Children’s Justice Center provides safe place for abused children to share their stories

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The Children’s Justice Center held an open house on Tuesday to introduce the community to its services. (Photo by Rebecca Lane/UV360)

As part of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Children’s Justice Center invited the public to tour its facility on Tuesday to learn about the services the nonprofit provides.

The Children’s Justice Center serves as an advocate for abused children, providing a safe haven for children to deal with the trauma they’ve experienced. While its building was being renovated in 1991, the Utah County chapter of CJC opened and temporarily operated out of the Utah County Historic Court House. After the home at 315 South 100 East in Provo was completed, the facility opened for business on Sept. 30, 1992.

Before the CJC was organized, children would travel to multiple locations to be interviewed by police, social services, medical personnel, psychologists and attorneys. Now, through CJC, all interviews are conducted under one roof and in a more comfortable environment — a home.

“(Police are) going to be the ones actually investigating abuse,” said Autumn Jones, administrative assistant for CJC in Provo. “We’re the place they come to. We’re a little more comfortable. We look like a home, so it makes it easier to talk about what has been going on.”

Take a photographic tour of the CJC and learn about some of its services below.

Teddy bears and comfort

Members of the community create teddy bears that children are gifted when they come to the CJC. These bears serve as a source of strength for the children, sometimes accompanying them to court. Each month, community members deliver 50-100 new bears to the center.

Sunshine Room

The Sunshine Room was redecorated by the Sunshine Hero Foundation, a foundation that helps children in need. Since it is a bright room, the Sunshine Room is used for therapy sessions.

Themed rooms

When the children are interviewed by police, social services and others, the children get to choose what themed room they want to conduct their interview and who they want to interview them. This is to help empower the children.

In each of the interview rooms, a security camera is visibly mounted on the wall. CJC doesn’t want to keep secrets, so they explain the purpose of the camera to the children.

Monitors

While one person interviews the child, another listens and watches on a monitor. Before the interview is up, the interviewer in the room comes out to talk to their partner so that they ensure they don’t forget to fully investigate the situation.

Medical exam

When children are brought to CJC, they receive a medical exam. Nurses talk to the children before the exam to get an idea on where the child’s health is. Often, a child is more willing to reveal information to the nurses than the children do in interviews with forensics.

CJC doesn’t only examine children under the age of 18, but they also check mentally handicapped adults. The youngest child CJC has seen was one month old while the oldest was 56, but cognitively she was only 10. In 2017, the medical portion of CJC serviced about 200 children.

As the end of the exam, CJC gifts the children a blanket that a member of the community has made, which one nurse says she tells the children “is going to be the hardest part of the medical exam.”

Butterfly Room

The Butterfly Room is used for groups when they are seeing multiple children at one time. The Butterfly Room is part of the 2005 addition to Provo’s CJC, which also includes the exam room.

Children’s group therapy room

CJC provides a 12-week therapy group for children who have been abused. After the 12 weeks, children are welcome to come back if they want to continue meeting. There are also groups for parents of abused children, teen girls who have been abused and adults who were abused as children. All of these services are free.

Conference room

The conference room is used when multiple therapy groups are meeting at once or for interviews when families first come to use the programs at CJC. There are 23 CJC locations throughout Utah.

Learn more about CJC or donate to the nonprofit at utahcounty.gov.

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Rebecca Lane

While her first language is sarcasm, Rebecca dabbles in English and Russian to achieve her lifelong dream of being a journalist. A BYU sports fan, reading enthusiast and wannabe world traveler, Rebecca is a Colorado transplant that is convinced Colorado's mountains are much larger than the many Utah County peaks. Rebecca manages UtahValley360.com for Bennett Communications. Follow her on Twitter @rebeccalane.

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