Child Abuse Victims Will Suffer if Funding Isn't in Place
Three Triad non-profits are banding together to raise more than a quarter of a million dollars to help abused children. A community fundraising campaign is underway to replace the loss of state and federal funding for child abuse and neglect programs.
Several community leaders, child advocacy agencies and local law enforcement officials gathered at the Hall of Justice in Winston-Salem Tuesday to address what they say is a critical need for children in our community.
“In 2011, when you look at across the board in Forsyth County of all of the sexual assaults that occurred, 35 percent of all sexual assaults were committed against children under the age of eight years old, and when you look at us compared across the state, that’s at a rate that is almost 50 percent higher than our neighbors,” says Jim O’Neill, Forsyth County District Attorney.
Family Services, The Children’s Law Center and Exchange /SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) announced they will lose more than $250,000 in anticipated funds this year. The agencies provide services to hundreds of abused children each year.
O’Neill says the budget cuts are putting a major resource for abused children and their families in jeopardy: The Child Advocacy Center in Winston-Salem. The colorful rooms and toys in the center provide a child safe and friendly environment for law enforcement, forensic counselors and therapists to conduct interviews with abuse victims.
O’Neill says the center also provides counseling for children at a time when they need it the most.
“If we don’t get this funding or raise this money, the next six year-old that is abused by a perpetrator is going to have to be interviewed about what happened to them at the police department, which is not a child safe or child friendly environment,” says O’Neill
“We want the kids to open up and we want them to tell us what is going on and this is a dual purpose. We can get them counseling that they need and we can go after the perpetrators and keep the community safe,” O'Neill says.
Campaign organizers say the state funding cuts will also impact the number staff members at The Children’s Law Center of Central North Carolina. Executive director, Iris Sunshine, says her agency provides a voice for abused children in the court system.
“We did not receive $116,000 in funding we anticipated for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Last year, we served 243 children in our community. In 2010 to the end of-2012, we saw a 62 percent increase in the number of children that we served.”
Exchange /SCAN provides in home counseling and education services for families in 16 counties. The agency is also in danger of losing resources to aid abused children. Cynthia Napoleon-Hanger, Executive Director of the agency says child abuse crosses all socio-economic lines and affects the entire community.
“When there isn’t anyone to reach out to children who are suffering to help them get the care and services they might need, it affects juvenile delinquency, it affects children’s ability to function in school, and it brings health concerns for families,” says Napoleon-Hanger.
Organizers are calling their fundraising campaign “Abused Kids Can’t Afford Funding Cuts.”
“This is a collaborative effort. We also have local public relation’s firms and other community organizations donating time and resources. This is a great community that cares. I’m confident we can achieve our goal,” says Bob-Feikema, President and CEO of Family Services in Winston-Salem.
The fundraising campaign to aid victims of child abuse will run through the end of August. For more information, or to make a donation, go to www.helpngourkids.org or text Family to 56512. Donations are tax deductible and will benefit all three agencies.