Last year, 124 abused children walked through the door of the SOS Child Advocacy Center. And, while it is shocking to think of those numbers in our great community, I am so glad that we were there to help them find safety and healing while holding their abuser accountable.
It hasn’t always been like that in Emporia. Prior to the development of the SOS Child Advocacy Center children who were suspected of being abused were interviewed at the police station, in the back of police cars, or in their homes where the abuse possibly occurred. There was also little communication between investigators, therapists, and the families as cases were investigated.
Thankfully those days are long past and now abused children have access to the care and protection of our Children’s Advocacy Center. Children’s Advocacy Centers are child-focused, facility-based programs include representatives from many disciplines working together to effectively investigate, prosecute, and treat child sexual abuse and severe physical child abuse. CACs are not only child-focused, but designed to create a sense of safety and security for child victims.
Before the creation of this effective model, a child victim would have to recount their experiences to authorities many times, a continued traumatic experience for the child. With the involvement of the SOS Child Advocacy Center, the child victim needs to recount their experience only once, and is assured of receiving needed medical care and mental health treatment to heal. The goal and mission of every Children’s Advocacy Center is to support the victims, their families and the larger community by providing a coordinated investigation and comprehensive response to each child victim.
Today, the nearly 800 Children’s Advocacy Centers throughout the country are a successful and critical part of communities nationwide. In 2012, Children’s Advocacy Centers helped more than 286,000 victims of child abuse. In addition, as a result of the coordinated response of Children’s Advocacy Centers, communities with a center save on average $1,000 per child abuse case compared to those communities without a center.
Recognizing the value of these programs in preventing and intervening in child abuse, in 1990, The Victims of Child Abuse Act was authorized by Congress to provide funding to local Children’s Advocacy Centers through our accrediting body National Children’s Alliance, and to Regional Children’s Advocacy Center programs for the training of professionals specializing in the intervention and prevention of child abuse. Because of wide bipartisan support these critical supports for abused children have become a nationwide network of care of which we are a member.
While our CAC has support from our generous community, this federal funding has been critical to our success. This funding has allowed us to train staff members as well as community partners. We are also able to continue educating community members on recognizing the signs of child abuse as well as how to report suspected abuse. This funding ensures that our doors remain open and that we can continue to operate and serve child victims.
Unfortunately, President Obama’s Administration plans to cut the federal funding for this important program and its future is now in question. Given the history of strong success in helping the most vulnerable children and Children’s Advocacy Centers’ cost-effectiveness, this is truly mystifying.
As this issue will affect not only child victims of abuse, but the economic vitality of our community as a whole, I urge you to write to our Members of Congress urging them to keep the funding for the Children’s Advocacy Center here in Emporia through supporting funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act in the 2014 federal appropriations process. The services provided to those who need it the most are too important to leave on the line.
I often think of those abused children in our community before the SOS Child Advocacy Center existed and how their lives turned out. Because of the SOS Child Advocacy Center, when a child comes forward today and asks for help I’m confident that child will be put on the path to hope and healing. And, I’m calling on Congress to continue their vital support of the Victims of Child Abuse Act funding so that the 125 children in Emporia, and the more than a quarter of a million of abused children nationally who will seek help in 2014 are assured of getting it.
To learn more about our Children’s Advocacy Center and how you can help, contact us at 620-343-8742.