Ribbon-cutting, celebration at Children’s Justice Center
By Dawn Aerts
Iron County Today
CEDAR CITY–More than 120 people gathered at the Children’s Justice Center (CJC) last week to celebrate the organization and the efforts of 32 partnering organizations, dozens of community support professionals and the community in a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
But it was clear that the symbolic display of 251 pinwheels in the front yard also represented the voices of individual children who came to the ‘home’ to tell their story during forensic interviews meant to address the growing issue of child abuse as a community problem, too.
The CJC is one of 23 non-profit children’s advocacy centers across 29 counties in Utah that has become a child-focused neighborhood program where law enforcement, child protection, court system, mental health, medical services and victim advocacy work together to conduct interviews, and make team-based decisions on investigation, prosecution and care needed in child abuse cases.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony also reminded attendees of local heroes and friends who ensure that children have a voice.
“We have gathered here many hero’s and superstars in this cause,” said Iron County Commissioner Mike Bleak, who complimented officials and professionals for the role they provide in delivering effective child and family focused response. “I’ve seen people here, even the burley-police officers and detectives in some cases, come away very emotional. But we have many hero’s that continue to make a difference in the lives of children and who ensure that we listen to each of these small voices.”
The CJC program is dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of abuse in ways that are effective, efficient and that minimize trauma for the child. The innovated CJC in Iron County, allows staff members to greet children and their families, they can spend time with them, a kitchen for meals, an outdoor and indoor play area.
“Basically, we offer them as much comfort as we can,” said Stephanie Furnival, director. “We need this place for children to have a voice.” Furnival, along with child victim advocate Angelica Judd and coordinator Stephanie Rainey, offered invited guests and friends a tour of the multi-faceted home that features a medical care and exam space as well as a home for children to feel safety, dignity and healing.
The event included brief remarks by Rep. John Westwood (R-Cedar City) and Tracey Tabet, Utah State Office of Attorney General, who commended the community, officials, and Furnival as well the professionals who focus on reducing the trauma of child abuse investigation and ensure that children feel safety in revealing their ‘truth.’
“I want to personally thank you, and this community for the effort you put forth every day,” said Westwood of the program. “There are many hero’s here and I commend you on this very special event.” The CJC is a working public/private partnership for children which receives support via private donation as well as through appropriation by the Utah State Legislature, administered by the Office of the Attorney General. It’s here that the child’s description of the circumstances or anything they relay will be recorded and documented should their words be needed in a court of law.
“We offer kids a play room, they might want to have a blanket or a toy to hold on to, and if they’re hungry we have a kitchen here,” said Furnival. “But the point is that they always have a safe place to be heard.”
Photo Caption: More than 100 local officials, professionals and friends of the Iron County Children’s Justice Center (CJC) gathered to celebrate the renovations and completion of a center designed to bring together a community to address the issue of child abuse, and to offer a holistic approach to serving the families and children of abuse. A display of 251 pinwheels in the front yard reminded guests that each child’s voice is being heard.
(Left to Right) Andy Losee, Friends of CJC Board President; Representative John Westwood; Stephanie Furnival, Director; Chris McCormick; Representative Evan Vickers; and Tracey Tabet, Office of the Attorney General.