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LANCASTER DEPENDENCY COURT OPENS CHILDREN'S PLAYGROUND.

Byline: John Sanders Staff Writer

Children waiting for court hearings in the Antelope Valley's 21-month-old dependency court now have a place to play, thanks to local businesses and a service club.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, presiding Juvenile Court Judge Michael Nash and other officials were on hand Monday morning to dedicate the $150,000 play area, created through donations and volunteer labor from Rotary Club members, Antelope Valley Bank, Northrop Grumman and Home Depot stores in Palmdale and Lancaster.

``Court can be a very intimidating place, not only for the children but for their families when they come in,'' said Paul Freedlund, deputy director of the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services. ``So to create an environment that is very child-friendly and does not provide that level of intimidation I think is very important in helping them to relax to be more appropriate in court.''

The playground, which includes swings, slides, and walkways and bars to climb on, was built in a walled enclosure adjoining the Antelope Valley juvenile dependency court. Inside the court building is an area called ``shelter care,'' where children can watch movies, play video games, read, play with dolls and play games.

The court oversees children who are removed from their homes because of suspected abuse and neglect. It opened in September 1997 in the building that had formerly been the Antelope Valley sheriff's station, saving families the trip to the main dependency court in Monterey Park.

``There are a significant number of cases that come from the Antelope Valley that involve abuse and neglect of children,'' said Nash. ``To make those children and those families have to travel the 75 miles to the children's court in Monterey Park is almost abuse and neglect in and of itself. We're happy to accommodate the community and give it what it needs.''

The playground was specifically designed as a safe refuge for children who find themselves thrust into the adult world of courts and hearings, Antonovich said.

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PHOTO (Color) Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich speaks at Monday's playground dedication.

Shaun Dyer/Special to the Daily News
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 29, 1999
Words:356
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