Children’s Justice Center $450k short for facility payment, facing Oct. 15 deadline
Ten years ago, Summit County shared a children’s justice center with Wasatch County. The distance and other challenges made it difficult to provide the level of care providers sought, and in 2012 organizers including Dr. Christina Sally approached the county to start its own center.
As Summit County Attorney Margaret Olson explained, then-County Manager Bob Jasper found a couple rooms in the Sheldon Richins building under the library and next to the Department of Motor Vehicles. The Summit County Children’s Justice Center has been housed there for the last seven years.
It shares a door with the Bookmobile librarian and when a generous donation provided for an onsite medical examination room, the facilities director had to clear out a closet to make space, Olson said.
But that could change as early as the end of this year, as the Friends of the Summit County Children’s Justice Center has purchased a standalone home for the center on Silver Summit Parkway, adjacent to the southbound U.S. 40 on-ramp.
The move-in date is threatened by more than the challenge of finding building contractors during a busy season, though: The project is facing a fundraising shortage of about $450,000 with an Oct. 15 deadline looming.
The nonprofit friends group purchased the property last year and plans to lease it to Summit County for a nominal fee. So far, it’s raised $2.4 million of its $2.8 million goal. That total will include an endowment to pay for long-term maintenance and capital costs, like if the house needs a new roof.
It also includes about $1 million toward an extensive renovation, including soundproofing, a new fire suppression system and many upgrades to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act like installing an elevator and ramps, Friends of the Children’s Justice Center board chair Rebecca Ross said.
She said the group has raised about $500,000 toward a $950,000 balloon payment on the mortgage that’s due in October.
She said an anonymous donor has offered to match the $950,000 with their own funds if the money is raised before the deadline.
“October 15 is a really big deal,” Ross said.
Summit County contributed $250,000 to the effort last year and last week, Park City pledged to kick in $100,000. Kamas has promised $10,000 and Francis said it will at least match that, Ross said.
The team, led by the Children’s Justice Center Director Ted Walker, is understandably excited about the prospect of moving into a new standalone facility, saying it will be a much better fit for the center’s needs than what they’re currently working with.
“I think it’s going to be incredibly awesome once we get to that point to be able to move in, have more room (and) lots more privacy,” Walker said. “(We might be able to) start offering more therapeutic services like group (therapy) and those type of things.”
The Children’s Justice Center is the first place kids go in the system after they’ve disclosed abuse or neglect, Olson said. It’s imperative the place is private, comfortable and welcoming so the children aren’t further traumatized.
“This is a moment of acute crisis in that child’s life,” Olson said. “This is their chance to give their statement and tell their story. It’s an empowering moment and it’s also a point of acute crisis, acute pain.”
Olson said she had worked in the first Children’s Justice Center in the state in the early 1990s as the model of care was developing. She explained the idea is to bring the services to a central location so the child can receive a medical exam and be examined once and avoid the trauma of having to recount their experience again and again.
Before the organizations were commonplace — there are 23 in the state, Olson said — a child could be carted all over town and interviewed in a police station by a detective with a gun on their hip in the same room used to interrogate a violent criminal.
That can reinforce the idea that the abuse is their fault, something that children are already prone to think, Olson said.
Instead, at a Children’s Justice Center, a multidisciplinary team of experts including detectives, trauma therapists, child protective services and behavioral health specialists can convene at a central location to provide care for the child.
Olson said Summit County deals with about 65 cases per year.
“This is about the kids,” Olson said. “These are terrible crimes that occur against the kind of people who are the least likely to be able to protect themselves. To have our community come together to build a facility … it’s really going to be an amazing community resource.”
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In another case, a 30-year-old Park City man pleaded guilty to driving under the influence.