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Congress needs to fund child-abuse prevention

Last year, 447 suspected child-abuse victims walked through Children’s Center’s doors. While it is shocking to think of those numbers in our community, I am glad that Children’s Center was here to help them find safety and healing while holding their abusers accountable.

It hasn’t always been like that in Clackamas County. Prior to Children’s Center’s existence, children from all parts of Clackamas County’s 1,879 square miles had to travel to north Portland to obtain a medical assessment for child abuse. For low-income families, the time this process takes and access to transportation were critical barriers to service.

Thankfully those days are gone. Now abused children have access to the care and protection of Children’s Center. Child Abuse Intervention Centers (CAICs) such as Children’s Center are child-focused, medical-based programs that collaborate with representatives from many disciplines to effectively assess, investigate and prosecute child abuse cases.

Today, nearly 800 CAICs throughout the country are a successful and critical part of communities nationwide. In 2012, CAICs helped more than 286,000 victims of child abuse. In addition, as a result of the coordinated response of CAICs, communities with centers saved on average $1,000 per child-abuse case compared to communities without CAICs.

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 local CAICs through our accrediting body, National Children’s Alliance. Because of wide bipartisan support, these critical services for abused children have become a nationwide network of care, of which Children’s Center is a member.

While Children’s Center has deep support from our generous community, this federal funding has been imperative to our success, including supporting our statewide Oregon Network of Child Advocacy Centers and providing training for our clinical employees.

Children’s Center’s assessments include comprehensive head-to-toe exams to determine and document each child’s health and safety by Medical Examiners trained in diagnosing child abuse and neglect, and videotaped forensic interviews with child interviewers specially trained to talk to children of all ages and developmental levels.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s administration plans to cut the federal funding for this important program. Its future is now in question.

As this will affect not only child victims of abuse, but also the economic vitality of our community as a whole, I urge you to write to our members of Congress — Congressman Earl Blumenauer, Congressman Kurt Schrader, Sen. Ron Wyden and Sen. Jeff Merkley in particular, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee — urging them to keep funding for the CAICs in Oregon through support for the Victims of Child Abuse Act in the 2014 federal appropriations process. The services provided to those who need it most are too important to leave on the line.

Because of Children’s Center, when a child comes forward and asks for help I’m confident that child will be put on the path to hope and healing. I’m calling on Congress to continue their vital support of the Victims of Child Abuse Act funding so that the 450 children in Clackamas County and hundreds of thousands of abused children across the nation are assured of getting help.

Barbara Peschiera is the executive director of the Children’s Center, Clackamas County’s sole provider of child-abuse prevention and detection services. To learn more about Children’s Center and how you can help its cause, contact childrenscenter.cc or Barbara@childrenscenter.cc.



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