WHEATON – After 13 years operating out of a mall and seven years of planning and development, the DuPage County Family Center has a permanent home.
It now shares a $5.6 million facility with the Children's Advocacy Center, a significant upgrade for the family center, said DuPage County Director of Community Services Mary Keating.
The family center mediates disputes, supervises visitations and conducts classes for recently divorced parents.
"It was designed specifically for this use," Keating said. "The original space, while they made it work, was an office space in a strip mall."
The center includes a variety of design features to help families avoid conflict in front of their children during court-appointed visits. Parents can enter from two separate parking lots and entrances. Waiting rooms include games, toys and murals to make parents and children more comfortable.
Pairing with the Advocacy Center was a natural fit, Keating said, because both centers provide a "warm and secure place for kids" going through a traumatic experience.
County Board Chairman Dan Cronin said that the projects "reflected who we are in DuPage County and how we value children."
Keating said that the center's proximity to other county buildings, particularly the county courthouse, was also considered in the design.
"It really, I believe, sends a message to the families and to the community that this is an important function of DuPage County government," she said.
The family center's executive director, Sheila Murphy-Russell, said some people sentenced to court-ordered mediation or other center services have been told to go directly to the family center to access resources.
The center will help create a more positive atmosphere for the 75 families receiving mediation and the 600 people taking classes at the center, according to Murphy-Russell.
"Our big mantra is give your children permission to love you both," Murphy-Russell said.
With this new center, she said, that task will be easier.