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11/16/21news article

Child advocacy center makes a plea for consistent funding as COVID-19 impacts Warren County’s ability to care for abused, trafficked and neglected children

Representative Scott Lipps, Warren County Prosecutor David Fornshell, Judge Joseph Kirby, Judge Jeffrey Kirby, leaders of the Child Advocacy Center of Warren County and the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers (ONCAC) met to discuss the desperate need for stable and consistent funding for the centers who work tirelessly to provide
specialized services to abused or neglected children.

The year 2020 was anything but average. As the state weathered a medical emergency, the child advocacy centers of Ohio remained open as a first-responder resource for abused, trafficked and neglected children.

In an average year, Ohio’s Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) serve approximately 11,700 children across our state. These are children who have suffered the horrors of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

In 2020, funding fell drastically. The pandemic severely diminished the number and scale of fundraisers which comprise the bulk of income used to the run the center. At the same time and for the fourth year in a row, funds from the Department of Justice’s Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) sent to the Child Advocacy Center of Warren County and all children’s advocacy centers across the state dropped to a new low.

Children’s advocacy supporters asked the representatives present to be a voice in the legislature and request funds from the American Rescue Plan to provide some relief. The Rescue Plan is $350 billion in emergency federal funding for eligible state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

While there is hope that VOCA funds will return in a few years to previous levels and that Rescue Plan funds will provide some relief, those funds won’t be available quickly. The situation also showcases how unstable the funding model is for a center that does such important work for Ohio’s children.

The Ohio legislators, ONCAC and Child Advocacy Center leaders met to discuss the best ways to get a line item in the state budget that funds the centers, guaranteeing a stable funding source to support programs and staff. Ohio is one of only seven states in the country that does not have a line item in the state budget to support child advocacy centers.  While the next budget cycle is more than a year away, the grassroots effort to support the cause needs to start now to have its voice heard come budget time. We now appeal to the public to help #SaveOhioChildren.

In recent years the scope of child abuse and trafficking, including the extent that it impacts families and children nationwide, has been brought to light by increased media attention. This problem can be intimidating, or even frightening, and many may feel powerless on how to help area children.

The members of the ONCAC know that the vital work of addressing childhood trauma must be taken on as a team. These are children who have suffered the horrors of all types of child maltreatment, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

At the Child Advocacy Center of Warren County, a child and their family are provided a kid-friendly environment where they will receive coordinated, specialized interventions following concerns of abuse or trauma.  This child will be able to talk to a trained, trauma-informed professional about their traumatic experience and receive dedicated medical and mental health services.  Non-offending family members receive the emotional support, information on the process, and follow-up services to navigate the aftermath of trauma that can often be overwhelming and confusing. The Child Advocacy Center of Warren County also provides outreach and education in the community, going into schools and other settings to provide information on abuse prevention and resources on how to recognize signs of abuse and trafficking and intervene appropriately.