by Cliff Judy (WICHITA, Kan.)
Sedgwick County Commissioners vote to approve funding to help keep the Child Advocacy Center open for another year.
The center wants to help children who are victims of abuse by bringing together several agencies like law enforcement, SRS, and medical personnel in one building.
The vote passed three to two.
- Voted Yes: Dave Unruh, Tim Norton, Gwen Welshimer
- Voted No: Karl Peterjohn, Kelly Parks
The vote gives the CAC $120,000. Last month, commissioners voted to only give money if Wichita and the state also chipped in. The county says the city is considering giving $50,000.
CAC Executive Director Diana Schunn said it was a relief to know they had another year of funding.
"It's a huge rush," Schunn said, "It's a rush, and then you take a breath and know that your next goal is just right out the door."
Peterjohn, chairman of the county commission, made a motion to hold off the vote for another week to gather information he felt was important to his vote. Unruh, Norton, and Welshimer voted against the delay, saying they felt the center needed the money immediately.
By Wednesday afternoon, CAC leaders were already back to work. Schunn said nationally-renowned instructors were in Wichita to help train employees how to initiate case reviews, the multi-agency approach to handling individual cases of abuse.
"We weren't ready to give up," said Schunn. "We know that this is the right thing for the right reasons."
The CAC is still looking for a permanent building.
By Kim Hynes (SEDGWICK COUNTY, Kan.)
Sedgwick County Commissioners change the funding plan for the Child Advocacy Center. Wednesday commissioners were asked to fund $835,000 for the CAC. Instead they voted to spend $335,000 contingent on other agencies provide funding as well.
The CAC is an organization that works to make the investigative process easier for abused children. On average, the CAC works with 2,500 children per year. About half of the children are victims of sexual and physical abuse and the other half are runaways.
The CAC operates as an umbrella organization working with nurses, law enforcement and prosecutors involved in child abuse cases. Right now the CAC is using 8,000 square feet in the State Office Building. It says to provide the adequate level of service, 20,000 square feet is needed. The county money would help the CAC move into a new building.
Chief Financial Officer Chris Chronis says the county can afford the $835,000. The money would come from the general fund contingency budget and COMCARE grant funds.
After Chronis' presentation, commissioners discussed the situation. Commissioner Karl Peterjohn, Gwen Welshimer and Chairmen Kelly Parks are concerned with the county being the largest contributor to the non-profit. They also worried about spending money when the economy could get worse.
Commissioners Tim Norton and Dave Unuh supported the proposal. They say it's time for the county to be a leader for neglected children. They say it's worth taking a chance to help get the CAC into a position where it can raise more money on its own.
After two hours of discussion, Commissioner Gwen Welshimer made a motion to fund $334,000 contingent on the City of Wichita funding $334,000 and the state funding $167,000. Welshimer says the responsibility of the CAC should not only fall to the county.
CAC director Diana Schunn says the state has already funded $112,000 this year and that's all that's available. She says they've asked the city on many occasions for funding, but it can't afford the money this year. She says they'll keep looking for places to raise money, but right now the city and state don't seem like an option.
Commissioners Unruh and Norton said they were disappointed with the motion, saying it was setting the CAC up to fail. They say more community partners are needed, but right now the county can be a leader to get the CAC into a new building. Norton says it may be a risk, but he'd rather take a financial risk to help children than to do nothing.
In the end, a majority of commissioners including Unruh voted in favor of funding $335,000 if the city and state kicked in the rest. Eyewitness News spoke with Wichita City Manager Bob Layton about the matter. He says there's no way the city can provide funding in 2010. He says the city budget doesn't have anything extra to give out at this time.
Schunn says she's disappointed by the commission's decision, but they'll keep working to help abused children. She says they'll keep writing grants and looking for private donors to assist the CAC.
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