Child Abuse Prevention Heroes Honored

Local heroes who have dedicated their lives to helping abused children were honored at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting.

Each received a proclamation for receiving a STARS award, which are given out by the San Diego County Child Abuse Prevention Coordinating Council every April during Child Abuse Prevention Month.

This year’s recipients include three members of the San Diego Sheriff’s Department who were caught in a shootout as they tried to arrest a man suspected of child molestation, a child advocate who maintained her role during two overseas deployments and a preschool that serves children who have been traumatized by family violence or abuse and neglect.

Ali Perez, Craig T. Johnson, Michael Spears

San Diego County Sheriff’s detective Ali Perez, Sheriff’s Sgt. Craig T. Johnson and Deputy Michael Spears were met with gunfire from a high-caliber rifle when they went to arrest a man suspected of abusing two girls in Lakeside last September.

Perez and Johnson were shot. Spears was not injured and assisted Johnson to a safe location, then helped cover other officers who rescued Perez from the apartment.

All deputies said they were humbled to be chosen for the STAR award.

“It’s an honor to me being an abused child myself,” said Spears. “This is one of my career highlights.”

Johnson, who was shot in the arm and abdomen, said he is grateful that he has been able to return to work.

“I’m glad that we’re all alive. I’m very thankful for all the support from the community and law enforcement,” said Sgt. Johnson.

Perez, who suffered the most serious injuries, has not yet returned to work and wears a sling on his arm.

“It’s very humbling. Men and women (in law enforcement) do this job every day, the same thing we do, so to be recognized is a privilege,” he said.

As for the ordeal they went through, all deputies said they felt divine intervention helped them survive and recover.

Sharon Delphenich

Sharon Delphenich is a social worker who has dedicated nearly 40 years to improving the lives of children and families. She spent the past 16 years as the executive director at Casa de Amparo. She recently announced her retirement but will leave behind a legacy of mentoring, establishing community alliances and building a strong foundation for ending generational cycles of abuse.

Under her leadership, Casa de Amparo has become a leader in the treatment and prevention of child abuse and neglect, increased the number of programs dealing with abuse and oversaw the opening of a new, expanded campus in San Marcos.

Brandi Cropper

Brandi Cropper volunteers as a court-appointed special advocate (CASA) for Voices of Children, which serves foster youth who have been abused, neglected or abandoned. A CASA acts as a child’s advocate as their case is handled in the court system. After enlisting in the Navy, Cropper continued her advocate role through two six-month deployments, including videotaping herself reading to the child.

Michael Carr

Michael Carr has been the executive director of Social Advocates for Youth (SAY) San Diego for more than 30 years. SAY San Diego is a local non-profit organization that helps families overcome barriers and develop skills. Under Carr’s leadership, SAY San Diego has expanded from offering services out of one location to more than 50 throughout the City of San Diego.

Carr was instrumental in the formation of the Community Services to Families child abuse prevention program that has been used as a model for other communities.

Mi Escuelita Preschool – South Bay Community Services

Mi Escuelita is a therapeutic preschool designed to serve children 3-5 years old who have been traumatized by family violence and/or abuse and neglect. The goal is to support the development of vulnerable children. Since it opened in 2006, the preschool has demonstrated outstanding success rates. Students in the program have shown that they are ready for kindergarten and score similarly or better than their peers.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact