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Children's Advocates Get Vocal on Capitol Hill

PHOTO: Teresa Huizar, National Children's Alliance, has traveled from Arkansas to Washington, D.C., this week to ask members of Congress to support funding the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Courtesy of National Children's Alliance.
PHOTO: Teresa Huizar, National Children's Alliance, has traveled from Arkansas to Washington, D.C., this week to ask members of Congress to support funding the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Courtesy of National Children's Alliance.
April 25, 2013

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Congress is getting visits today from people concerned that funding for child abuse survivors and investigators is falling by the wayside in federal budget negotiations. The Victims of Child Abuse Act has been "zeroed out" in President Obama's 2014 budget proposal. The same thing happened for the 2013 budget year, and the funding was restored only after an uproar from law enforcement and victims' advocates.

Teresa Huizar, executive director of the National Children's Alliance, said this is a battle that should not have to be fought every year.

"When you think about the fact that child sexual abuse affects roughly 20 percent of the female population in this country and about one in eight men or boys, there are lots of people who have a reason to care about this issue and advocate on our behalf," she said.

In Arkansas, almost 12,000 children a year are child-abuse or neglect victims. For 20 years, the Victims of Child Abuse Act has provided part of the funding for Children's Advocacy Centers, where victims of abuse and their families can receive coordinated medical, legal and mental health services.

Huizar said some of the money is also used to run four centers around the country where law enforcement officers, attorneys and investigators get special training to deal with child-abuse cases.

"If this money is eliminated, it doesn't represent some sort of small percentage cut to them; they'll go away entirely," she warned. "It also provides funding for the national District Attorney's office and the work that they do directly with prosecutors, helping them hold offenders accountable on these cases."

The current administration has chosen to shift its focus and funding to services for juvenile offenders instead, she explained. Although that cause is also important, she added, it should not be funded at the expense of child sexual abuse victims.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - AR