New director of justice center wants children to feel safe, come forward about abuse

Kristy Pike is the new director of the Washington County Children's Justice Center, St. George, Utah, June 20, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — With five children of her own and having served on a foster care review board, Kristy Pike’s love for children is continuing to grow with her new position as director of the Washington County Children’s Justice Center.

Kristy Pike, the new director of the Washington County Children’s Justice Center, St. George, Utah, June 20, 2018. | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

When Pike served on a Foster Care Citizens Review Board for Washington County, she saw the need for services surrounding child care. She has wanted to be a part of the children’s justice center for a while, and now that most of her children are out of the house, she’s able to devote her time to the center.

“I think the way we treat our children says a lot about us as a community,” Pike said.

Her role as director, which she started on May 29, is to make sure children have a safe place to come and begin their process from victim to survivor. She’s also there to support her team at the center.

My role is to support the people who are supporting the kids.”

Children who have been victims of crime are brought to the center to be interviewed by a specialty trained interviewer in a home-like environment, she said. The child is interviewed only once, rather than having to be interviewed multiple times by law enforcement, child protective services, attorneys, etc.

“The secondary trauma is significant,” Pike said. “So the model is to bring them some place safe and have one person who knows what they’re doing do the interview one time and record the interview so everybody has the same story.”

Medical examination room at the Washington County Children’s Justice Center, St. George, Utah, June 20, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

The center also documents abuse and has a medical examination room where sexual assault kits and checkups can be completed.

According to the 2015 Child Maltreatment Report from the Children’s Bureau, there were 4 million child maltreatment reports.

The Children’s Justice Center oversaw 330 interviews and 84 medical exams in 2017, Pike said, and those numbers continue to grow.

Pike’s goal as director is to make the public more aware of the center’s services in hopes that more people will come forward and report abuse. One in 10 children come forward about being abused, she said.

“Maybe we can work on that reporting number and have more people come forward. Then what happens is maybe you can prevent the next victim down the line.”

To make the public more aware, the center hosts events where the public can come and learn about its services. The center also works with different clubs and youth groups in the area to provide education on how to recognize child abuse and report it. The national hotline for reporting child abuse is 1-855-323-3237.

While the center receives some funding from the state and Washington County, Pike said the center relies on donations from the community. Its next fundraiser will feature a golf tournament on Aug. 31 at the Ledges Golf Course. It costs $95 to register and all proceeds go to the center.

Funding from the center’s partners in the community and private donations goes toward the center’s costs like supplies for medical exams and any training the staff needs.

“If the children feel safe, if the families feel supported and the professionals get the information they need to take cases to court and win,” Pike said, “then we’re doing our job.”

Email: mheckenliable@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews | @markeekaenews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • panda June 21, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Talk about nepotism as it’s finest.

    • IPFreely June 21, 2018 at 7:29 pm

      Amen…

    • Mike P June 22, 2018 at 9:25 am

      panda, did I miss something here? nepotism?

      • panda June 22, 2018 at 10:05 am

        The County didn’t even bother interview qualified candidates they just hired the Mayor’s wife.

        • Mike P June 22, 2018 at 1:29 pm

          panda, sorry. duh ! I didn’t know she was the mayors wife……..

  • mesaman June 21, 2018 at 8:57 pm

    The Children’s Justice Center is the most elegant, unused facility in this city.

  • Mike P June 22, 2018 at 9:31 am

    How do they know only “One in 10 children come forward about being abused” ? I see these statements all the time and don’t understand how they come up with these numbers. Think about it. If there NOT reporting it, how would they know?

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