ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Domestic violence is the root of much of Rockford’s crime, according to the City’s crime statistics, and kids are often caught in the middle.
However, there are resources available to protect them and provide “safety from the storm,” so to speak, thanks to a Winnebago County organization.
“We are a child-centered, trauma-informed organization,” said Jillisa Bondurant, executive director of ‘Children’s Safe Harbor.’
That is the simple, one-sentence explanation for ‘Children’s Safe Harbor’s’ role in the community. The organization was created in 2007.
“We are the only agency in this area with these services, especially child exchange services, are very few and far between,” Bondurant said. “I believe the nearest one may be Libertyville.”
Exchange services involve parents who may have joint custody. Kids are allowed to spend time with their mom and dad separately.
“So, how it works is you have the custodial parent who has the custody of the child, and who knows what’s going on between the two parents,” Bondurant said. “Maybe there is an order of protection, there is intimate partner abuse, but the child still deserves to have a relationship with that other parent in a safe setting.”
Courts sometimes allow parents to have contact with their child, but not without supervision. Those supervised visits can take place there as well.
“We have clients…that fly in every week from New York and Texas and Arizona,” Bondurant said.
The bigger picture is providing a neutral location. Protecting both parents and kids can save lives.
“When partners separate in an abusive situation, that increases the likelihood of the abuse escalating to the point of death or homicide,” Bondurant said. “So, the fact that we are providing that safe passage where both parents can still access the child, I guess technically we’re an essential homicide prevention agency in that sense.”
The center has armed security, panic buttons and metal detectors for everyone’s safety. About 90% of ‘Children’s Safe Harbor’ clients are referred by the courts, but not all relationships involve abuse.
Services are free and open to the public.
“Our city, thankfully, has taken on a lot of initiatives to combat domestic violence,” Bondurant said. “So, the more people that know about us, especially since we are a free service, the better.”
For more information, call ‘Children’s Safe Harbor’ at (815) 316-7772 or visit their website.
If you are a survivor of domestic or sexual violence, visit our Stateline Strong page for resources.