Children’s Justice Center provides refuge for children

Editor’s Note: The recent sentencing of a Sanpete County man for child sex abuse reminds us of the work of the Children’s Justice Center (CJC). Many are not aware of this vital community resource. The Messenger invited Kristy Inglish of Spring City, president of Friends of the CJC, an auxiliary that provides fundraising and support services, to explain what the CJC is and what it does.

            The Children’s Justice Center (CJC) provides a critical refuge for children in crisis. The  program is administered by the Office of the Utah Attorney General and is dedicated to helping our community respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient, and that minimize trauma for a child caught up in such circumstances.

            A CJC (known as children’s advocacy centers in other states) is a child-focused facility where representatives from law enforcement, child protection services, prosecutor’s offices, mental health and medical services come together to conduct interviews and make team decisions about the investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse cases.

            The Sanpete County CJC, located in Ephraim, is a homelike facility, which serves children and families who are experiencing the crisis and chaos that comes with the disclosure of significant physical or sexual abuse.

            The center is designed to make children feel safe and comfortable while they are being interviewed about alleged abuse. The focus and function of the CJC is to reduce trauma during an abuse investigation with the goal of helping the child feel safe enough to reveal the truth. Audio and video equipment is used to preserve the interview and eliminate the need for multiple interviews.

            The director of the CJC coordinates and tracks the child’s progress not just through the investigation but through the entire judicial process and treatment. The director also coordinates with the professionals from agencies who collaborate on each child’s case.

            The CJC is a working public/private partnership. The facility receives partial funding from the Office of the Utah Attorney General with funds appropriated by the Utah Legislature. In the case of the Sanpete CJC, a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) grant covers costs for children receiving therapy. Currently the grant is paying for therapy for 25 children from Sanpete County. The rest of the funding comes from private donations.

            The Friends of the Sanpete CJC are members of the community who support the Children’s Justice Center (CJC) through fundraising. We make sure there are snacks and comfort items for the children while they are at the CJC and also help with any extra expenses for maintaining the facility and the backyard area. Snow College generously allows the CJC to use one of its buildings. The Friends board also works to raise awareness about abuse in our community and where to report such cases.

            Each year the Sanpete County CJC helps approximately 100 children. The CJC provides comfort items such as blankets, stuffed animals and hygiene kits to the children when they arrive at the center. Items are sometimes purchased by the Friends of the Sanpete CJC but are more often donated by members of the community. The comfort items are greatly appreciated by the children who receive them.

            There are 26 CJCs serving all Utah counties. In an average year, Utah’s CJCs conduct 4,500 interviews, handle 5,500 cases, and serve as many as 15,000 people.

            The Utah CJC Program strongly believes that the wisdom and skill of a multidisciplinary team results in a more complete understanding of issues in a case and in the most effective child and family-focused response possible. The Utah CJC Program is an accredited chapter of the National Children’s Alliance.

            You can donate to the Friends of the Sanpete County Children’s Justice Center through our website, sanpetefriendscjc.org. We also invite you to attend one of our fundraisers or consider joining the Friends of the Sanpete County CJC board.

            Upcoming fundraisers are:

            A water fight with law enforcement: Local law enforcement officers are volunteering to sit on the dunk tank at the “Water Fight With A Cop “event for children ages 3-16 to be held  Aug. 5 at 4:30 pm at the Manti City Park.

            To support the CJC, and to vote for the officer you want dunked, use the PayPal button on the Make a Contribution page of http://www.sanpetefriendscjc.org. The officers who raise the most will be dunked!

            Family Focused 5K: Please join us Sept. 18 at 8 a.m. starting at the Snow College football field. There will be a pin and message for participants at each kilometer and all participants will receive a string backpack. Register online at  http://www.sanpetefriendscjc.org and then click the “get involved” page.

            For more information about the Utah Children’s Justice Centers, please visit the One With Courage website. http://onewithcourageutah.org/. Also visit https://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org/.

To report neglect or abuse of a child call the Division of Child and Family Services at (855) 323-3237 (24 hours a day).