Task force looks to create Summit child abuse center | SummitDaily.com

Task force looks to create Summit child abuse center

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY – A group that helps local child-abuse victims is being turned away by Front Range service providers overburdened with cases, and no alternative exists in Summit County.

The Rocky Mountain Child Advocacy Center wants to change that, but board members know a big challenge lies ahead – they need a building.

The advocacy center helps investigate child abuse reports in the Fifth Judicial District (Summit, Eagle, Lake and Clear Creek counties). They coordinate physical examinations by specially trained forensic experts, interviews by police trained in working with children and other related victim services.

Group members are soliciting donations from the community and said they’re interested in everything from building materials and equipment to outfit such a center to expertise from construction and real estate professionals, or the outright donation of a building.

“We’ve been talking about it for a number of years, but we had these other centers so there wasn’t the incentive, despite the interest,” said Krista Flannigan, a child advocacy consultant who has worked in victim services on a national level and in local district attorney’s offices. “Because the other centers are so busy, they’ve restricted our access.”

Demands on child advocacy centers such as those in Jefferson, Arapahoe and Boulder counties have increased, Flannigan said, because of the facilities’ child-centered, multidisciplinary focus. In addition to investigating child abuse cases, the centers help prepare children for appearances in court, working with children who witnessed crimes and often house therapy services. A big part of the centers’ mission, Flannigan said, is education and outreach to raise awareness about child abuse.

Summit County had 11 confirmed cases of child abuse in 2000, according to the Colorado Children’s Campaign. Reports of child abuse, however, can number five times that amount in a year. Hard numbers are difficult to pin down, said Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlburt, because so many different agencies deal with the problem in different respects. The facility he has in mind would simplify the process for children and provide concerned professionals with a centralized source of information.

“Some of what such a center does is being done here, but it’s by various agencies,” Hurlburt said. “So, a person has to go to the police for one interview, to social services for another, and so on. This is not good when you’re talking about an 8-year-old child. And, any one agency might not have the resources to keep up with the sort of training this requires; it’s very specialized.”

Flannigan said the ultimate vision for the Rocky Mountain Child Advocacy Center includes a facility staffed with a forensic interviewer, a physician and a victim advocate, along with the needed equipment. Donations can be sent to the Fifth Judicial Task Force, P.O. Box 488, Breckenridge, CO 80424. For more information, call Flannigan at (303) 882-0993.

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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