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Funding Spared to Help Victims of Child Abuse

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Monday, July 29, 2013   

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - People who run the dozen Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) in Arkansas celebrated this month - but only briefly - as both the U.S. House and Senate appropriations committees kept their federal funding in the budget. It's one step in a longer process. The centers coordinate child abuse investigation and treatment, and they piece together funding from a variety of sources. They were stunned when, for the second year, President Obama didn't include any money for CACs in his budget.

Congress has now disagreed with him, although according to Denise Edwards, senior government affairs officer for the National Children's Alliance, the federal dollars are still not a sure thing.

"The next step is for each of these bills in the House and Senate to go to their respective floors," she said. "At each level, there is the potential that the money could be stripped out, because until a bill is 'gaveled' and signed into law, you honestly can't take anything for granted."

Arkansas' CACs handled 3,900 cases last year. They provide a safe place for children who have been abused to get medical and mental health care, and to talk with specially-trained forensic interviewers without having to recount their stories at multiple steps in the legal process.

The National Children's Alliance is the membership and accrediting organization for more than 850 Children's Advocacy Centers around the nation. Edwards said she's been on Capitol Hill a lot in recent weeks, stressing the fact that handling child abuse cases through a CAC saves communities about $1000 per case by coordinating services.

"You remind them of why they would want to fight for you, because, I mean, the budget numbers are just so tough that you've just got to have as many people fighting for you as possible, so that you ultimately end up staying in the budget," Edwards said. "And the Arkansas delegation, the entire delegation, is very supportive."

The federal funding proposed for the Victims of Child Abuse Act is $19 million, the same as in the previous budget year. CACs also receive some state funding and private donations.



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