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Child Custody exchange facility opens in Mundelein PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Beth Kramer ekramer@stmedianetwork.com   

The days of exchanging child custody at public places like McDonald’s are ending for families in Lake County. The first facility for supervised visits and monitored exchanges in Lake County hosted its grand opening Wednesday.

“The Family Visitation Center is the latest of our efforts to make the children of Lake County safer,” said Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller. “This is certainly the realization of a long-term goal.”

The Family Visitation Center of Lake County will be run by A Safe Place. The federal grant funding the facility stipulates that a local battered women’s shelter must run the center, according to A Safe Place Executive Director Phyllis DeMott.

Custody exchanges have been occurring in public places.

“It re-traumatizes the victims as well as the children. It leaves it open for tug-of-war between parents and children,” DeMott said.

Although A Safe Place will run the center, an 18-member Advisory Committee with personnel from the court, Mundelein Police Department and other community businesses will have input.

The center will be open for custody exchanges in mid-Novemeber, DeMott said.

A Safe Place human resources personnel are interviewing candidates to staff the center.

Supervised visitations will likely start in December, DeMott said.

“We’ve had a need (for this) in Lake County for a number of years. These centers reduce risk to children and adults,” Waller said.

Circuit Judge Jorge Ortiz, presiding judge of the Family Division, said he sees the need for this type of center on a daily basis.

“This is truly a model for how people and organizations working together can make a positive difference in the community,” Ortiz said.

He said he would love to see more facilities like the one in Mundelein located in the county.

Mundelein was selected as the site for several reasons, according to Family Visitation Center of Lake County Director Nila Grahl.

“Mundelein is centrally located in the county. We knew this was going to be a service important in the entire county,” Grahl said. In addition, it is a Pace bus stop. It also has parking in the front and rear of the building.

Mundelein Police Department has access to the security cameras monitoring the building, she said.

The center will be staffed by three part-time individuals who will keep the center open 26 hours a week. Grahl said she anticipates that three to four custody exchanges will occur per hour.

Mundelein is 100 percent behind the new center, said Mundelein Village Administrator John Lobaito.

“There’s nothing more important than the safety of our children,” Lobaito said.

 



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