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Young victims of crime and domestic violence find hope in Utah’s mountains

SALT LAKE CITY —Utah’s mountains can be healing, which is the focus of a youth camp currently underway in the Uintas.

Camp Hope America-Utah, run by the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, welcomed 67 children on Monday. The children are all victims of crime or witnesses of domestic violence at home, and they carry trauma and pain.

But this week in the woods is centered on helping them overcome that.

“We focus very much on hope,” said Byron Paulsen, Camp Hope program manager. “If you have hope, that’s like one of the best indicators in whether or not somebody recovers from trauma.”

The exact location of the camp is not publicized due to privacy reasons. During the five days, children take part in various activities, including archery, photography, creative writing, outdoor games, and stargazing.

Tuesday morning, they got to interact with horses and trainers from the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

“We see childhood. We see kids having a good time,” said Sim Gill, Salt Lake County district attorney, who traveled to the camp. “We see them finding that joy that sometimes may be taken away unfairly.”

Camp Hope has been running for four years now. While this week is the highlight, the program is actually a three-year commitment with monthly activities and support for children and their families, Gill said.

He added that prosecuting criminals is one part of getting justice, while helping victims is another.

“Building hope and building that resiliency is what allows us to get that healing process going,” Gill said.

Some Camp Hope children listen to counselors Monday.
Some Camp Hope children listen to counselors Monday. (Photo: Winston Armani, KSL-TV)

Paulsen said social workers are on hand during the week to help children who may struggle during the camp. But he said most of them respond well to the week away.

“They come here — and they come to camp — because they feel like this is one place that they can count on where they feel like they belong,” Paulsen said.

It costs about $90,000 to run the summer camp and other activities throughout the year, according to the district attorney’s office. Gill said it’s worth it.

“If you have unresolved trauma, it gets embedded into families, and it gets passed intergenerationally,” he said.

The camp and its accompanying programs are designed to stop that from happening, said Gill, and to give the children some of their childhood back.

“It’s an investment in time,” said Gill, “but it’s paying results.”

Campers mingle with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office horses at Camp Hope on Monday.
Campers mingle with the Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office horses at Camp Hope on Monday. (Photo: Winston Armani,KSL-TV)

Child abuse resources:

  • Utah Domestic Violence Coalition operates a confidential statewide, 24-hour domestic abuse hotline at 1-800-897-LINK (5465). Resources are also available online: udvc.org. The statewide child abuse and neglect hotline is 1-855-323-DCFS (3237).

Help with Children

Those who feel stressed out with a child, who need a break or who feel like they need counseling or training can reach out to one of the following agencies:

  • The Family Support Center has 15 locations throughout the state and offers a free crisis nursery for parents who have to keep appointments or who are stressed out. They also offer counseling and family mentoring. Call 801-955-9110 or visit familysupportcenter.org/contact.php for more information.
  • Prevent Child Abuse Utah provides home visiting in Weber, Davis, and Box Elder counties. Parent Educators provide support, education, and activities for families with young children. Their statewide education team offers diverse trainings on protective factors, digital safety, bullying, and child sex trafficking. They are available for in-person or virtual trainings and offer free online courses for the community at pcautah.org.
  • The Office of Home Visiting works with local agencies to provide home visits to pregnant women and young families who would like to know more about being parents. Home visitors are trained and can provide information about breastfeeding, developmental milestones, toilet training, nutrition, mental health, home safety, child development, and much more. Find out more at homevisiting.utah.gov.
  • The Safe Haven law allows birth parents in Utah to safely and anonymously give up custody of their newborn child at any hospital in the state, with no legal consequences and no questions asked. The child’s mother can drop off the child, or the mother can ask someone else to do it

    for her. The newborns should be dropped off at hospitals that are open 24 hours a day. Newborns given up in this manner will be cared for by the hospital staff, and the Utah Division of Child and Family Services will find a home for the child.

    For more information, visit utahsafehaven.org or call the 24-hour hotline at 866-458-0058.

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