Legislation that will increase funding to Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) and Multi-Disciplinary Child Abuse Teams was signed by Gov. Brad Henry this week.
Sen. Jonathan Nichols, R-Norman, originally authored an amendment that was included in HB 1282. The amendatory language that is now law earmarks a $3 fee on criminal filings for programs that investigate child abuse cases. The new fee could generate as much as one million new dollars for Child Advocacy Centers (CACs) and Multi-Disciplinary Teams.
“Child Advocacy Centers across the state could see their budgets increase by as much as fifty percent over the next two years,” said Nichols. “This increase in their funding is long over due, but still is not enough.”
CACs pool local resources in one location in order to reduce the trauma on children that can occur during the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases.
“The experts who run these Child Advocacy Centers are on the front line of fighting these horrible crimes against children,” said Nichols, “And Norman’s Mary Abbott House is a model for how these centers operate.”
Cleveland County’s CAC is located in central Norman and is named after Dr. Mary Abbott, who was a pioneer in creating multi-disciplinary teams that investigated child abuse cases.
Under the directorship of Jeannine Baker, The Mary Abbott Children’s House serves child victims of sexual and severe physical abuse and neglect through coordinated interagency investigation, intervention, education and advocacy.
“We are seeing a tremendous increase in the number of cases that come through CACs,” said Baker. “Abbott House has served 321 children in the first five months of this year, compared to 450 for all of 2006. Increased funding will help us provide services to child victims in these sensitive cases.”
Nichols, who serves as Co-Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Safety, also increased funding by $220,000 to the Oklahoma Child Abuse Response Team (CART).
“CART, which is housed at the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, is responsible for implementing the Kelsey Briggs Act,” said Nichols. “Whenever a District Judge or the Department of Human Services calls the OSBI in to join investigations of child abuse, the Child Abuse Response Team responds.”
Nichols’ increase in funding to CART will pay for two additional criminal investigators who will join an already funded child abuse forensic interviewer.
"Nothing is more despicable than a crime against a child,” said OSBI Director DeWade Langley. “Now, thanks to the outstanding leadership of Senator Nichols and the support of the legislature, we have two new positions that will allow for a rapid, professional response to these heartbreaking events.”