Opinion Columns & Blogs

Child advocacy centers need federal funding

Statistics tell us that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys will be sexually abused before reaching age 18. All of these children need and deserve an opportunity to receive assistance and begin the healing process, because we know all too well what the future holds for them if they do not.

“Adverse childhood experiences” – the term of art used to describe child abuse and related adverse experiences – have been shown in study after study to result in significant physical and psychological impairments including alcoholism and alcohol abuse; illicit drug use and IV drug abuse; depression, anxiety, hallucinations and suicide; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; ischemic heart disease; sexually transmitted diseases; and early mortality (before age 65).

And these are but a few of the numerous deleterious – and preventable – results.

Children’s advocacy centers are a critical component of early, effective and efficient intervention designed to create a sense of safety and security for the children and emphasize the coordination of investigation and intervention services by bringing together professionals and agencies as a multidisciplinary team to create a child-focused approach to child-abuse cases.

Our own Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County serves nearly 2,500 abused children each year. Working with law enforcement, prosecutors, child protective services, medical providers, victim advocates and mental health professionals, the center works to ensure that our community is safer, offenders are held accountable and child victims heal.

The Child Advocacy Center of Sedgwick County and children’s advocacy centers throughout the nation depend on the funding provided by the Victims of Child Abuse Act for services, technical assistance, training and, in the case of many small rural centers, for their very existence. Supported on a bipartisan basis by Congress since 1994 to help child victims of abuse, this funding is now threatened because, inexplicably, it was not included in the president’s fiscal year 2013 budget.

Given recent media attention to child sexual abuse cases in places without children’s advocacy centers, now is not the time to eliminate funding for this effective response in our own community and in 750 others around the country.

We need your help in calling on Congress to fund the Victims of Child Abuse Act at $20 million for the next fiscal year to ensure that this vital work continues. We can change the outcome of these children’s lives, but we cannot do it alone.