Advocacy center should be a priority

The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County couldn't have picked a worse time to try to find money for a move, which may make its request for $835,000 a hard sell at today's Sedgwick County Commission meeting.

But the proposal stems from commissioners' request last summer that the county and center collaborate on a plan. Budget worries and all, commissioners should find a way to help the center, so the center can better help the county's endangered children.

The long-sought center needs a site roomy and accessible enough to serve the child-focused, cooperative handling of cases by a team of law enforcement investigators, prosecutors, social workers, advocates, and medical and mental health professionals.

As it is, the center is making the best of its space in the Finney State Office Building, assisting 2,500 children a year who are sexually and physically abused, runaways or victims of Internet crime. But there is an urgent need for a space that allows greater separation between child victims and abusers from other cases. They should not have to share a waiting room. And a more appropriate site would allow for greater efficiency, streamlined services and less stress on traumatized victims.

With $835,000 from the county, including $350,000 from the county's contingency funds and a grant from the county's Comcare, the center could move in two or three months to office space it's found at Twin Lakes.

The 16 similar centers around the state — located in everything from remodeled homes to freestanding facilities to office suites to a mobile RV — are funded variously, including with private, state, city and county funds. Even after the Sedgwick County center moves into a new home, the challenge of finding sustainable funding will continue. The request to the commission is for one-time funding.

"Our goal is that we will be able to get into a facility and do some significant implementation of services, which will provide more knowledge to the community, and be able to gain more public and private support," Diana Schunn, the center's executive director, told The Eagle editorial board.

Fortunately, Sedgwick County no longer has to wonder when it will join other counties in having a child advocacy center, where children in peril can be helped in the most holistic way possible. But the 2-year-old Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County can't operate as intended without the right site. County commissioners should treat it as the high priority it is.