8:00 am - 4:00 pm Mon-Fri
1540 E 980 S
Heber City, Utah 84032
PO Box 524
Heber City, Utah 84032
Phone (435) 657-1000
Fax (435) 654-3963
Report Suspected Abuse:
Utah’s Children’s Justice Centers provide a child-friendly atmosphere designed to help children feel safe and comfortable while they are being interviewed regarding alleged abuse. Audio and video equipment is used to preserve the interview for evidence and eliminate the need for multiple interviews.
The purpose of the Wasatch County Children’s Justice Center Advisory Board is to assist and advise the management and staff of the Wasatch County Children’s Justice Center in accomplishing their task of providing a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary, intergovernmental response to sexual abuse of children and serious physical abuse of children. The purposes of Children’s Justice Centers are codified at 67-5b-101, et seq., Utah Code Annotated, 1953.
In 1987 Grethe Peterson served as a citizen juror in a child sex abuse case involving two small children, age four and six. Their father was accused of sexually abusing his two children. As a juror, Grethe personally observed the additional trauma these two child victims experienced in the court room, as they relived their traumatic abuse and were cross-examined by an aggressive defense attorney. It was obvious these children were not prepared for those events in the courtroom and that they had undergone significant stress during the long period of time as the case was being prepared for court. Grethe later learned these children had been interviewed by at least ten different “officials” over a period of a year. Because of the inconsistencies in the children’s testimony the jury could not find the father guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Grethe was troubled by the traumatic process and outcome of the case because she felt that the children had experienced a second level of abuse by the criminal justice system. As a concerned citizen, she began talking to judges, social workers, therapists, the police and others who worked in this area. As she spoke to the various professionals she discovered that the manner in which child abuse cases were handled by the Utah state criminal justice system, the Department of Social Services and local police jurisdictions was very much on the minds of those running the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. It was clear to all involved there was a serious lack of coordination and, at times, animosity between law enforcement and social service workers as they responded to child abuse cases. Although both were dealing with the same families and the same issues, they had separate purposes and perspectives.
At the same time other citizens and advocacy groups were concerned about the same problem. Those who were working within the system felt their response was not the best, but with budget and personnel restraints, there was no better alternative. Grethe took her concerns to then Governor Norm Bangerter who listened and referred her to the Utah Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice. Governor Bangerter was aware the Commission had expressed concerns about the same issues. Subsequently Grethe was asked to chair a task force to research these issues and make recommendations to Governor Bangerter.
After extensive meetings, the task force presented its recommendations to the Governor. The task force strongly recommended that the state of Utah adopt and implement the national Child Advocacy Center model created in Huntsville, Alabama in 1985 by Bud Cramer, a Huntsville District Attorney. The centers are designed to be a safe, comfortable place for sexually abused children to come to during the investigative process. They operated out of a home to provide a welcoming and friendly atmosphere. Professionals work there together as a team and share information on cases to minimize the number of times a child must be interviewed and to decrease further trauma and harm to the child during the investigation and prosecution of the child sex abuse case.
In 1991 the Child Advocacy Model was introduced in Utah as the “Children’s Justice Centers.” The Utah legislature approved $300,000 to establish three Children’s Justice Centers in Utah located in Utah, Salt Lake and Weber counties. The three Centers also received federal grants for the first year of operation from VOCA (Victims of Crime Act) and the Nation Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
As each Children’s Justice Center went up, it was necessary to raise funds from the individuals and institutions in the communities where they operated. The public-private efforts strengthened the commitment of the communities to the work.
Today there are fourteen Children’s Justice Centers throughout Utah from St. George to Vernal to Logan, and along the Wasatch front. Each Children’s Justice Center serves its community by providing a safe, comfortable and homelike environment for the child victims of sexual abuse to tell their story, for law enforcement, prosecutors and social workers to work together, share information and thus, seek to avoid any further trauma to the child victim as the case is investigated and prosecuted. Utah’s Children’s Justice Centers have become places “where small voices can be heard.” They work.
Much has been accomplished since 1987 when Grethe Peterson served as a citizen juror in that child sex abuse case. However, much remains to be done. Utah’s Children’s Justice Centers need the continued financial support of Utah’s citizens and its businesses. Community education and outreach programs for Utah’s Children’s Justice Centers need constant funding, interview specialists need continual training, and interview and documentation equipment needs continual updating in order to keep up with technological advances and legal requirements. We are committed to those of our children who have or will become the unfortunate victims of child sexual abuse and need a Children’s Justice Center. We are fulfilling that commitment by meeting the specific and ongoing financial needs of our Children’s Justice Centers.
(1)(a) Interviews of children during an investigation in accordance with Section 62A-4a-409, and involving allegations of sexual abuse or serious physical abuse of a child, shall be conducted only under the following conditions:
(i) the interview shall be recorded visually and aurally on film, videotape, or by other electronic means;
(ii) both the interviewer and the child shall be simultaneously recorded and visible on the final product;
(iii) the time and date of the interview shall be continuously and clearly visible to any subsequent viewer of the recording; and
(iv) the recording equipment shall run continuously for the duration of the interview.
(b) This Subsection (1) does not apply to initial or minimal interviews conducted in accordance with Subsection 62A-4a-409(9)(b) or (c).
(2) Interviews conducted in accordance with Subsection (1) shall be carried out in an existing Children's Justice Center or in a soft interview room, when available.
(a) If the Children's Justice Center or a soft interview room is not available, the interviewer shall use the best setting available under the circumstances.
(b) If the equipment required under Subsection (1) is not available, the interview shall be audiotaped, provided that the interviewer shall clearly state at the beginning of the tape:
(i) the time, date, and place of the interview;
(ii) the full name and age of the child being interviewed; and
(iii) that the equipment required under Subsection (1) is not available and why.
(3) All other investigative interviews shall be audiotaped using electronic means. At the beginning of the tape, the worker shall state clearly the time, date, and place of the meeting, and the full name and age of the child in attendance.
Enacted by Chapter 315, 2004 General Session
December 2-3, 2016 - Wasatch County Event Center