The yard in front of the Tooele County Children’s Justice Center is full of flags, which are in turn full of meaning.
Each of the yellow, red, and blue flags represent a child interviewed at the justice center in 2018. All told, there were 256 children interviewed at the justice center for alleged abuse last year, according to office coordinator Kari Sorensen.
“It’s pretty shocking to see the amount that we do interview,” Sorensen said.
The number of flags is lower, however, than the number of cases the justice center advocates for, Sorensen said.
“So there’s actually more cases than that that we advocate for, because some children are not verbal and can’t be interviewed or there’s some circumstances where the children might not be interviewed here,” she said.
The flags are intended to raise awareness about the mission of the Children’s Justice Center and National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
At the justice center, children can be interviewed in a home-like environment with a minimal amount of trauma to child victims of physical or sexual abuse. Audio and video equipment is used to document the interview for evidentiary purposes, while limiting the need for subsequent interviews.
The Children’s Justice Center also provides counseling and treatment referrals, victim and witness support services, case progress tracking and monitoring, and community and professional education on abuse issues, among other services.
Sorensen said awareness is important to let the community know how they can help and that they’re required to report abuse if they become aware of it, either to Child Protective Services or local law enforcement.
Also in April, The Friends Board of the Children’s Justice Center will be holding an online fundraiser at tccjc.rocketraiser.club, with all proceeds going directly to the board, and to fund the new center being built across the street from the existing home. Donations of any amount will be accepted, with all donors entered to win two round-trip tickets provided by JetBlue.
“We just thought it would be a great way to have an online fundraiser and also to help spread awareness because if people hear about that, then they might look more into what that’s about,” Sorensen said.
The board will also hold an open house at the justice center on Wednesday, April 24, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4-6 p.m. The open house will include a tour of the current center, a progress report on the center under construction and information on how to be involved.
The new justice center, funded by Tooele County and donations and funds from the center’s Friends Board, is expected to be completed mid-summer, according to Sorensen. Despite its larger size and new construction, the new center is intended to invoke the same feel for victims.
“It still looks like a home so it will still be a home-like environment,” Sorensen said. “It will still be comfortable for the kids.”
The larger center will also help employees of the Children’s Justice Center to keep pace with the increasing number of child abuse cases in the county, according to Sorensen.
“Especially last year, our numbers have really grown and even this year, we’ve seen our numbers already have been a lot more than they’ve been in the past,” she said. “So we just need so many things we don’t have in this house.”
The Children’s Justice Center currently has three employees and eight regular volunteers.