A year of helping children
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
December 8 marked the first anniversary for Childhelp River Bridge Center.
The center is a private/public partnership with Garfield County Department of Human Services and serves Garfield, Eagle and Pitkin counties. The center utilizes a multi-disciplinary approach to work exclusively with local child sexual-abuse victims.
Joyce Bulifant-Perry approached the Advocate Safehouse Project five years ago to discuss the possibility of creating a children’s advocacy center for the area. The Advocate Safehouse Project agreed to host an initial meeting to determine community interest. A regional needs assessment and a feasibility study were conducted, which found a great need for a center in Garfield County. Groups from the multidisciplinary team in Garfield County were supportive of the center, which might also be utilized at times by surrounding communities in Eagle, Pitkin, and Rio Blanco counties.
Garfield County built the center and provides all the maintenance for the facility. Childhelp has a yearly contract to use the building.
Target clients for Childhelp are children younger than 18 identified to be a victim of child abuse or assault as defined in the Colorado Revised Statutes, or identified or reported as a witness to violence.
All client referrals come from the Department of Human Services or local law enforcement. The center is not a walk-in facility. It works in collaboration with Department of Human Services, sheriff’s departments, police departments, medical and mental health professionals, school counselors, public prosecutors and victim’s rights advocates from the district attorney and sheriff’s office.
Childhelp and the multidisciplinary team are the regional experts in child sexual abuse, and assist in all aspects of child sexual abuse, including investigation, treatment, advocacy and prosecution of offenders. In its first year of operation, the center has worked with more than 115 local children (ages 3-18 years) who have been sexually abused.
An open house breakfast to thank the professional, volunteer and donor partners, including police departments, Garfield County Human Services, and fundraising volunteers, is scheduled from 8-10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 12, at the center.
Nationally known speaker and former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur is booked to speak at a free community awareness event, scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, April 27, at the Thunder River Theatre in Carbondale. Van Derbur survived 13 years of sexual abuse at the hands of her father. Tickets are free, but must be reserved prior to the event. Ticket pick-up locations will be announced prior to the event.
Childhelp offers a quarterly Saturday parenting class for families who have come through its doors. The class for non-offending parents addresses how to help the child heal and how to prevent future abuse.
Childhelp is developing plans to begin a “body safety” curriculum in 2009, hopefully in the schools, and a prevention program geared toward the adult community in general.
“As far as healing, we offer therapy here and refer out to other therapists,” said Childhelp Director Susan Ackerman. “We also offer victim services such as helping prepare for court, applying for victim funds to pay for therapy and any medical bills.”
If you know a child who is in need of Childhelp’s services, help them “tell.” The child needs to be believed and responded to in a helpful manner. Even if the case can’t be prosecuted, the best outcome would be if the child receives professional help and healing.
Kay Vasilakis’ “Nonprofit Spotlight” column runs alternating Wednesdays in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. She is the media coordinator for the Garfield County Human Services Commission. To contact her with a news tip or question, call 384-9118 or e-mail email@example.com.
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