More than twenty years later, I still remember the first child that disclosed to me she had been sexually abused. I was sitting in a fourth-grade classroom talking about body safety with a roomful of these kids sitting at my feet, when in front of the whole class Tiffany* told me her father had been sexually abusing her for years. My world stopped because Tiffany was asking for protection, and in that rural Colorado community so many years ago there was little to be had. I have never felt more helpless.
Thankfully, now, abused children have access to the care and protection of Children's Advocacy Centers. These child-focused, facility-based programs include representatives from many disciplines working together to effectively investigate, prosecute, and treat child sexual abuse and severe physical child abuse. Children's Advocacy Center locations are not only child-focused, but designed to create a sense of safety and security for child victims.
Before the creation of this effective model, a child victim would have to recount their experiences to authorities many times, a continued traumatic experience for the child. With the involvement of a Children's Advocacy Center, the child victim needs to recount their experience only once, and is assured of receiving needed medical care and mental health treatment needed to heal. The goal and mission of the Children's Advocacy Center network is to support the victims, their families and the larger community by providing a coordinated investigation and comprehensive response to each child victim.
Recognizing the value of these programs in preventing and intervening in child abuse, in 1990, The Victims of Child Abuse Act was authorized by Congress to provide funding to Children's Advocacy Centers, National Children's Alliance, and Regional Children's Advocacy Center programs for the development of new child abuse centers and the training of professionals specializing in the intervention and prevention of child abuse. Because of wide bipartisan support these critical supports for abused children have become a nationwide network of care.
Today, National Children's Alliance, and our nearly 800 individual Children's Advocacy Center members across the country, are a successful and critical part of our communities. In 2012, Children's Advocacy Centers helped more than 286,000 victims of child abuse. In addition, as a result of the coordinated response of Children's Advocacy Centers, communities with a center save on average $1,000 per child abuse case compared to those communities without a center.
Unfortunately, President Obama's Administration plans to cut the federal funding for this important program and its future is now in question. Given the history of strong success in helping the most vulnerable children and their cost-effectiveness, this is truly mystifying.
As this issue will affect not only child victims of abuse, but the economic vitality of our communities as a whole, I urge you to write to your Members of Congress urging them to keep the funding for the Children's Advocacy Center in your local community, and to support funding of the Victims of Child Abuse Act in the 2014 federal budget. To find out more about your community's local Children's Advocacy Center, visit http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org. Children's Advocacy Centers do incredible work on behalf of child victims every single day, and the services provided to those who need it the most are too important to leave on the line.
I often think of Tiffany and the turns her life may have taken with what little help could be provided to her so many years ago. Because of the work of Children's Advocacy Centers, when a child comes forward today and asks for help, I'm confident that child will be put on the path to hope and healing. And, I'm calling on Congress to continue their vital support of the Victims of Child Abuse Act funding so the estimated more than 250,000 children who will be abused in 2014, receive the help they deserve.
To learn more about Children's Advocacy Centers and how you can help, contact us at http://www.nationalchildrensalliance.org.
*'Tiffany's' name has been changed for privacy concerns.