Funding will Allow 26 State-Approved Centers to Purchase Video Recording Equipment; Hire Specially Trained Staff to Interview Young Victims of Sexual and Physical Abuse
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 26 state-approved Child Advocacy Centers will share more than $4 million to enhance services provided to children who are victims of crime. The centers are located across New York State and will use the funding to offset the cost of purchasing and installing video recording equipment, as well as hiring specially trained staff to interview young victims of sexual and physical abuse.
"This critical funding will help provide a safe haven for children who have suffered from abuse and help them take the first step on the road to recovery," Governor Cuomo said. "With this funding, child advocacy centers will be better equipped to partner with law enforcement to bring the abusers to justice while offering effective emotional support services to child victims and their families."
Child Advocacy Centers allow multidisciplinary teams of law enforcement, child protective services professionals, prosecutors, medical and mental health providers, and victim advocates to partner with center staff and respond to allegations of child abuse. This collaborative approach helps to reduce trauma experienced by child victims, assists their families, provides necessary support services and allows for thorough investigations to hold offenders accountable.
Congressman José E. Serrano said, "This funding is an important resource to help children who are victims of crime, and I thank Governor Cuomo targeting some of this funding to the Bronx. As the Ranking Member on the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations subcommittee, I am glad to see some of the VOCA funds we allocated last year being put to such good use by Governor Cuomo in order to protect and support Bronx families."
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, "I want to thank Governor Cuomo for helping our folks in Putnam County create a place where kids can feel safe in sharing what happened to them, start the healing process, and make sure we put the bad guys away. This is an important step in supporting survivors of abuse and putting the monsters that hurt them behind bars."
The grant funding will allow the Child Advocacy Centers to either hire a specially trained forensic interviewer or an appropriate consultant to handle interviews with child victims. These skilled professionals create an environment that provides children with a safe space to disclose abuse, reduces the number of times they must tell what happened, and helps children with their healing process. All centers also will purchase a variety of equipment to facilitate those interviews and allow multidisciplinary team members to communicate in real time while cases are being investigated, including video recording and conference call equipment, laptops, cell phones and smart boards.
Administered by the state Office of Victim Services, the grants are funded through the federal Victims of Crime Act and the state's Criminal Justice Improvement account, both of which are funded through fines, fees and surcharges paid by certain offenders after conviction in state or federal court.
Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, "As a former prosecutor, I can speak to the complex and heart-wrenching nature of child abuse cases and how essential it is to have services readily available to traumatized children and their families. Child Advocacy Centers provide these critical services and this additional funding will allow those Centers to ensure that interviews are conducted by specially trained individuals in a manner and setting that is least intrusive to the child victims of physical or sexual abuse."
The Office of Victim Services worked with the state Office of Children and Family Services - which approves and also funds Child Advocacy Centers - to determine how the funding could best support the centers' important work. OVS provides additional funding to 18 Child Advocacy Centers to provide direct services to children and families; those centers are part of a network of 223 victim assistance programs across the state that is funded by the agency.
Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, "OCFS commends this investment in Child Advocacy Centers, which serve 19,000 children and families annually. While we wish there was no need for these centers, we recognize their heroic efforts and the importance of children receiving services in their community in a child-friendly atmosphere. The coordinated approach the centers use in investigating and prosecuting child abusers spares children and their non-offending family members from having to relive the experience over and over in retelling their stories."
The two-year grant funding cycle coincides with the federal fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1, 2017 and running through Sept. 30, 2019. The following 21 agencies and organizations will receive the grant funding for 26 centers they operate; some centers have multiple sites:
New York City
Safe Horizon for its Child Advocacy Center in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island: $826,113
The Safe Center LI (Nassau County): $162,185
Putnam County Department of Social Services: $80,223
Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties: $138,077
Saratoga Center for the Family: $125,121
START Children's Center in Rensselaer County: $153,920
Clinton County District Attorney's Office: $331,340
Victims Assistance Center of Jefferson County: $355,535
Oneida County Sheriff's Office: $186,040
Central New York
CAC Foundation in Oswego County: $199,640
Madison County Sheriff's Office: $183,767
McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center (Onondaga County): $199,711
Crime Victims Assistance Center for two centers, one in Broome County, one in Chenango County: $118,097
Family Services of Chemung County: $72,604
Southern Tier Health Care System (Allegany and Cattaraugus counties): $345,630
Cayuga Counseling Services: $8,988 (equipment only)
Genesee County: $65,847
Partnership for Ontario County: $122,000
Western New York
Child and Adolescent Treatment Services in Erie County: $144,447
Friends of the Chautauqua County Child Advocacy Program: $157,129
Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center: $85,622
The Office of Victim Services provides a safety net for individuals and/or their family members who have been victimized through no fault of their own and have no other means of assistance. The agency can compensate individuals for medical and counseling expenses, funeral and burial expenses, and lost wages and support, among other assistance. It is a payer of last resort: all other sources of assistance, such as medical insurance and workers' compensation, must be exhausted before the agency can pay a victim or their family members for any out-of-pocket losses related to the crime.
The agency provided a total of $22 million to assist crime victims and their families in 2016, which represents claims paid for the first time last year or those from prior years. New York is the only state in the nation that has no cap on counseling or medical expenses, which means crime victims and family members can receive help as along as it is necessary. Last year, OVS provided compensation to 4,667 children who were the victims of sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect or the subject of child pornography; the vast majority of which were for children who were abused sexually. This represented approximately one-third of all compensation claims paid by the agency in 2016.
OVS also provides $45.5 million in funding to a network of 223 victim assistance programs that serve women, men and children in every county of the state. Funding for crime victims' compensation and the cost of the agency's day-to-day operations comes entirely from the fines, mandatory surcharges and crime victim assistance fees that certain offenders must pay following conviction in New York State or federal courts. Those fines and fees also fund nearly all of the grants provided by OVS to its network of victim assistance programs.