Ted Allen is a friendly, familiar face to children who need help.
"It's the most thankless, rewarding job I've ever done," says Ted Allen, a big, bearded guy who has just roared into the Kraync Motor lot on his big, shiny motorcycle. He's not talking about his job working on weatherization projects at the Southeastern Utah Association of Local Governments.
He's talking about being president of the Southeastern Utah Chapter of the Bikers Against Child Abuse. The weatherization job is "something I work at eight hours a day to take a break," he says.
BACA, founded in Utah about 15 years ago, is an organization that recruits, screens, and then trains bikers to handle a very special chore: standing as a group between an abusive parent and a victimized child. This is often a literal, not figurative description. The bikers actually do stand guard.
He's quick to point out that this is neither violence nor vigilantism. The group does not condone do-it-yourself justice. BACA does not step in unless the child is already in the protection of the state, and the organization must wait to be invited by a parent or guardian. That means the organization keeps close with law enforcement and social workers, he says.
Nevertheless, it is confrontational at times. Having anywhere from a dozen to 30 bikers surrounding the home of an abused child when a threat arises does send a clear, concise message to an abuser: "You are not allowed here and you're not getting past us." Mr. Allen says it works, because the message is also sent to the children being protected. "The kids get to see that somebody big and just as mean as the person that's been hurting them is on their side, and cares about them."
There's more to the program than serving as a human blockade, though. Karl Kraync, a Price car dealer involved in community service, explains that the group is there to provide emotional as well as physical support for children who need it. Mr. Kraync has been a patch-wearing member of BACA for 10 years now, and had to undergo an FBI background check and two years of volunteer service before getting the vest patch. The scrutiny is necessary because BACA members do become close to the families and children they protect, and someone with a criminal background is definitely not a candidate for this mission.
Ted Allen adds that the personal familiarity with the children often provides crucial psychological support in a court of law. BACA is not a legal group, but members will accompany a child and family to court and sit there as a reassurance. "When they go into court, kids go into a world that is not theirs," he says, adding that a friend nearby makes the process less threatening to youngsters.
The organization does not enforce law, nor does it handle custody cases, work as legal counsel, or offer professional therapy. It will, however, provide some financial support for these services. Sometimes, all a child will need is some toy or bicycle to begin healing, and if that's the case, the group will do what it can to provide it, Mr. Allen said.
It also does not deal as a rule with child neglect. The focus is on the domestic violence abuser. "You get to deal with people you don't want to know and never want to meet," he says of the mission. That explains the "thankless" part of the job he mentioned earlier.
The flip side of that is that you also get to make a difference in the life of some child who really needs you, he explains. And that covers the "rewarding" part.