It's easy to become confused by the budget debate between the White House and Congress, but most of us have faith that somehow cooler heads will prevail and enough money will be allocated to protect abused and neglected children.
After all, children are the most vulnerable citizens in our society--often they have no means and no power to fight for their rights and needs. There is, perhaps, no greater obligation of a civil society than to protect the rights and safety of our children. Besides, it makes good financial sense. A dollar spent to help a neglected or abused child creates immediate cost savings in the foster care and child welfare system, and yields countless dividends throughout the life of each child.
Yet, the Administration's budget for FY 2013 under discussion in Congress calls for the elimination of funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act. Let us hope it was only an oversight, because that Act supports crucial protections for children who have been abused and neglected.
For years the Victims of Child Abuse Act has been a bipartisan expression of federal support for regional and local children's advocacy centers to lessen the trauma abused children must endure, court appointed special advocate programs that provide community advocates, and for the prosecution and court management of child abuse cases. As of October 1 of this year, federal funding for these programs could be eliminated.
Funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act represents a fraction of the federal budget. In the case of CASA for Children, that fraction is three ten thousandths of one percent of the $3.8 trillion federal budget. It is a drop in the bucket in terms of deficit reduction. Yet it has a direct impact on the lives of 660,000 children in the foster care and child welfare system.
Our political leaders seem to have decided that "taking a stand" against spending means cutting the budget for our most vulnerable citizens--the ones who can't fight back.
Surely, our country's leaders did not intentionally pull the rug out from under hundreds of thousands of children. I have to believe the elimination of funding for the Victims of Child Abuse Act was an error.
We must fight back on behalf of our neglected and abused children. We must continue to question policies that seek to balance the budget on the backs of abused and neglected children. Our most vulnerable citizens--our children--deserve better.