U.S. Sen. Chris Coons visited the Children’s Advocacy Center in Dover April 26 to announce the support of 30 of his Senate colleagues for his efforts to restore federal funding to the centers, which protect child victims of physical and sexual abuse by providing a safe and effective place for trained professionals to conduct forensic interviews.
“I was very angry that a $20 million line item for this program was eliminated from the federal budget in 2013 and have spoken directly to the U.S. Attorney General about it,” Coons said. “That has continued in the president’s 2014 budget to my disappointment and surprise.”
The president’s proposed budgets for 2013 and 2014 both zeroed-out funding for the Children’s Advocacy Centers. A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Coons has led the effort in Washington to restore it, lobbying the executive branch and building support amongst his Senate colleagues. At the Children’s Advocacy Center in Dover - one of three such facilities in the state - Coons unveiled a letter to the chair and ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee signed by 30 senators urging the funding be restored. That letter can be viewed here: http://1.usa.gov/1827czN.
“I was first made aware of Children’s Advocacy Centers when I was in county government, and folks in our police department who were dealing with domestic violence and child abuse spoke very, very positively about this promising multi-disciplinary approach,” Coons said. “It works by pulling together - in one place, at one time - all the different disciplines that are needed to ensure that mental health services, family services, and law enforcement are able to participate in one interview - a reliable, well-conducted interview that’s admissible in court and prevents the re-traumatization of children, and makes it possible for us to get to the bottom of what are truly tragic incidents of violence and violence against children.”
Federal funding to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Delaware covers, among other things, the salary of a forensic investigator and three mental health professionals who are specially trained to work with children who have been abused.
“The mental health component of the CAC is so critically important that if we lost our ability to provide those immediate mental health services to children, there would be long-term impact,” said Randy Williams, executive director of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Delaware. “Mental health is a very critical piece of the multi-disciplinary response.” “This gives a child a place to come and open up, and a family a place to start to heal,” said Deputy Attorney General Pat Dailey Lewis, who described the centers’ value as “incalculable.”