CJC opens its new doors
April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month. Our community is receiving a gift to celebrate the occasion. The brand new location for the Family Support and Children's Justice Center will open for the first day on Wednesday April 28.
This has been the cummulation of several years of hard work by director Shelley Wright, her staff, the county commission and the community. It will be a larger and more functional facility to house the two agencies that help make our children safer. The two agencies are the Family Support Center with its respite nursery, parenting classes and other support services, and the Children's Justice Center (CJC) that coordinates and assists the agencies that are investigating child abuse.
There are 11 family support centers and 15 CJC's spread state-wide. Carbon's Center was established in 1996 by the vision of a group of community leaders from various agencies and schools in the community. With limited money available it was the decision of the group to run the only joint facility in the state. There was only a $68,000 three year grant and a small handful of other funding sources to get things rolling.
The house on the corner of third east was one of the few places available that had enough rooms to do all the missions that needed to be done. The first director, Terry Willis, was tasked with the responsibility to get the project off the ground and the entire house needed to be remodeled. The community stepped in and adopted rooms and donated material to get the job done. Even in those early days space was tight.
As more funding came available, more services were also identified and staff added. Soon the little kitchen upstairs had to double as an office and the porch was also converted to office space. Still there was not enough space. In addition the stairs were very steep and that prevented some people from being able to get up to the interview rooms. Many options, including an elevator were explored, but no solution was found.
Soon after current director Shelley Wright took over she had to help a very over weight young girl up the stairs to be interviewed. The agonizing ordeal the child had to go through to find help was the breaking point and Wright new that a facility was no longer an option.
She met with Commissioner Mike Milovich to find out her options. Milovich told her to find an architect and he would find the money. Neither realized to enormity of the task before them. Once the plans were drawn up, it was apparent that the facility needed was a bit larger than the commissioner had envisioned, but he quickly adjusted and the funding was acquired in the form of a CIB grant for 60 percent of the project and a CIB loan for the other 40 percent.
The next battle turned out to be the land. The first sport looked at was a county owned piece behind Gas and Go. But to get the facility, play area and parking they needed, they needed to look else where. After the country negotiated with SITLA, the land next to Active Re-Entry on fairgrounds road was secured.
Ground breaking took place last September and the crew was able to work through the winter to get things done. Rooms again are being adopted out and all have been spoken for. New furniture, desks and other items are quickly filling up the space in preparation for the big day.
Last year approximately 250 children walked through the doors of the white house on the corner. Wright is hoping to see an increase in that number this year. The old facility was only licensed for eight children at a time. Wright hopes they can now serve 12-15 at any given time.
The CJC interview rooms will have the most up-to date technology. Families will have their own separate waiting areas if more than one interview is going on at a time.
While the facility is a little out of the way now, Wright foresees little issue with transportation. Many families use the center for medical and shopping during respite hours. The new facility is actually closer to shopping and most medical facilities. The only concern is that some women who are in the women's shelter used to walk down since many don't have cars. They will no longer be able to do that.
The center is required to match federal and state dollars with community donations so fund raising is an ongoing issue. Wright wants to remind everyone that there will be an art auction and reception with hordevours and wine this Friday night at the Carbon Country Club. Many of the areas top artists have donated a piece for the cause.