Rockford’s future family justice center hopes to learn from other cities


Domestic violence counts for about one-third of Rockford’s violent crime. To help combat it., the city is looking to create a family justice center.

Wednesday, city and county leaders traveled to Milwaukee to learn about The Sojourner Family Peace Center, a similar facility. Supporters of the center want to be able to help domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking victims more efficiently. By traveling to Wisconsin, they were able to see how to make the center a reality from a city that has already seen success.

“We can and we will have the family justice center,” said Winnebago County State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite Ross.

The Milwaukee building has police, medical providers, prosecutors, social services, among others — all in one spot. Much like the one State’s Attorney Marilyn Hite-Ross and other local leaders hope to build in Winnebago County.

“The population density and make up is approximately very similar,” said Hite-Ross. “I believe it was appropriate to go [to Milwaukee] first.”

From all three Rockford hospitals to the Sheriff, nearly 30 people across the county went to visit the center.

“We had alderman, we had folks from Remedies,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara. “We had people from a whole host of non-profits.”

McNamara was among those visiting the center. He says being able to talk to Sojourner officials personally gave him a perspective into what they went through to get to where they are today.

“The most critical piece of a family justice center is not only bringing the organizations under one roof, but making sure that those organizations are working collaboratively,” said McNamara. “Making sure that the survivors are the center of everything they do.”

The family justice center would be a multi-million dollar project. It took Milwaukee a few years to raise the money and finish the Sojourner Family Peace Center.

“They funded it through a community capital campaign,” said Hite-Ross. “Again, getting the involvement of not only of partners such as local hospitals and other agencies, but also the community.”

McNamara says after seeing the center, they can have a holistic view of what they hope to have one day.

“It’s pretty easy to talk about it, it’s something that you really can’t replicate unless you walk through those doors to really get the full experience.”

Hite-Ross tells me the Sojourner Family Peace Center is only their first stop. They plan on visiting other family justice centers soon as well.

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