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Blunt Introduces Bill to Fund Child Abuse Centers

CAC
The sign outside Springfield, Missouri's Child Advocacy Center/Credit: "The Child Advocacy Center, Inc." Facebook Like Page

U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, along with Delaware Senator Chris Coons and other colleagues are calling for the reauthorization of the “Victims of Child Abuse Act” (VOCAA). If passed, the bill would reaffirm funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers, which ceased in 2005. KSMU's Julie Greene has more.

Across the United States, Children’s Advocacy Centers work to help abused and neglected children and to aid law enforcement in catching those responsible.

Children’s Advocacy Center employees are professionally trained to interview children of violent crimes. These interviews are admissible in court and prevent victims from having to repeat their story, which might prevent further trauma. In addition to this service, centers provide physical exams onsite.

In Missouri, there are 22 Child Advocacy Centers, which together help around 7,000 children every year. For 15 years, Barbara Brown-Johnson has been the executive director of the Springfield branch.

“Every facet of our society is impacted by child abuse, bar none, and when we identify early, treat appropriately, intervene swiftly and put the child’s needs first, everybody wins,” Brown-Johnson said.

The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 would boost congressional authorization levels for the first time since VOCAA was authorized in 1990. In a letter this week, Sen. Blunt acknowledges that this moderate proposed increase, from $20 million to $22.5 million, would strengthen the programs through enhanced accountability provisions, non-profit requirements and limitations on conference expenditures.

Brown-Johnson notes that these funds are unrestricted and are very important to her organization as well as others.

“Anyone who knows anything about nonprofits knows that those unrestricted dollars are the sweetest dollars you can get in the door. So, each and every year, we get to say we’re going to plug this hole over here with these funds because we lost this funding, or we know this need is growing, so they are very, very flexible funds.” Brown-Johnson said.

Last year, the Child Advocacy Center, Inc. in Springfield served a total of 1,195 children.

For KSMU News, I’m Julie Greene.