Multidisciplinary team making push to bring Child Advocacy Center to Craig
Of the 22 Judicial Districts in the state of Colorado, four remain without a Child Advocacy Center under its umbrella. Unfortunately for Moffat County, the 14th Judicial District is one of the four without one.
Through some teamwork and local work behind the scenes, local advocacy groups are hoping to change that by bringing a Child Advocacy Center to Moffat County to serve its youth going through tough times.
“The mission of this advocacy center is to provide a safe space for kids to tell their stories of abuse and neglect,” said Noreen Beckett, an active member leading the charge to bring the advocacy center to the 14th Judicial District. “The idea is that it’s a child-friendly space that’s a safe and private place for families to come and have these situations investigated by either law enforcement or child services.
“We just don’t have the mechanisms to provide for the children suffering from abuse,” Beckett added.
According to the outreach group, roughly 80 cases a year would be handled in Moffat County.
The month of April is actually National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is an annual observance in the United States dedicated to raising awareness and preventing child abuse. April has been designated Child Abuse Prevention Month in the United States since 1983. Knowing that the month is almost over, the multidisciplinary outreach team increased its push publicly to bring a Child Advocacy Center to the area.
Without one locally, those children and case workers that need to be seen have to drive more than two and a half hours to Glenwood Springs to be seen at River Bridge Regional Center
“From my own perspective, it’s a huge, huge need,” said Meghan Francone, Executive Director of Open Heart Advocates. “That drive, even on good roads, is a challenge. Not to speak ill of River Bridges because they’re amazing, but we don’t have access to a one-stop shop here.
“We have amazing people doing wonderful work here right now, but this center would allow us to better serve our community here. This is not just a Moffat need; this is a Routt need, this is a Rio need.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines child abuse and child maltreatment as, “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.”
When that occurs in Moffat County, it creates a strain for local law enforcement, according to Craig Police Department Captain Bill Leonard.
“If we need an interview done, in order to secure the services of River Bridge, we have to send down all the necessary people with the child to Glenwood Springs to get this done,” Capt. Leonard said. “That could take almost an entire day, and that can put more stress on the child and the family.”
Aside from the travel and the added stress, CAptain Leonard was quick to point out that the child wouldn’t have to meet with a bunch of people and relive the trauma even more.
“That one-stop shop would be huge for the children,” Capt. Leonard said. “It gets everything done at once so they don’t have to go through so many interviews and try to retell their story the same way every time.”
Currently, interviews of children suffering from abuse or neglect are conducted at the Public Safety Center, according to Capt. Leonard. That room can be an intimidating to walk into for a child, let alone an adult. A Child Advocacy Center would provide that safe space to ease the child’s fears, allowing them to open up some.
“It’s also important to remember the authenticity of the child’s story,” Beckett added. “Many, many times, when a child has to tell their story over and over again, things get clouded by questions they’re asked and perceived. So to have everyone there in the one-stop shop, the child can tell their story once and be authentic in their words.
“That’s really important about bringing a CAC to Moffat County,” Beckett added. “We’re allowing the child to not be re-traumatized by retelling the story and answering these adults’ questions.”
A potential CAC in Moffat County would follow the national model for CACs across the country.
For now, there’s no set timeframe to bring a CAC to the 14th Judicial District, and there is no specific location picked out for the potential space.
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The month of January has been a strong one for Moffat County, in terms of combating the COVID-19 pandemic.