Rockford Family Peace Center looks forward to expansion and growth in the new year

Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 9:32 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -While the past year posed a number of challenges on businesses, no organization had to pivot quite like the city of Rockford’s Family Peace Center. Turning survivors away from resources was never an option and as we enter a new year leaders say they’re ready to expand and offer even more services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

“We always knew this was a need. We knew if we built it, they would come,” said Family Peace Center Acting Executive Director Jennifer Cacciapaglia.

This time last year the city of Rockford’s Family Peace Center was just an idea.

“Being a survivor is rough as it is and so just having that flexibility and the ease of being able to go to one spot and kind of get everything you need without running around town,” said Family Peace Center Survivor Support Navigator Delicia Harris.

As leaders got ready to open up the space in the spring, COVID-19 picked up speed. While businesses were figuring out how they were going to close, the peace center knew opening was essential.

“We opened literally in the middle of a pandemic and in the middle of a construction zone. So before everything was complete we started making calls we opened at 8 a.m. on July 7th of this year and our first call came in at 8 .m. Said Cacciapaglia.

Since that day the center has served more than 150 clients, and those survivors helped shape how it’s laid out, from paintings on the walls, to the childcare room, to the path they take when they walk through the door.

“When their client specialist is ready they’ll call them into our client intake room that’s set up as a trauma informed space and do an intake and work with them to figure out what are the next steps? If you need five services where do you think we should start? said Cacciapaglia.

“As a part of VOICES we have an opportunity to share our stories with other survivors. We have an opportunity to help them, kind of hold their hand as they are trying to navigate,” said Harris.

The VOICES committee, made up of survivors, acts as an advisory council to the peace center, offering guidance and hope to those who are looking for a way out.

“They want to know that there is somebody there that understands, somebody that has walked the walk. When you’re in that room doing that order of protection and they’re telling some of the traumatic incidents that they have gone through, they want to know that some identifies with whatever their struggle is,” said Harris.

Nearly 90 percent of the survivors that walk through the door have children. Leaders say making sure those kids are on the right path when they leave the center is crucial.

“We don’t want them to sit with their mothers and hear that story and be traumatized all over again. We have a children’s play area where kids can be exposed to activities that help them to learn how to cope with what they’re going through,” said Family Peace Center Youth Services Manager Annie Hobson.

Hobson says many kids who grow up in violent households can often times get caught in a cycle of violence. That’s why continued services are made available like Camp Hope.

“They have that week long of camp where they are building resilience and leadership skills and social skills, we connect them to a yearlong mentorship so that those skills they learned during camp reiterated throughout the entire year,” said Hobson.

“Domestic and sexual violence are the root cause of our violent crime rate. Period. And if we get to those children who are traumatized early and we interrupt that trauma and provide them support in holistic long term navigated way we will reduce our violent crime rate,” said Cacciapaglia.

While 2020 was a big year for the FPC, plans are already in place to provide more resources to survivors to help them get out of dangerous situations, to drive down the death rate and to offer hope for a better tomorrow.

“And then outside of the center just to continue to work on these root causes of systems change so that we can close all of the gaps so that we really are making an impact in ending domestic and sexual violence in Winnebago County,” said Cacciapaglia.

“You can see that that child now believes ok there’s safety there are opportunities for both myself and my mother. This is not a path that we have to live continuously. So when you see that smile on that child’s face and you see that glimpse of hope, you know the Family Peace Center is here for a reason,” said Hobson.

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