or even calling to speak to the children. After the children became more and more settled with Adrienne and her family, she began seeking a more permanent living situation for the five children.

After Adrienne was referred to MJM by Child Protective Service, MJM filed suit and obtained conservatorship of the children for Adrienne, giving her sole discretion for their wellbeing. These youngsters now feel very much a part of a loving, extended family that treats them as their own. Over the years, MJM has provided financial assistance for rent, utilities, food, and clothing for Adrienne and these five children, along with school supplies and Christmas presents.

Resources

Emergency
911

Fort Worth Police Department
817-335-4222 or 817-392-4390

Safe Place Locator
nationalsafeplace.org/find-a-safe-place

Texas Abuse Hotline
1-800-252-5400 | txabusehotline.org
Texas law says anyone who thinks a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it to DFPS.

National Domestic Violence Hotline
800-799-SAFE (7233) | thehotline.org
Highly-trained advocates are available 24/7/365 to talk confidentially with anyone experiencing domestic violence, seeking resources or information, or questioning unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

Texas Health & Human Services Family Violence Program
hhs.texas.gov/family-violence-program
Provides emergency shelter and support services to victims and their children, educates the public, and provides training, and prevention support to various agencies.

Methodist Justice Ministry
817-339-2407 (habla espanol) | Email: mjm@myfumc.org
750 West 5th Street, Fort Worth, Texas 76102

Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office
817-884-1400 | tarrantcounty.com/en/domestic-relations-office
The Tarrant County Domestic Relations Office consists of four distinct, yet inter-dependent divisions: Family Court Services, Child Support, Legal Enforcement, and Community Supervision.

Tarrant County Family Courts
817-884-1111 | tarrantcounty.com/en/domestic-relations-office
Provides guidance and tools to enable parents to free themselves and their children from the damage of custody litigation.

SafeHaven of Tarrant County
877-701-7233 (habla espanol) | safehaventc.org
Provides 24 hour hotline and operates two emergency shelters. They also provide food and meals, personal care items, clothing, transportation, counseling, parenting training, and job readiness support.

First Street Methodist Mission
817-335-6080 | fumcfw.org/mission
Provides emergency food, clothing, infant formula, limited financial assistance, and case management services in an atmosphere of respect and compassion.

The Women’s Center of Tarrant County
817-927-2737 | womenscentertc.org
Provides programming in three service areas: Rape Crisis and Victim Services, Employment Solutions, and General Counseling Services.

Tarrant Cares
211 | tarrantcares.org
Call 2-1-1 for community resources based on location.

Department of Family and Protective Services Handbook
dfps.state.tx.us/handbooks/CPS/

Victim Information and Notification Everyday
vinelink.com
A free, anonymous telephone service that gives victims of crime information and notification about offender custody status, and related court events.

Mercy House
mercyhouse.org
Residential program for single, pregnant women in need of physical and emotional support.

The Gatehouse
gatehousegrapevine.com
A supportive living community for women — whether single or with children — leaving a crisis, such as abuse, poverty, homelessness, tragic divorce, or other reasons.