SALT LAKE CITY – People who run the dozen Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) in Utah 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 did not 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.”
Utah’s 14 Children’s Advocacy Centers handled about 6,000 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 has 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.
“Sometimes, I think it’s one of the best-kept secrets out there, that they exist,” Edwards said. “But they’re doing wonderful things to not only treat and look out for the welfare of the child, but then they’re able to save money in the process for the community, as they combine resources and kind of work with each other, together.”
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.