Guest editorial: Children who’ve suffered abuse need the help of the Park City community |

Guest editorial: Children who’ve suffered abuse need the help of the Park City community

Harry Kirschner
Friends of the Summit County Children’s Justice Center vice president

Child abuse happens in our town. Unfortunately, it happens a lot more than you’d think. April is Child Abuse Awareness month and every year I am reminded of the grim statistic that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys in Utah will be sexually abused before the age of 18. In fact, Utah has the eighth highest child abuse rate in this country, and Park City and Summit County are no exception to the statistics.

Fortunately there is a team of heroes at the Summit County Children’s Justice Center (CJC) that quietly dedicates their lives to helping victims of abuse seek justice and begin the path to recovery. Rather than having to re-live the trauma by repeating the stories to police, child protective services, prosecutors, therapists, medical professionals and so on … a child and family can come to the CJC to share their story one time with trained forensic investigators who can gather all of the evidence they need to prosecute. Perhaps more importantly, this multi-disciplinary team can work together in concert to help put the pieces back together and build a path to recovery. Our program here in Summit County is built off a similar model that’s deployed throughout Utah with one very stark difference — we don’t have an adequate or dedicated facility for our CJC.

The Summit County CJC is the only one of such advocacy centers in the state that does not have its own free-standing building. Our CJC operates in a small, temporary, shared space located in the basement of the Summit County Library Kimball Junction branch, next to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Not only does this current location lack important privacy for victims and families, but the CJC’s follow-up and wrap-around services are limited due to space constraints. We have to do better if we want to stop the cycle of abuse here in our communities.

A few years ago, myself and a group of concerned citizens started a friends board with the sole mission to build a dedicated facility for the CJC to operate. After years of planning and early fundraising, we had a breakthrough last October when we identified and closed on the perfect property that mixes privacy and accessibility and requires little in the way of renovations to serve the needs of the CJC. Rather than find land and build anew, this created the opportunity for us to meet our community’s need at a much lower expense. But we’re not done yet.

We are grateful for the individual donations, private, public, and foundation grants we have received thus far, and could not have procured this ideal property without the support of this community. Now we must begin renovations, which can’t start until we have paid off the mortgage of approximately $1 million, which is due in full this October. Making matters even more urgent, we are seeing case volumes grow rapidly as our community grows and awareness of the CJC’s services increases. Our total capital campaign is $2.8 million and we are $1 million of the way there. It is important to note the CJC’s ongoing operations costs will be publicly funded, so this is uniquely a fundraising campaign that is truly a one-time ask. We can do better. And with your support, we will do better for our kids. They deserve it.

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