In 1998, Kristy Pike was a young mom with three children under the age of six. Having left behind a career in public relations and marketing when she and her husband Jon moved to St. George, Utah from Salt Lake City, Utah, Kristy was now home all day with her children, and she felt like she was going crazy.
In an effort to spend some quality time with adults and occasionally get out of the house, she turned to volunteering. “I started working with a group called the Foster Care Citizen Review Board,” she recalls. “Our job was to review the cases of children in foster care, interview everyone involved, and then make recommendations to the judge as to how each child’s case should proceed.”
The few hours each month she spent learning about individual foster children affected Kristy deeply. “I remember one little girl in particular. She was maybe six or seven. Her biological family was a mess, and her foster placement was less than ideal. Then I came across her again while volunteering at a local school. Her situation at the school was also not good. I thought to myself, ‘We have to do better for our children!’”
While the motivation to help families in the community was there, “. . . it just wasn’t the right time in my life to take that on in a big way,” says Kristy. “I had my hands more than full with the children living in my own house.”
Kristy stayed busy doing freelance writing and public relations. She worked extensively with not-for-profit organizations and continued volunteering in schools and with youth groups.
Kristy and her husband have always felt strongly about supporting the arts, particularly with young people. “In an age when we, as a society, are searching desperately for ways to prevent teenage suicide and violence in our schools, the arts are more desperately needed than ever before,” she says. “The arts give our youth a voice, a safe place to explore their often confusing feelings, and a network of other like-minded students.”
Twenty years after her initial work with foster children, Kristy’s situation has changed. “Four of our five children are grown. We are grandparents. Our youngest daughter is so busy, mostly I see her when I’m driving her from lessons to practices to games to rehearsals,” Kristy laughs. With her own children demanding less of her energy, Kristy began looking for new ways to serve.
“I heard that the Washington County Children’s Justice Center was looking for a new director. The Children’s Justice Center is a homelike facility where children who have been victims of crimes come to begin the process of healing. I knew about the Center and have always been a big believer in their mission.” Kristy applied for the job, and began working there in May of this year.
“The first step is the forensic interview,” explains Kristy. “When a child has been a victim of a crime, there is a community of adults who need to know about what happened. Child Protective Services needs to make sure the child is safe at home. Law enforcement and the legal system need information so they can identify and, if appropriate, prosecute the perpetrator. Caregivers and mental health professionals need to know how to best help the child to heal.
“At the Children’s Justice Center, the child can tell their story once, to someone who is specially trained to listen carefully and ask all the right questions. The interview is recorded, and all of the professionals who need to know about a child’s worst moment or moments have all the information they need to help the child and their family start the road to healing.”
In addition, the Children’s Justice Center provides support for caregivers and families, and medical exams (including rape kits, if appropriate) for child victims who need them.
“It is so rewarding to come to work every day knowing that what we do here makes a difference in the lives of children, not only now, but for generations, as we work to stop the cycle of abuse,” says Kristy.
“I love my job. I work with a dedicated team of people from many disciplines who are really good at what they do. I feel like I have come full circle to that moment when I felt so strongly that we needed to do more for our children. We are doing that.
“This is still not a perfect world. The statistics are still staggering. One in four girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse before they are 18. We saw 354 children at the Washington County Children’s Justice Center just last year. And we know many, many more – an estimated nine of ten – cases of sexual abuse go unreported. But we are making strides every day. We are working hard to increase awareness and connect children and families with resources.”
In 1998, Kristy Pike was a new mom who wanted time to do more. In 2018, she is a new grandma who dedicates her time to bringing hope into the lives of both her own family, and families across southern Utah.
We here at View On Magazine thank you for all that you do.