Funding Will Expand Services for Children and Families in Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga, and Wayne Counties and Bring Mobile Services to St. Lawrence, Delaware, Cattaraugus, Hamilton, Steuben and Franklin Counties
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $4.45 million will be awarded to expand child advocacy centers in four counties and fund new mobile units in six of New York's largest and most rural counties to ensure child abuse victims and their non-offending family members have access to these services closer to home. Child advocacy centers bring child protective services, law enforcement, medical providers, advocacy and therapeutic resources together when allegations of child abuse or maltreatment are made in order to make the investigation process less traumatic for children.
"No child should ever have to endure the trauma of abuse, but it is critical that families going through these excruciatingly difficult situations get the help they need close to home," Governor Cuomo said. "Expanding access to child advocacy centers and mobile units will ensure more child abuse survivors have a safe place to go to get support from trained professionals and put them on a path toward recovery."
"This funding will support child advocacy centers for children who have suffered from abuse and help them on the road to recovery," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "With the expansion of child advocacy centers and new mobile units in rural areas of the state, we are driving down transportation barriers to ensure all children and families have access to the critical health services and emotional support they need to live their best lives."
The New York State Office of Victim Services, in partnership with the Office of Children and Family Services, will provide the $4.45 million in federal Victim of Crime Act funding for the child advocacy center (CAC) expansions. Awardees will receive $150,000 in the first year and $100,000 in the second and third years. The additional centers are planned for Steuben, Sullivan, Tioga and Wayne counties.
CACs serve more than 21,000 children statewide each year, providing critical access to services and support in response to traumatic events for children and their families, such as physical and sexual abuse. The CACs include a multidisciplinary team of professionals from law enforcement, the district attorney's office, Child Protective Services, family advocacy, medical and mental health providers, and staff from the child advocacy center. The CACs are equipped to conduct initial and ongoing forensic interviews, medical exams, and psycho/social assessments in a child- and family-friendly setting.
In addition, six rural counties will receive $250,000 for the purchase of new customized mobile units, and $50,000 a year for three years to cover operation and maintenance of the unit. The funding will aim to help large geographical counties and rural communities that often have limited access to resources and services. Mobile units are planned for St. Lawrence, Delaware, Cattaraugus, Hamilton, Steuben, and Franklin counties.
Each unit is currently being custom built to act as a CAC on wheels, fully equipped with a waiting area, a child-friendly interview room, an observation room, bathroom facilities, as well as recording and observation equipment. The units will be staffed with a victim advocate and will enable team members to choose a centrally located safe place to meet the child and family in their own community. The goal is to reduce trauma for the families by increasing their accessibility to services in these rural communities. The first mobile unit is expected to be on the road in May in Delaware County.
Office of Victim Services Director Elizabeth Cronin said, "Victims of child abuse and their families should have easy access to resources and services no matter where they live. With the development of these new child advocacy centers as well as the addition of the mobile units, we're ensuring that all New York children who may be victims of abuse have a safe space where they can begin the healing process."
Office of Children and Family Services Acting Commissioner Sheila J. Poole said, "Child advocacy centers are a national model of child-protective investigative best practice and OCFS is proud to administer this program on behalf of many key stakeholders. I am grateful for our partnership with the Office of Victim Services; the additional funding they are providing allows for the expansion and access to CACs to grow in communities which need them."
For more information about services offered by the Office of Victim Services, including eligibility guidelines and a list of victim assistance programs that provide direct help such as counseling and crisis intervention, advocacy and legal assistance to crime victims across 62 counties in New York, visit www.ovs.ny.gov or call 1-800-247-8035.
OCFS serves New York by promoting the safety, permanency, and well-being of children, families, and communities. OCFS maintains an active social media presence. "Like" the New York State Office of Children and Family Services Facebook page and follow @NYSOCFS on Twitter in English or the Spanish-language Twitter account, @NYSOCFS en Espanol.