Funding slashed for local child advocacy centers

Left, State Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr. (D-Dayton); Fred Moore, legislative aide to Rep. Andrea White; and State Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.) speak with  
Libby Nicholson,
director of Montgomery County-based CARE House. KAITLIN SCHROEDER
Caption
Left, State Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr. (D-Dayton); Fred Moore, legislative aide to Rep. Andrea White; and State Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.) speak with Libby Nicholson, director of Montgomery County-based CARE House. KAITLIN SCHROEDER

The centers, which help child abuse victims, are lobbying for federal money and state budget support.

DAYTON — Funding has dropped dramatically over the last three years for local hubs that help child abuse victims.

A major source of support for child advocacy centers is the fines and fees associated with white collar crime, but those corporate crimes lately have been pursued less and settled outside of a trial more often, according to the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers. That means fewer federal settlements funneled down into grants for these centers, which serve more than 11,000 children per year in Ohio.

While Congress passed legislation to shore up the loss, it will take several years for that change to kick in. In the meantime, centers are seeking American Rescue Plan dollars and they want to be added to future Ohio budgets.

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“When there’s a high-profile case in any community, everybody jumps all over and wants to point fingers about where the failures were,” said Libby Nicholson, director at CARE House, the child advocacy center for Montgomery County. “Children’s advocacy centers are an example of how we can increase the likelihood that children are never going to fall through those cracks again.”

Children are interviewed by someone who is trained to speak with young abuse victims, and the agencies who need to learn that information are able to view through a two-way mirror. The child is recorded and aware they are being recorded. If done correctly, the recording can also be used in court.

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Without advocacy centers, children who have to tell their story many times sometimes change their story, forget details or become increasingly traumatized, advocates said. The criminal abuse case is also then weakened.

“The main reason that care houses were developed is to eliminate the number of times that a child was interviewed,” said Debra Armanini, Montgomery County first assistant prosecutor.

Caption
A child interview room at CARE House. KAITLIN SCHROEDER

A child interview room at CARE House. KAITLIN SCHROEDER
Caption
A child interview room at CARE House. KAITLIN SCHROEDER

Research shows that defendants convicted of sex crimes against children were sentenced to longer prison terms when they had been investigated via the centers’ multidisciplinary model.

The centers also connect child abuse victims to specific treatment and resources focused on their specialized needs. Dayton’s center now has space for mental health screening and to see a doctor on site.

Locally, this includes CARE House in Montgomery County, Clark County Child Advocacy Center, Child Advocacy Center of Warren County, and Michael’s House in Greene County.

In Ohio, these centers have been funded through the federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds.

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There has been a 70% cut in VOCA funding during the past three years, with children’s advocacy centers losing more than $4.2 million.

“For Care House, that means a loss of over $100,000. And for an annual budget that is just over $400,000, that is a devastating loss,” Nicholson said.

Additionally, Ohio centers fundraise to fully fund their budgets, but many of the annual fundraisers were cancelled due to COVID-19 mass gathering restrictions.

“The $2.9 million of fundraising has just been lost,” said Brad Feldman, executive director of the Ohio Network of Children’s Advocacy Centers.

In July, the VOCA Fix to Sustain the Crime Victims Fund Act passed at the federal level, but advocacy center officials say it will take at least two years until annual funding levels are restored.

Feldman said they were not successful in getting a line item added to the most recent state budget, but they plan to ask for state budget funding in the next cycle.

Ohio state government departments are also working on lists of requests for the remaining state ARPA money, and the advocacy centers are seeking a department to request $7.1 million on their behalf.

“Again, the long-term solution is to get Ohio’s support on the state budget line item,” Feldman said.

Many organizations are vying for the remaining ARPA money. Dan Tierney, spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine, said like many other ARPA funding requests, these requests have been received and are under review.

The Dayton-area legislative delegation was invited to CARE House on Monday to hear about their services and funding pitch.

State Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr. (D-Dayton); Fred Moore, legislative aide to Rep. Andrea White; and State Rep. Tom Young (R-Washington Twp.) took a tour and asked for a detailed breakout of funding and data.


Child advocacy centers

Ohio is home to 37 accredited and developing centers. In an average year, Ohio’s Children’s Advocacy Centers serve approximately 11,700 children across the state.

Locally, this includes

  • Clark County Child Advocacy Center
  • Michael’s House in Greene County
  • CARE House in Montgomery County
  • Child Advocacy Center of Warren County

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