Rose Jergens is an advocate for children who suffer from abuse, neglect and violence. Day after day, she breaks barriers built by, and between, families, their communities and the social justice system, and speaks for the best interests of the children.
As executive director of the Four Corners Child Advocacy Center in Cortez, Jergens is responsible for creating a safe space for children and adolescents while law enforcement conduct investigations. She emphasizes the health and well-being of the victims during every step of an investigation.
Inspired by one of her high school teachers to pursue social work, Jergens initially worked as a counselor at a church camp, where she discovered she wanted a career working with children and teenagers.
“When I got my undergraduate degree, I went into criminal justice,” she said. “I really wanted to be a juvenile officer, so I got an internship my senior year with a local juvenile office.”
Jergens was hired in 1994 as a deputy juvenile officer in Jasper County, Missouri. Her responsibilities included assessing abused, delinquent or neglected minors, suggesting treatment plans, monitoring cases and testifying in court. She worked with both criminals and victims, but she often found herself leaving courtrooms and meetings with an uneasy feeling.
“I really felt like I was creating criminals,” she said.
Jergens went back to school to get her master’s degree in communication while working as a graduate teaching assistant at Pittsburg State University in Pittsburg, Kansas. Then she earned a doctorate in communication from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Her educational pursuits led her to research the ideal model and standards for a child advocacy center, and her new goal was to run her own.
In 2008, Jergens said her husband, Jay Wood, discovered Four Corners Child Advocacy Center was hiring a new director, so she applied. She drove to Colorado with her son to scope out the area. They camped overnight and she prepared for her interview in a KOA bathroom. Less than a week later, she was offered the job.
She accepted the position to serve Montezuma and Dolores counties, as well as the Ute Mountain Ute and Southern Ute Indian tribes. “I wanted to make it the very best child advocacy center in a rural community,” she said. “It was kind of an experiment.”
Aside from fundraising, her first priority was engaging the youth-focused organizations in the community. That meant going to churches, nonprofit organizations and schools to teach others to identify and report signs and symptoms of abuse, neglect and violence.
“The reality is most people don’t understand what their responsibility is to reporting,” she said. “More than that, is becoming passionate about it. If kids are our passion, then we need to take on that responsibility.”
When a former executive at Renew, Inc., an organization that assists victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, was charged with theft and placed on leave, Jergens volunteered to step in to ensure the nonprofit could continue to serve the community. With her husband’s assistance, she dove into the books and balanced the budget to save the nonprofit from losing funding. Jergens spent about five months contacting and communicating with funders, developing an advisory group and helping Renew wrap up end-of-year responsibilities.
“The funding is all stable now,” she said. “We were able to start the new year on schedule and caught up. We actually had $28,000 extra, and one of our funders let us buy all new safehouse furniture and appliances.”
Jergens is looking forward to placing the right person in the position to lead Renew.
“Right now, they are at a place where I could hand this off to somebody and be comfortable about it,” she said. “What a great group of women that are super passionate about what they are doing. They just need some good support.”