Brighter World child advocacy center on track to open this summer
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Efforts to raise money for renovations and programming are just gearing up, but Lisel Petis is optimistic the doors of the Brighter World child advocacy center in Steamboat Springs will open this summer.
“We’re working on a lease right now, and we’re working with a consultant to kind of map out the design,” said Petis, executive director of Advocates of Routt County. “It’s new to our community. A lot of people have no idea what a child advocacy center is, so we are just trying to educate people and take care of back-end stuff like putting together policies and procedures for each piece of the child advocacy center.”
The 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Routt, Moffat and Grand counties, is one of only four in the state that does not have a child advocacy center. There are 22 judicial districts in the state of Colorado.
The closest centers are in Glenwood Springs and Breckenridge. The Treetop Child Advocacy in Breckenridge opened its doors in 2018 and has just one full-time staff member. River Bridge Regional Center in Glenwood opened in 2007 and has about eight full-time employees. Child advocacy centers serve children who are victims of alleged crimes like physical or sexual abuse.
The centers also provide wraparound services, connecting victims and their families to therapy and following and supporting them throughout the entire legal process.
“In our community we actually have really great law enforcement and human services departments, who try to work with kids, but the reality is that research shows that child advocacy centers are best practice because it’s the best way to have the least amount of retraumatization for a child to kind of relive that experience by telling their story,” Petis said. “So our kids deserve to have this here. It sounds silly, but how could we not want to step up for the child victims community?”
For more than a year, a task force that includes advocacy organizations, human services departments, the district attorney, law enforcement and health organizations from Routt and Moffat counties have been working on making a child advocacy center in Steamboat a reality.
“I think it’s great,” said Routt County Human Services Director Kelly Kissling. “I think the key thing to remember is we do the best that we can and already serve the families in the community with child welfare in our job, but this is just a better way to do that service and another way to do it. I don’t know the history of why we don’t have one here, but I think it’s just timely, and I am excited that there’s a group going forward to do this.”
This summer, Advocates of Routt County will be moving to new offices in the Sundance at Fish Creek business complex. Leaders of the nonprofit hope a lease can be worked out, so that the Brighter World child advocacy center can be located next door.
To better serve the community, an umbrella organization called Better Tomorrow will be created and will include both Advocates of Routt County and the Brighter World child advocacy center. This will allow the organizations to cut costs by sharing services that are used by both organizations.
The task force established a fundraising goal of $350,000 to renovate the child advocacy center, including soundproofing, insulation and new doors. The money raised would also help cover programming costs until 2023 when more government grants will become available. So far, $70,000 has been raised.
“We need a lot of local funding in order to get this up and running soon,” Petis said. “Honestly, we thought about kind of waiting until 2023, but our community partners like law enforcement and the Department of Human Services made it pretty clear that we need this sooner rather than later.”
Petis said the name, Brighter World, was inspired by a quote from David Pelzer’s 1995 memoir of childhood abuse, “A Child Called It” — “It’s important for people to know that no matter what lies in their past, they can overcome the dark side and press on to a brighter world.”
Visit brighterworldcac.org for more information about the center.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.
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