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10/18/21 news article

Crucial need for consistent funding as COVID-19 impacts Montgomery County’s ability to care for abused, trafficked and neglected children

Ohio legislators discuss options with CARE House

Libby Nicholson gives a tour of CARE House to state legislators.

Ohio Representatives William Blackshear and Tom Young along with aides from Representative Andrea White’s office, leaders of CARE House and the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers (ONCAC) meet 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 the state. In 2020, CARE House served more than 960 children who were victims of abuse or neglect.

In that same year, 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 CARE House 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 CARE House 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 CARE House (an accredited Children’s Advocacy Center), a coordinated multidisciplinary team response is provided to help ensure child abuse victims in Montgomery County are receiving the specialized services they require.  Necessary medical, emotional, legal, investigative and victim advocacy services exist in one child-friendly location, ensuring that children are not further victimized by the systems intended to protect them.  Trained, trauma-informed forensic interviewers help children talk about their abuse.  Intervention and follow up services such as medical evaluations, therapy, court preparation and ongoing support are provided to help navigate the aftermath of their trauma. CARE House also provides community education on child abuse related topics, including how to recognize signs of abuse and trafficking and how to intervene appropriately.  CARE House provides services free of charge.

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