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Effects of COVID on Child Advocacy

By Mary Kuniski

The novel coronavirus outbreak, which causes a deadly respiratory illness, not only impacts the communities, families, and children served by the nation’s Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) in terms of safety. The virus also threatens the financial viability of many of the funding sources CACs rely on who offer services to children who are abused or receive maltreatment.

Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC) across the state are in dire need of more funding. 90% of all fund- raising events have been cancelled and most advocacy centers were unprepared to implement online fundraising events.  Elected officials have looked at the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) as a place to cut funding. The fund is financed by fines and penalties paid by convicted federal offenders, not from tax dollars and these dollars have continued to decrease since the establishment of the bill in 1984 and has been a solid ongoing source of income to run the advocacy centers.

Many advocacy Centers have had to close their doors for fear of passing the virus on to its workers and clients.  The CACs experienced additional expenses when developing a plan to safely interview and examine children using plastic shields and PPE creating a gap in funding these non-profit organizations.

Worse yet, schools have been closed and children have been ordered to shelter-at-home leaving them alone at home with their abusers. The children had no way to report the abuse or receive help. Parents were stressed out and, in many cases, took out their stress on the children. One benefit of the virus has been the improvement of the computer-based healthcare systems. These systems have been in use for several years but the need for them has become so great that significant improvements have been made so children can receive counseling online from qualified providers. Unfortunately, children can be quite shy about this source of counseling for fear that their abuser is looking on.

Child advocacy centers are critically important to the community. Advocacy centers are community-based, child-friendly, multidisciplinary services for children and families affected by sexual abuse or severe physical abuse. They bring together child protective services investigators, law enforcement, prosecutors, and medical and mental health professionals to provide a coordinated, comprehensive response to victims and their caregivers and provide forensic interviews and examinations to help identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice. This approach continues to be our mission at Myrtle Beach Children’s Recovery Center. We need community support to continue our mission. Won’t you please help by providing a donation today! Every dollar goes to helping a child live a better life!

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