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Center director Diane Keeler (left), visits with Lindsay Beesley, her assistant, in the play room at the Children’s Justice Center in Ephraim.

 

Children’s Justice Center hosting

open house April 10, 4-6 p.m.

 

By Linda Petersen

Staff writer

Apr. 5, 2018

 

EPHRAIM—The Children’s Justice Center is all about the child. Designed for the center’s young clients who range in age from 4 through 17, its warm, homey atmosphere is meant to provide comfort to young victims of trauma, domestic violence, physical or sexual assault.

“It is designed to make the child feel comfortable enough to talk about what’s going on in their lives,” Center Director Diane Keeler says.

Once these victims disclose their circumstances, usually to a trusted adult, they must be interviewed so that the facts of the case can be established and they can receive help to deal with the issues surrounding their experiences. Already traumatized, a police station or the DCFS office can be a very difficult place for young victims.

That’s where the Children’s Justice Center comes in. There, the child, accompanied by a trusted adult, can meet with a trained interviewer who will talk with them using open-ended questions to document their experiences. The interview is observed by TV monitor by law enforcement and DCFS officers from another room.

In addition to providing a safe place for the child, the center can provide information for parents such as referrals to counseling and medical services, including local Primary Children’s Healthcare-trained physician’s assistants.

Keeler says often a child will confide in an adult who wants to be able to help but may not know where to turn.

“What do you do with the information; where do you go?” she says. “If you see abuse, if you hear about it, here’s where you can report it.”

“Children have a real tendency to internalize things and blame themselves for the abuse,” she adds. “Often they think no one would believe them if they say anything. It’s important to take what they say at face value until it is proven otherwise.”

Calling the Children’s Justice Center is a good first step in getting the child all the resources he/she will need, Keeler says.

The Children’s Justice Center, which has been open for six years, is located at 137 East 100 South at the edge of Snow College. Keeler is on call 24 hours a day. Once she receives notification from intake services, DCFS or law enforcement that a child needs to be interviewed, she will set that up as quickly as possible at the center, even after hours if needed. Usually the center interviews on average about one interview per week.

This month is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and centers across the state, including the Ephraim center, are holding open houses for local officials, clergy, school and community leaders to visit them and to find out about the services that are offered there.

The Ephraim Children’s Justice Center’s open house will be held Tuesday, April 10, from 4 to 6 p.m. Keeler says any members of the general public who would like to are also welcome to visit the center at that time.

The Friends of the Children’s Justice Center raise funds to provide blankets, snacks and comfort items like stuffed animals for the children who visit the center. Keeler says the local humanitarian centers are also wonderful about helping keep the center stocked.

Along with providing these items, Friends of the CJC visit local schools to raise awareness of the issue. (This month they will be placing pinwheels at the schools). Visit www.sanpetefriendscjc.org for more information.

“The more information we can get out there, the more likely it is that we can prevent an abuse cycle,” Keeler says.

With the prevalence of pornography in our society, more often than ever before children and adults can be exposed and start acting out, Keeler says. If the problem is identified, they can get the help they need so they do not grow up to be perpetrators themselves.

The Children’s Justice Centers, which are located in every county across the state, are funded by the Utah legislature. Directors confidentially share information so if a child moves during the process, he/she can be interviewed at a CJC near where they live.

Call the Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Line at 855-323-3237.