CHARLESTON – Federal, state and local officials on Tuesday unveiled a statewide clearinghouse for information, resources, training and technical assistance regarding juvenile justice.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, West Virginia State Police Colonel Jay Smithers – as well as other state and local officials, school, law enforcement, and child advocacy and mental health professionals – unveiled the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice. It is a collaborative effort between Goodwin’s office, West Virginia State Police and West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Children and Families.
The center is located at the West Virginia State Police Professional Development Center in Dunbar. It will house the West Virginia Defending Childhood Initiative Task Force (Handle With Care), West Virginia Children’s Justice Task Force, and the West Virginia Drug Endangered Children’s Task Force.
Those three task forces are charged with improving the investigation, prosecution and judicial handling of child abuse and neglect cases, strengthening prevention and intervention efforts, and promoting school-community partnerships aimed at ensuring that children who are exposed to trauma in their home, school or community receive appropriate interventions to help them achieve academically at their highest levels despite whatever traumatic circumstances they may have endured.
“I’m proud of the continued collaboration by our state’s law enforcement, Department of Health and Human Resources and educators to provide at-risk children with the support they need to heal, thrive and achieve long-term success in West Virginia,” Tomblin said. “I’m confident the West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice — through its partnership with schools and communities across the state — will play a significant role in expanding prevention and intervention services to ensure a promising future for our kids now and for years to come.”
The center will promote safe and supportive homes, schools and communities that protect children, and help traumatized children heal and thrive.
“This Center will improve communication and collaboration between law enforcement, prosecutors, schools, advocates and mental health providers, and help connect families, schools and communities to mental health services," Goodwin said. "We can no longer work in our silos focused on one piece of a child’s life puzzle.
"We must work together to make systemic improvements that can truly change the trajectory of a child’s path."
For more information about the center, visit www.handlewithcarewv.org.