“THE main purpose of ADAPT is to provide support to women and children who have experienced domestic abuse. That fundamentally is what we’re about. And that support can take many different shapes and forms.”
That’s how Monica McElvaney, director of services at ADAPT Domestic Abuse Services, explains the mission at work with its many services users. Under her auspices, it has grown to become the largest refuge/ transition hub in Ireland.
Working in the sector the past two decades, this self-effacing Monaghan woman heads up the sprawling campus in Rosbrien.
Three security perimeters hedge in the 14 apartments and the magnificent gardens to the rear of various offices, communal areas, the play centre and training rooms.
The friendly edifice cloaks a purpose-built centre designed around an atrium filled with art and plants. Families and individuals come here to find peace and a new path – sometimes.
There’s a kindly ambience about and plenty of children.
“What we aim to do is to support someone on that journey, wherever that journey brings them. So it could be that they need to come into the refuge because they can’t stay at home. It could be that they want to look for legal orders. It could be that they need time out.
“With some women we support, it may be just one phone call. That may be sufficient or it may be that’s all she is able to do in that timeframe. Other women, we have supported over 20 years and many times, as they journey along.
“They may have moved out of the relationship and they are looking at housing needs, financial needs, divorce, separation. That’s what somebody’s journey could be like.
“Someone else’s is that they don’t want to go down the route of separation so it really relates to where the person is at themselves. Our role is supporting them where they are at and where they want to get to. It is not our job to tell them where they should get to and we would be very clear on that. “
There are many facets to ADAPT which is open 365/ 24hr and with staff of 30 to 35. The service costs €1.75million to run each year, funded primarily by Tusla while church gate collections and fundraising feed in further income streams.
The Child and Youth service work with children who have been living with domestic abuse, up to 18 years of age for young men and women.
“We would have support in relation to schooling and play therapy. We have a lot of focus with the children, just helping them give expression to whatever it is going on.”
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Monica McElvaney refers to the silence that goes on around domestic abuse as “a huge thing”.
“The children don’t talk about it. The women don’t talk about it. The neighbours don’t talk about it. Nobody talks about it, so part of our brief is to give both the women and the children space where they can express those experiences.”
“The 2005 renovation taken on was about creating a space that would be as homely as possible with apartments that were welcome and good quality.”
“The space is very child-friendly and we have an amazing garden that’s like a mini People’s Park because it has loads of facilities in it.”
For their mothers, “there is a lot of focus on listening. Focus on letting people know what options there are for them, a lot of focus on emotional support and practical support.”
Awareness raising and training are Outreach programmes. “Again, if we are to change things for the future we need to change them for young people, their attitudes, so they are aware of what is a healthy relationship, that they know the signs of unhealthy relationships early on.”
ADAPT 24hr helpline: 1800 200 504.
A modest Monaghan woman on a mission
PIONEERING change is a major element to Monica McElvaney’s life, as is sport.
“I am a proud Monaghan woman. I have lived in Limerick for 20 years but I am still from Monaghan.
“In a small town, everyone knows everyone. Maybe not personally but… there is always the sense that the community knows you and that you know the community.” That changed, coming to Limerick from up north:
“Who you were and who you were known as depended on you both showing who you were, proving who you were. And on the other hand, you weren’t tied into what anyone thought you were or who you were. You were just yourself.
“IN a way I had the opportunity to be involved at the embryonic stage of PAUL Partnership and to get to know the people involved and they were great people. That would be one of the things I’ve always loved about Limerick.
“I’ve made great friends here and I think they are great pioneers.
“One of the other things I love about Limerick is its interest in sport. I love sport,” a tad rueful that Monaghan’s GAA successes don’t have a wider hearing.
“Munster and rugby are well known and I love the passion in that.” She pulls on the red geansaí and goes to every match possible. “It allows me to transfer that passion (for Monaghan football) to Limerick.”
“PARTLY why I have ended up in ADAPT is that I have known people close to me who experienced domestic abuse. I’ve known very directly how that has impacted them, how horrific it can be and how totally unjust it is. There were people close to me in that situation long before I came to ADAPT. I’ve known that story a long time and it is part of what interests me in working in this sector.”
“Everybody’s story is personal and I am very privileged when somebody tells me their story. But when it is someone close to me, it is very painful to hear it.”
“I KNOW I always wanted to make a difference. So being a bystander was not something I ever wanted to be.
“I worked overseas for two and a half years in refugee camps…That desire to get on with it and not be a bystander has given me lots of experiences that has made me what I am today. Because when I set out in my career, I did not set out to be CEO of ADAPT but I set out to make a difference.
“In taking one step at a time….let’s just take one step. If we think too far ahead we can overwhelm ourselves with the hugeness of what it is.
“So both the opportunity to make a difference and that bit of breaking it down, to take the next step, they would be the two things that are important to me as a person, regardless of whether I would be working or whatever I was doing.”