Children’s Justice Center volunteers help put young victims of abuse at ease | News, Sports, Jobs


Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo

A waiting room is pictured at the Utah County Children’s Justice Center in Provo on Friday, October 2, 2020.

After a child has been abused, reliving the event each time the story is told can be even more traumatic. At the Utah County Children’s Justice Center, child victims only have to tell their story once in a comfortable, family-like atmosphere to people specially trained to ask tough questions of young people. To make the experience even less threatening and comfortable, volunteers help children at the center feel safe. More volunteers are needed to continue this work.

Last year, 1,300 children were served at the American Fork and Provo Children’s Justice Centers. Typically, around 1,000 interviews are conducted at the centers each year. Medical examinations, if required, are also carried out at the centre.

Following disclosure of abuse, usually sexual abuse, an investigation will be initiated. Investigators, law enforcement and child protective services representatives will coordinate and bring a child to the Children’s Justice Center to be interviewed by forensic investigators about the traumatic events. These interviews are recorded so that the child only has to tell the story once.

The Children’s Justice Center provides a comfortable and child-friendly environment. Indeed, when entering, the children do not see a reception desk as we usually see in an office. Instead, they walk into a living room. There, they are welcomed by their volunteer.

According to Heather Allen, associate director of the Children’s Justice Center, on-site volunteers actually sit with the children when they come in for questioning. “Usually the child and caregiver come in. The carer is required to meet the investigators and the staff. Rather than leaving the child alone – he is nervous about what to discuss and what he is going to do – and to keep him safe we ​​have volunteers who play with him, talk to him,” he said. she declared. “This volunteer also stays with the child after the interview, helps him readjust, gives him a snack and just helps him feel safe and cared for.”

While the child is in another room being interviewed, the volunteer waits. Allen said this is a great volunteer opportunity for someone who might want to bring a book with them or some homework to do during the interview. Sometimes there are brothers and sisters who accompany. While the child is being interviewed, the volunteer can also help siblings.

“Sometimes we have children who come and maybe they don’t feel like talking or playing. We tell our volunteers that even if they don’t engage, that doesn’t mean it’s not important,” Allen said. “The volunteer helps create a welcoming environment and is often the first person the child sees at the centre. They make sure the child knows someone is there if they need it and that they don’t have to sit alone before and after the interview.

Children and parents can give feedback to the center after their experiences, and feedback about the volunteers has been overwhelmingly positive, according to Allen. “A lot of the posts talk about the quality of the volunteer and the quality he gave her,” she said.

On-site volunteers must be at least 21 years old, be able to pass a background check, and be able to volunteer for two hours per week. They will be trained before starting their work. For more information, see the center’s website at Information can also be found at the Utah County Children’s Justice Center on Facebook.

“Having this service allows children to move through their healing process much faster than if they had to tell their story multiple times,” Allen said. “They can leave the center knowing that they have told their story and that they have been heard and knowing that the investigators have the information they need.”


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