Nonprofit to help abused children in Crook County

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: May 21. 2007 5:00AM PST

Prineville will soon be the home of a satellite branch of the KIDS Center, a Bend-based nonprofit that helps children who are the victims of child abuse and neglect.

The Crook County Court announced last week that it will use grant money from the Central Oregon Community Investment Board as startup funding for a satellite center to be located at Prineville’s Pioneer Memorial Hospital.

The center will provide evaluations and mental health counseling for children who may have experienced physical or sexual abuse or neglect. It will also provide assistance to law enforcement officials as they pursue criminal investigations against those involved.

Brenda Comini, director of the Crook County Commission on Children and Families, said children from Crook County have been using the Bend KIDS Center for some time. In recent years, Comini said, the number of Crook County clients has increased.

In 2005, she said, the KIDS Center served 38 children from Crook County. Through October 2006, that number had risen to 42. The KIDS Center serves about 450 children annually, according to its Web site.

“Part of it’s our population growth, obviously,” Comini said. “Part of it is we’ve launched a lot of awareness around the region on child abuse and neglect, so that tends to up the ante on reporting.”

The center will start out operating on a part-time basis in the fall with support from local medical pro-viders, she said. Staff members will also coordinate with law enforcement to assist in prosecutions when necessary.

“Without this kind of medical evaluation and the forensic work that’s done, you only have basically the word of the child, which is very awkward,” Comini said. “It’s very hard sometimes for families, depending on the age of the child, to decide whether they should be testifying or not, and on the court side, deciding whether they are viable to testify.”

She hopes that having the center in Prineville will make it easier for local families to access this type of service.

“For some families the barrier of obtaining services in Bend and driving to Bend, or just that whole issue, causes some kids to fall through the cracks,” she said. “We believe that providing service locally will provide increased use and hopefully will break the cycle for those kids and help them toward healing.”

Crook County Court Judge Scott Cooper said in the past the county has tried to address the problem of child abuse through education, increased law enforcement and more training, but he thinks the KIDS Center has a better chance for success.

“I think that child abuse is a stubborn, intractable problem in Central Oregon and in Crook County,” Cooper said. “This is a way we can help families, we can help kids and we can help prosecution to try and take what’s truly just a plague on our country and get a handle on it in our local community.”

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