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Front Page » December 28, 2004 » Local News » New Director for Family Support and Children's Justice Ce...
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New Director for Family Support and Children's Justice Center


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By KEN LARSON
Emery County Progress publisher

Shelley Wright, left, is the new director at the center. The Day house parent on the right is Melissa Hales.

During a training five years ago Terri Willis set a goal that she would be a full time artist by 2005. She is holding true to that goal and after nine years as director of the Family Support and Children's Justice Center she is calling it quits. As she heads into the world of acrylic painting, glass etching and wood carving, Shelley Wright follows her footsteps as director of the center.

Born in Salt Lake City, Shelley was educated in Carbon County, earning an associates degree from the College of Eastern Utah and finishing her bachelor's program at Utah State University in family and marriage therapy. After graduating Cum Laude she went to work in Davis County with the Division of Family Services in the child protective service and worked there until she transferred to Price in January of 1998.

Now Shelley is working the other end of family services. "Instead of me going to the families they are coming here for services," she says, explaining about switching roles.

Parenting in today's world is not always easy. The full-time job of being a parent is often complicated by jobs and community demands. Parents often find themselves in a balancing act, between their family and job. Parents can often find themselves overwhelmed, exhausted and overstressed.

For these reasons and many others, the Family Support and Children's Justice Center was established in May of 1996, For the past six plus years, the center has sat on the busy corner at 109 North 300 East, while inside a group of professionals help children and families. One of Shelley's goals is to get into a larger center.

Initially the group that began the program secured funding through a three-year federal grant with CAP monies (child abuse prevention). But as the program evolved, it has secured on going state funding and today it serves the community by helping children and their families by building stronger and healthier relationships.

Their only fund-raising effort of the year, the Harvest Ball, is held each October. Money raised from the ball helps support the center in Castle Dale.

The Center, serving Carbon and Emery counties, is the only center in the state that has two very separate programs. According to Wright, the fact that the counties have small populations and limited funding makes it practical and necessary to house both the Family Support and Children's Justice Center.

The Family Support and Children's Justice Center is designed to be a resource for parents. "Our safe homelike environment is a place to find help during times of crisis and services to prevent other crisis situations," says Willis in an interview a couple years ago.

Wright began her new position on Dec. 16. In January she will begin teaching a teen parenting class at the Lighthouse as well as a general parenting class at the Justice Center.

"We work with many different community agencies to provide the best support possible. The Family Support and Children's Center helps parents take control of their lives and strengthen their parenting and coping skills," said Wright.

Crisis care is the number one priority for using the nursery before all other reasons. The nursery is designed to provide a safe, homelike setting where parents can bring their children when the family is in a stressful situation. Children, who are under 11 years old can stay at the nursery, brought by parents or legal guardians and can stay for up to 72 hours.

"The crisis nursery, which is licensed for eight children at a time, is intended to be a means of preventing abuse." says Willis, adding, "it is not a drop off day-care program," Some of the reasons for using the nursery include respite, family crisis, court, doctor appointments, medical emergencies, mental health appointments, escaping family violence, attending parenting or divorce classes or attending Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotic Anonymous meetings. Wright explained that some days they see as many as 15 or 20 children in the nursery.

"The biggest myth about using the center is that it's for abusive families," says Willis. "It's just the opposite," she explains, "some parents fear that by using the center the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) will think that they are abusing their children, but we do not share any information with DCFS."

Another one of Wright's goals is to secure funding to bring back outreach programs for families in need of temporary help. She explains that this could help with basic needs such as budgeting, house cleaning, nutritional programs, parenting skills and housing issues. The money dried up a couple years ago and the program ended.

The second agency housed on the corner of 108 North and 300 East is the Children's Justice Center. This portion of the facility that serves children who might have been physically and or sexually abused. The center is designed to help children feel safe and comfortable. The atmosphere is child-friendly and interview rooms are designed with children in mind. Children visit the center while investigators meet with them and their parents.

One of the things Willis is most proud of is being able to constantly update their interviews with children who have been abused. "We have helped find some of the best techniques of interviewing children in these situations and help train other community professionals," explained Willis. There have been 125 interviews in Price this past year and 56 in Emery County.

A multi-disciplinary team coordinates the interview process and assesses the needs of the children and the families for support services. There are two interview rooms, both furnished with both audio and video equipment.

"We want people to understand that the facility is available to anyone," Wright says. "We welcome people at all times, and this is an open place where we want to make sure that we are combating the misconceptions that we are here only to serve certain groups."

In addition to all services listed the center also provides parenting classes, information and referral material, has a large resource lending library and a variety of family support services. The on-going parenting classes assist parents in becoming more effective in their interactions with children. They also assist parents in locating and obtaining information about community services and crisis intervention. Books, videotapes and resources are available to assist parents, teachers and others with parenting skills. The staff is available to talk to parents through parenting issues and minor crisis.


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