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Child Abuse Prevention Possible Victim of Budget Cut

February 2, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. - Faced with a $10 billion deficit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed creation of a program that lumps together nine or more child welfare and juvenile justice programs. Some believe as a result, home visitation programs that are proven to uncover and help prevent child abuse and neglect will have to compete for a piece of a smaller funding pie.

According to Rensselaer County District Attorney Richard McNally, investing in home visitation programs saves money in the long run, by helping keep children from abusive homes from growing up to become offenders themselves. McNally says he and other law enforcement leaders are calling on the governor to restore the funding.

"It's a sad day to see these programs not get the funding that I think they deserve."

Syracuse Police Chief Frank Fowler agrees that home visitation helps break a generational cycle of crime.

"Right now, we're arresting the children of people that I've arrested some 15 years ago. There's a direct correlation between child abuse in the homes and crime, so this will have a tremendous impact on crime."

Fowler explains home visitations increase public safety by reducing crime among both mothers and children in the program, and save money because babies are healthier and families more self-sufficient.

McNally says he, too, sees how abusive homes feed a cycle of crime.

"I have had the experience of prosecuting offenders and having worked with victims 20 years ago who have now become offenders, specifically in the same crime area that they were victimized in – child sex abuse, child abuse."

Meredith Wiley, state director of the group Fight Crime Invest in Kids, says advocates are especially upset that the governor's plan could render the state ineligible for some of the $1.4 billion in federal funding available to states that maintain home visitation programs.

"If we have programs that we have proven through research prevent child abuse and neglect, and we choose not to invest in them, then we're choosing as a matter of policy to go ahead and allow children to be abused and neglected."

She says the governor's proposal could result in thousands of children at risk of serious injury or death.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY