Amy Leichtenberg is a dedicated advocate of prevention services and works tirelessly to raise awareness of child abuse. She is a mother who was part of the Children’s Home & Aid Family Visitation Center (FVC) program with her two children, Duncan and Jack, ages nine and seven.
The Children’s Home & Aid FVC provides a safe, neutral environment for supervised visits and exchanges between noncustodial caregivers and their children in the 11th Judicial Circuit of McLean County. Duncan and Jack were having supervised visits with their father in the secure environment of the FVC. However, supervision of the visits ended after the judge on the case decided the father’s visits no longer needed to be supervised, based on a psychiatrist’s report that he was not a threat to himself or others.
In 2009 the boys went missing after being picked up for a visit by their father. Three weeks later, it was discovered that their father had taken the boys’ lives and his own.
The boys’ mother, Amy, has dedicated countless hours working with Children’s Home & Aid and spreading awareness about child abuse. She’s joined us in holding the annual Taking Steps to End Child Abuse 5k Race since 2011, in memory of Duncan and Jack and in celebration of their lives. All proceeds from this event go directly to the Family Visitation Center, to help keep families safe.
“The Visitation Center is incredible, Amy said. “I don’t believe there’s another facility in Central Illinois that caters to these needs of families who have endured abuse.”
Safety features of the FVC include two separate entrances and parking areas for each caregiver, staggered arrival and departure times, security camera monitoring, panic buttons, and 2-way mirrors.
Children’s Home & Aid is proud to provide services like the FVC that protect and support families and children impacted by domestic violence and abuse. From our crisis nurseries to our Butterfly Project, and numerous parent support groups, we prioritize prevention and guidance to families in need. One of these services is our Family Visitation Center (FVC) in Bloomington.
Thanks to additional funding, the FVC has recently expanded through a grant to support and protect even more families in Central Illinois. The goal of the center and program is to provide a professionally monitored environment that allows interactions that can strengthen parent and child relationships, including a parent with visitation restrictions.
Despite mistakes the restricted caregiver has made in a child’s life, they are still a key component in their child’s life. The center also allows the caregiver with significant decision-making responsibility a chance to feel relief while going through their day, without the worry of their child’s location.
“The FVC is a place where I knew I could drop my children off and they were safe for that time. I could finally breathe for a moment. This meant I could go to the store without looking over my shoulder. It gives families normalcy and safety, and the children know they’re safe too.” –Amy Leichtenberg
Amy has stayed motivated these many years for two reasons: “It’s Duncan and Jack. Their strength gives me strength. And no parent should have to feel this pain and no other child should have to suffer the way that they did.”
“A child can actually get the best of that parent who may have an order of protection against them and have quality time together. They can still have a relationship with that parent,” she said.
Children’s Home & Aid Development Associate Laura Cordero said, “It is vital for agencies to look at the entire family unit from a trauma perspective, showing these families that they can trust us and view us as a partner.”
Amy says she would tell families who may be experiencing domestic violence and abuse they are not alone; there are services that can provide help and someone to trust. “There are unfortunately a lot of families who can relate to these stories – they’ve experienced abuse of some form. Making connections is so important,” Amy explains.
If you are interested in more information on our many parenting services, please visit: https://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/parenting/
To learn more about our Blue Bow campaign and child abuse prevention efforts, visit: https://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/bluebow/