FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2012
SCHUMER: CHILD ABUSE CASES SPIKED NEARLY 60% IN OSWEGO COUNTY CENTER LAST YEAR ALONE – PUSHES LEGISLATION TO CRACK DOWN ON CHILD ABUSE AND GIVE LOCAL HELP CENTERS & COURTS THE TOOLS THEY NEED TO FIGHT BACK
Today, at the Child Advocacy Center of Oswego County in Fulton, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer called on the U.S. House of Representatives to follow the Senate’s lead and pass the Violence Against Women Act of 2012 which would help beat back the growing scourge of child abuse in Oswego County. A new report from the Child Advocacy Center shows that reported cases of child abuse spiked 58% from 2010-2011, with the Center serving 384 children that were victims of child abuse. There were an alleged 272 adult offenders in the county last year alone, evidence that child abuse continues to become more common in the County. The Violence Against Women Act, a law that Schumer originally authored in 1994, would provide grants to health care providers to fund training so that providers can easily identify symptoms of child abuse and report cases to stop the abuse before it can continue. The law would also provide training for law enforcement and court officers dealing with child abuse cases, and provides funding for court advocates to stand up for victims in cases. Oswego County does not currently have a court advocate, but the legislation Schumer supports provides funding to support this position, which will be an important part of the county’s efforts to stop this alarming trend.
“Tragically, Oswego County has experienced a growing scourge of child abuse in recent years, and the federal government must be arming local officials and law enforcement with every tool to combat this trend and protect our children,” said Schumer. “The reauthorization of VAWA is more important than ever at a time when local organizations are strapped for resources, but still must carry out such an invaluable role in the fight against child abuse. The Violence Against Women Act literally saves lives, both women and children alike, and this legislation would help provide grants for health care providers to better detect abuse, local court training in child abuse cases, and could even establish a much-needed court victim advocate in Oswego County. Since the Violence Against Women Act first went into effect in 1994, our nation has taken great strides towards helping victims of domestic abuse and prosecuting their abusers, but Oswego County demonstrates that there is more to be done. That’s why it’s a no-brainer to renew this crucial legislation, as we have done time and time again. Our children must be protected and the Oswego County officials, who are working hard to fight back against this trend, need all the necessary tools to crackdown.”
Schumer was joined by Gregg Heffner, Oswego County Social Services Commissioner, Oswego County District Attorney Greg Oakes and staff of the Child Advocacy Center as well as Oswego County School Superintendents as he pushed for the passage of the Senate-passed Violence Against Women Act. Schumer cited the troubling uptick of child abuse in Oswego County in recent years, in his push for the House of Representatives to pass life-saving VAWA legislation. According to a study by Cornell University, Oswego County caseworkers handle an average of 139 cases per year, which is nearly double the national and state average of 72 cases. This demonstrates a clear need for additional resources and support for a child abuse prevention system already stretched too thin.
The Child Advocacy Center in Fulton County is one of the primary locations for child abuse to be reported in the region, and Schumer cited several unfortunate increases in reported child abuse in 2011. CAC served 384 new children, up from a total of 243 children in 2010. The total number of alleged offenders of such abuse-related crimes jumped from 192 in 2010, to 272 offenders in 2011. Over 150 times was that offender a parent or stepparent of the abused child. Types of abuse reported in 2011 included sexual abuse most prominently, as well as physical abuse, neglect, and exposure to drugs. Schumer also noted that while the Child Advocacy Center is doing stellar work on behalf of these abused children in Oswego County, they are in desperate need of support and additional resources. The CAC experienced 130 new cases of on-site mental health services and 1,820 therapy sessions in 2011.
The original VAWA bill, which was authored by Schumer when he was a member of the House, expired one year ago. Many of the programs have continued to receive funding over the last year thanks to continuing resolutions passed by the House and Senate. The legislation Schumer supports would renew several successful programs to prevent violence against women and assisting victims of domestic violence, which in Oswego County includes an epidemic of child abuse in recent years.
The new VAWA bill also includes a provision that would provide child abuse training for employees of the judicial system, and will allow the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to make grants targeted at improving the judicial system’s ability to help victims of child abuse. These grants would provide for technical assistance and training to judicial personnel and attorneys, particularly those in juvenile and family courts, and would fund needed administrative reform. Programs funded by these grants would include procedures for:
· Determining whether child service agencies have made reasonable efforts to prevent placement of children in foster care;
· Determining whether child service agencies have, after placement of children in foster care, made reasonable efforts to reunite the family;
· Coordinating information and services among health professionals, social workers, law enforcement professionals, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and juvenile and family court personnel.
For the first time, the VAWA bill would allow the Public Health Service to give grants to healthcare nonprofits, hospitals, and medical schools to provide training for recognizing and treating child abuse. Schumer noted that the fact that child abuse cases are rapidly climbing in Oswego County attests to the importance of expert training so that health care professionals can recognize and respond to signs of abuse as quickly as possible.
Schumer noted that VAWA would also reauthorize the Court Appointed Special Advocate program (CASA), a network of affiliate programs whose trained volunteers advocate for the best interest of children in cases of abuse and neglect, and Oswego County, which doesn’t currently have a CASA program, would be eligible to apply for funding to create this position through the federal program. These local CASA programs, currently operate in 34 New York counties, and recruit, train and supervise nearly 905 volunteers that advocate for children in the court and welfare system. The CASA programs help Family Courts make crucial decisions affecting children who have been abused and neglected, and would be vital in giving children from Oswego County, and across New York State, access to professionals capable of giving them the help they need. Oswego County court officials have told Schumer they plan to apply to create the advocate position in the event the final bill is passed and becomes law. Schumer is calling for VAWA’s reauthorization, which could allow CASA funding to be used in Oswego County to develop such an advocacy program.
Schumer today called on the House of Representatives to take up and pass the Senate version of VAWA, which is the only version of the legislation that has the support of the advocates who work on the ground with the victims of domestic violence.