Children’s Justice Center gets props from Harry O’s
February 12, 2008
Many Parkites are familiar with the Peace House, Summit County’s women’s shelter, but fewer know about the Wasatch-Summit County Children’s Justice Center. The facility, located in Heber City, provides children with a safe place to talk about abuse.
Kenna Jones, the executive director of the center, wants to get the word out. She boasts that she’s "in the faces" of Wasatch County students, but wants to do the same for Summit County.
Since 2001, the Summit-Wasatch County Children’s Justice Center has recorded over 800 children’s stories of abuse, an average of 100 to 150 cases a year. Already this year she’s seen 18 cases, all from Summit County. But for as many cases of abuse that get reported, on average, there are three times as many cases that are never heard. Compounding the problem, she says that perpetrators usually continue to abuse others if they are never caught.
"I think anybody that’s drawn to this business has some kind of abuse in their background, and since I’ve been working here, a lot of family members and friends have come out (about being abused)," she says. "And I just said, ‘Wow, all those years this was happening to all these people I never knew.’ "
On Feb. 22, Harry O’s and Park City Concerts Foundation will host Great American Rock and Soul Show, featuring The Soul Survivors and the Park City-based U2 tribute band, Rattle and Hum will come together to raise awareness about the center, and to contribute funds to its cause.
"Park City Concerts Foundation is a nonprofit that wants to use music and events as a way to raise money for charity," explains Toby Martin, executive director of the new organization. "One of the reasons we thought it would be a terrific event is because the center is so misunderstood."
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"It’s been really hard for us to try to get into Park City, I visit classrooms, but it’s not enough," admits Jones. "We’re so excited about this fundraiser because it means that we will raise awareness about the center and its resources."
A child arrives at the center after the child and/or family member report crimes to the local police department or the Utah Department of Child and Family Services. The report then goes to an intake office in Provo to ensure the child’s case meets certain criteria. If it does, a law enforcement official makes an appointment with a Children’s Justice Center for an interview.
Complete with a kitchen, a colorful playroom and interview room, the Children’s Justice Center is designed to look and feel like a home to make children more comfortable when they speak with a trained police officer or social worker from Utah’s Department of Child and Family Services. Donated blankets and teddy bears collected at local fundraisers for the center provide a parting gift.
The objective of the center is to record the complete stories from the abused children, 17 years and younger, so that in the future, when charges are pressed in court, the children might not even have to take the stand. "The idea here is to prevent children from having to repeat their story or to relive it over and over again, because it’s really a scary thing for kids," Jones explains.
The center sees children who have endured physical abuse, drug endangerment and exposure to domestic violence. However, reports of sexual abuse are by far the highest in number.
"About 75 percent of the cases we see are sexual abuse cases," Jones says. "And that’s really hard to talk about for anyone."
Jones, who began as the office clerk, says her job has become her passion. She says her greatest joy is seeing the physical change that happens between the time when children walk into the center and when they leave. Usually the prospect of a future initiative – court, counseling – has the ability to console a child who has experienced abuse.
"It’s like they’ve unloaded something big off of their shoulders," she reflects. "A change just comes over them. It’s a cool thing to watch."
The Great American Rock and Soul Show
*When: Feb. 22 at 9 p.m.
*Where: Harry O’s, 427 Main Street.
*How much: $15 per person.
*Where to get tickets: smithstix.com or at the door.
*For more information: call (435) 655-7579 or visit harryos-pc.com.