The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County is asking for $1 million from the county to boost its campaign to put help for abused and neglected children under one roof.
Executive director Diana Schunn will speak to commissioners Tuesday about the plans underway to renovate the former Lincoln Elementary School just south of downtown Wichita so the people who help such children can work in the same place.
Money from the county would allow “for a more effective team response, placing essential child abuse services in one location, which immediately begins the physical and emotional healing process,” Schunn said in a letter to County Manager William Buchanan and commissioners.
The advocacy center now is housed in the basement of the State Office Building. So is the Exploited and Missing Child Unit, a joint unit of the Wichita Police Department and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office that investigates child abuse and neglect. The unit works as a team with social workers from the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
The move to the former school will allow about 55 people from eight agencies to work together in one place to help children. Schunn hopes that will help lessen the trauma children endure when they have to tell strangers what happened to them.
“We’ve raised over $4 million toward our $6.5 million goal,” Schunn said Monday.
The center needs to raise about $135,000 in private donations by Dec. 15 toward a $500,000 challenge grant.
The county’s $1 million, if approved by commissioners, would not count toward the challenge grant.
A majority of commissioners appears to support the center’s fundraising efforts for the building. The county gave the center $205,000 this year for its operating budget, and commissioners approved that same amount for next year. The $1 million for the capital campaign is separate from that funding.
“I believe we have done a good job of informing them of the need and from there, there’s obvious benefits to our community,” Schunn said of the center’s request.
Commissioner Tim Norton has been working on the center’s campaign as part of its leadership council.
“Children’s issues are pretty close to my heart,” Norton said. “I was on the original child abuse prevention council back in the ’80s here, which morphed into the Kansas Children’s Service League. I’ve come to the conclusion that this one-stop center ... is a good thing and that having a stand-alone facility brings all of those folks together in a place where they can collaborate and can do their work in a better manner.”
The center serves about 2,000 children a year.
“It’s an issue that’s not going away,” Norton said of child abuse and neglect.
Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said the current offices at the state building are “just not a good work environment.”
The basement is dark and crowded, he said.
Children also are at risk of running into the people who abused them. Suspects being investigated use the same entrance and bank of elevators as child victims do.
“It’s not really very healthy for the mental state of the people working there or for their mission of caring for the offended youngsters,” Unruh said of the state building.
Commissioner Richard Ranzau said he wants to learn more about where in the county’s budget the money would come from, “but I’m supportive of the project in general.”