Child advocacy services in jeopardy due to potential budget cuts

Children who have experienced sexual assault or abuse often need a professional to turn to.

Child advocacy services are in jeopardy as the state of Illinois faces possible budget cuts.

To prepare, many organizations are taking action now to help ease the blow of their uncertain financial future.

On Wednesday, the birds were chirping outside the Williamson County Child Advocacy Center, but inside, the clock was ticking.

Grant requests were due to be mailed to Chicago that day.

“We’re applying for dollars for the next fiscal year that we’re not even sure exist,” said Executive Director Leah Brown.

Brown said the services offered at the center are invaluable to children.

From interviews about abuse, to forensics, to counseling…all free.

“There’s no extras in the budget as it is,” said Brown.

Brown said her organization is relying more heavily on fundraising and pinching pennies and said her staff has already been cut in half.

Important projects are being put on hold.

“We’re trying to get the center fully handicap accessible so that every child and family in need can come to us,” said Brown.

State’s Attorney Brandon Zanotti said there are more than 200 new cases of child abuse and assault each month in Williamson County.

“It’s really a nightmare to think of them having to cut the services that they provide,” said Zanotti.

He says he could not do his job without the center’s services.

“Every child needs someone to speak up for them, to listen to them, to hear them,” said Brown.

Brown says she needs more time to prepare, but the clock just keeps ticking.

“The silence about who’s being cut or what is being cut is very unnerving,” said Brown.

Brown told us two-thirds of her budget goes to services for our children.

Only one-third pays employees or goes toward running the center.

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