By: Gracie Ording, Family Advocate

Reaching out and accessing help is difficult for anyone. For a mother who doesn't speak English, has been experiencing domestic violence for years, and is trying to protect her children from harm, making that first call can feel impossible.


When this family came to the Children’s Advocacy Center, they felt isolated, frightened, and unheard. The CAC and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office collaborated to ensure that the mother and children had interpreters available to make their interviews as comfortable as possible, and provided emotional support and education during the multiple appointments at the CAC. The case is currently pending in court, but there will hopefully be an outcome soon. The children and their mother have been working with therapists to help process their trauma, and a Cook County Sheriff’s Office Community Treatment Resource Specialist has been working diligently to connect them with all the resources they need to succeed. The family has now moved into a larger, safer apartment, where the children have their own space to play and grow. The mother is taking English classes and is planning on taking college courses in the fall. The difference between when they came to the Center and now is remarkable. Through their resilience, and this mother’s dedication to protecting her children, this family is on the road to a better, happier, and safer life together.

By: Taylor Edmunds, Forensic Interviewer

The CAC would like to highlight Detectives Leonardo Garcia and Michael Fitzgerald for their diligent investigation efforts. In June, a man approached multiple groups of young girls on separate occasions, posing as a police officer and fondling them over clothing. To find this offender and arrest him, Park Ridge Police Department placed two female officers posing as teenage girls in the area. The offender ultimately approached the undercover officers while wearing a surgical mask and fake police badge. The Park Ridge Police Department was able to identify the offender and make an arrest. Detective Garcia and Detective Fitzgerald then referred the case to the Children’s Advocacy Center requesting 2 emergency forensic interviews and 2 scheduled forensic interviews for a total of 4 victims. CAC Advocate Gracie Ording and CAC Forensic Interviewer Taylor Edmunds were among the MDT that conducted the interviews and provided follow-up care to the victims and caregivers.

During the interview appointments, both Detective Garcia and Detective Fitzgerald explained the criminal justice process to the caregivers and provided transparency as to how involved the victims and caregivers needed to be throughout the case. During one appointment, a victim’s caregiver was apprehensive to participate in the interview, as his child had been traumatized and he had concerns for his child’s mental health if they were to relive that trauma. Both Detective Garcia and Detective Fitzgerald explained that it is voluntary to complete a forensic interview and the team was considering the best interest of their child. As CAC staff know, many caregivers are apprehensive to participate in the interview process, and it is kindness and transparency exemplified by the detectives in a case like this that makes CAC so grateful for trauma-informed MDT.

Ultimately the case was accepted for charges and approved for a total of 11 felony charges: 4 charges of Aggravated Battery, 4 charges of Unlawful Restraint, and 3 charges of False Impersonation of a Police Officer. 

Thank you to Detective Garcia and Detective Fitzgerald and their team for protecting the city of Park Ridge, providing trauma-informed care for the multiple victims in this case, and referring these victims to the CAC so that the interviews could be conducted in a child-friendly matter.

Stay tuned for more helpful resources!

On July 21st, we joined Hanover Park Police Department (HPPD) for an evening filled with connection, community, and an opportunity to pass out our resources to those in attendance. HPPD hosted a Movie in the Park with a full crowd! We had a great time supporting our MDT partner and appreciated the opportunity to provide our resources at such a wonderful

community-building event! 

Megan Younker, Development Coordinator & Jessica Montgomery, Director of Forensic & Advocacy Services

Kate Schultz, Director of Clinical Services & Cara Liace, Child & Family Therapist

Melanie Pignotti, CEO

Not pictured: Taylor Edmunds, Forensic Interviewer

On August 1st, we attended the Hoffman Estates Police Department and Bartlett Police Department National Night Out events! These annual community events hosted by the police departments promote incredible police-community partnerships and positive opportunities for Law Enforcement to connect with their neighborhoods. CAC was honored to be part of these events to support the mission of National Night Out – a true sense of community through creating a safe space together! 

Pictured right to left: 22/23 Club President Jillian Bernas Garcia, Taylor Kanara, Melanie Pignotti, 23/24 Club President Joe Sabatino

Melanie Pignotti, CEO, and Taylor Kanara, Director of Development, attended the Schaumburg A.M. Rotary Club's Community Grant Awards Breakfast on July 26 to accept a generous donation! The Schaumburg A.M. Rotary Club's support will help us purchase a new iRecord System for our Hoffman Estates location. Thank you so much for your continued partnership!

Staff Work Anniversaries

CAC's Annual Golf Outing

Date: Wednesday, October 4 

Location: Bridges of Poplar Creek, Hoffman Estates

Shotgun Start: 11:00 AM 

Cost: $200/golfer | $800/foursome


Registration includes:  

  • 18 holes with a cart, all games (excluding "Beat the Pro"), a small bucket of range balls, and a golfer welcome bag
  • “On the Course” Lunch
  • 2 Drink tickets
  • Awards ceremony after the tournament  
  • Drinks and hors d'oeuvres during social hour post-tournament

Sponsorship and vendor opportunities are still available! Contact Megan Younker for more information.

Register today!
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Volume 42 | August 2023