Children's Justice Center Location Identified
The Summit County Children’s Justice Center Board is applying for a Conditional Use Permit to convert an existing single-family home into a county justice facility which would be used to process victims of child abuse. On Tuesday, the Snyderville Planning Commission is holding a public hearing and may act on the request. Carolyn Murray has this:The property sits on about 2 1/2 acres along I-40 near the Silver Summit Exit and is known as the Zebra House. A zebra and bison have grazed on the property for many years. Planning
Summit County planner, Amir Caus says the building will be an easy conversion. He says they will have to build ADA access inside and outside and they may do some landscaping to improve privacy, but it will continue to look like a single-family residence.
Board President of the Children’s Justice Center, Rebecca Ross says it can be difficult to get testimony from children, so they need a safe environment and consistent protocols to collect details of events. She says it’s common for Criminal Defense Attorneys to attack a child’s story as inconsistent.
“A children’s justice center is the first point of contact when a child has been abused, whether physically or sexually. They are admitted into the children’s justice center to have a safe place to have interviews, to tell their stories in a place that is more like a home setting, so they aren’t taken to a place like the police station where they maybe feel like they’re in trouble which would probably inhibit their disclosure a little bit. Then they can have wrap around services at the Justice Center. We have a mental health provider, Peg Tan who’s come on now to provide follow up. Interviews at the Children’s Justice Center are recorded, they’re video-taped.”
Ross says the CJC non-profit board was established with the sole purpose of finding a new location. Currently, interviews are held in the Summit County Richin’s Building which she says is not conducive to making a child, who has been traumatized, feel safe. She says a multidisciplinary team works with children, families and the County Attorney’s office. She says they have 25 to 35 active child abuse prosecutions going on at any one time. They are on track to do about 120 interviews this year.
“The CJC in Summit County has served just over a thousand community served so that includes ancillary family support services. It’s not simply the interview, it’s also mental health therapy and the treatment team having to meet and those sorts of things.”
The sellers have agreed to finance the sale which will cost the CJC 1.775 million dollars. With the build out, they anticipate the total cost to be around 2 and a half million dollars. Summit County has given the CJC $250,000 dollars and Ross hopes Park City Municipal will contribute because she says 35% of children served live in the 84060-zip code area. They’ve received $150,000 from the Delta Pilots Association along with other smaller contributions.
“We had $50,000 dollars we received from Rotary last year. The Promontory Foundation has been generous and provided a grant on a yearly basis. We just received another 5000 dollars from them. And our board has stepped up with our own Capital Campaign contributions. When we go to our first closing on October 31st, we have about a hundred thousand dollars that we need to close between then.”
They anticipate the Community For Children’s Justice organization will own the property. They may rent the existing RV pad to the Summit County Sheriff’s office for storage. Sheriff Justin Martinez says they don’t have a lease agreement with the CJC, but it could save about $3500 dollars a year. They could store bikes, skis and other equipment. There would be no evidence from active crime scenes such as guns or drugs and the trips to the unit would be managed to not interfere with the goals of the facility.
“We’ve seen at a state level that that really assures that it continues to be used for the purpose it was acquired in the first place. There is a large RV pad on the back that has some potential storage uses but right now our focus is on getting this to be the building that we know it can be.”
Tracey Tabet is with the Utah Attorney General’s Office and is the Administrator for the Utah Children’s Justice Center Program. She oversees the state’s 23 Centers and says each is run differently, based on the needs of the community.
“It is a public/private partnership and it is also a partnership between various levels of government. It is the responsibility of the community to come up with a suitable facility. Some communities build from scratch. Some acquire an existing facility. They’re responsible for providing the funds to build the facility. They don’t have administrative or supervisory oversight over operations. They’re role really is with the facility. The employees of a childrens justice center are county employees. And the state, through our office contracts with the county for the daily operation of the center. Every CJC has a local advisory board that are made up of the agencies that are served by the CJC board and also have a role with child abuse cases.”
Tabet says the agencies include the County Prosecutor’s office, law enforcement and Child and Family Services. She's toured the home twice and she’s very excited about the facility and the services they will be able to provide.