JOLIET – Will County State’s Attorney James Glasgow is launching a new pet program for the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center that will offer furry friendship and canine comfort to children who have suffered the trauma of sexual abuse.
State’s Attorney Glasgow will unveil the new Paws 4 Kids program at an Open House from 1-3 p.m. Feb. 29 at the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center, 57 N. Ottawa St., Suite 506, in downtown Joliet. The State’s Attorney also will introduce Jackson, a four-legged friend who will be the program’s first Paws Pal.
Guests who visit the Open House will have the opportunity to meet Jackson and tour the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center to learn more about the important role it plays in the investigation of child sexual abuse cases.
Glasgow established the Children’s Advocacy Center in 1995 to improve the way these highly sensitive investigations are conducted. Children come to the center to give statements to caring and sensitive forensic interviewers when there are allegations of sexual or severe physical abuse. The center’s goal is to minimize the trauma for children while the interviewer obtains recorded statements that can be used to prosecute and convict their abusers. The center’s staff also coordinates important medical and counseling services for victims and their families.
“The children who require the center’s services are struggling through the most upsetting and painful ordeal in their young lives,” said State’s Attorney Glasgow. “A Paws Pal like Jackson can help ease the stress and provide some much-needed comfort to these vulnerable young victims as well as their family members.”
Jackson is a 3-year-old, 63-pound Labrador Retriever that is licensed through Therapy Dog International. He will be available to welcome children upon their arrival at the Children’s Advocacy Center, and he will keep them company while preparations are made for the interview. Jackson will not be in the room when children are interviewed, but he will stay and play with siblings and even their parents or caregivers while they wait for an interview to conclude. Jackson also will be available to comfort children after interviews.
Jackson’s owner and handler is Cheri Johnson, who has worked for Will County State’s Attorney Glasgow for the past five years. Johnson and her husband, Kurt Johnson, raise and train puppies for the Leader Dogs for the Blind organization. Jackson is their personal pet and has spent a great deal of time with the Johnsons bringing joy and comfort to patients in local hospitals andnursing homes.
Cheri Johnson, who is the State’s Attorney’s Executive Assistant, is making Jackson available at no cost to taxpayers for all the petting, playing and hugging a child can squeeze in before and after a victim-senstive interview. Studies have shown that dogs and other pets can put people at ease during emotionally stressful situations.
The State’s Attorney speaks from experience about the happiness and comfort dogs can bring to people’s lives. He and his family are the happy owners of two dogs, Hobbs, a Great Dane, and Xena, a Collie. With their sons playing baseball, the Glasgows have named their Great Dane Hobbs, after Roy Hobbs in the movie, “The Natural.”
“Our new PAWS 4 Kids program celebrates the life-affirming bond between people and their pets,” he said. “My own dogs bring tremendous joy to my family. I know in my heart that Jackson and other therapy dogs that will join PAWS 4 Kids will start the healing process for the victims of child abuse.”
The Paws 4 Kids program is modeled after similarly successful programs across the country. Pet therapy programs at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet and Edward Hospital in Naperville were among those examined.
For information on Paws 4 Kids or on attending the Feb. 29 Open House, call the Will County Children’s Advocacy Center at (815) 774-4565.