The New Jersey Children’s Alliance (NJCA) which supports New Jersey’s 21 county-based Child Advocacy Centers, alongside one of its Child Advocacy Centers (CACs), Wynona’s House, is asking the public to continue to help advocate for NJCA and the state’s Child Advocacy Centers which provide crucial services for child victims of abuse and neglect.

The #StandUpForNJChildren campaign goal now seeks for state legislators to restore partial funding of the $5 million in funding NJCA typically receives annually in the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF) fiscal year budget, following Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget released last week. The campaign is seeking to restore an additional $1.5 million in CAC-MDT Advisory Board Funds in the FY21 budget.

NJCA understands the budgeting challenges due to COVID-19 across the state and is requesting the restoration of an additional $1.5 million in funds to be used strictly to support programs and services.

“COVID-19 has led to an increased risk of child abuse due to added stress and financial instability. This funding decrease will be detrimental to some of our CACs and will lead to cuts in programs and services that will directly impact the mental health and advocacy supports victims of child abuse need to begin healing.” said Nydia Y. Monagas, Psy.D, Executive Director of NJCA.

The New Jersey Children’s Alliance supports all 21 county-based Child Advocacy Centers. Proposed budget cuts will directly impact each county’s CAC and the services it provides to child abuse victims and their families.

“A lack of funding in the next budget would end what has been developing into a game-changing way for Prosecutor’s Offices to provide access to needed services to an at risk group of child victims who often have no other avenue to receive this much needed help,” said Jennifer Webb-McRae, Cumberland County Prosecutor.

COVID-19 has led to an increased need for mental health and advocacy support and has had a disproportionate impact on children of color and children that are from families that are undocumented. CACs require this essential funding to provide mental health services, family advocacy services, and staff/CAC support positions. They also require funding for technology to support investigation and treatment (e.g. tablets for tele-mental health and tele-forensic interviews, teleconferencing services, etc).

“It would be detrimental to the progress that we have finally been able to make after waiting for so long to create a new CAC. To lose funding for the position of a CAC Manager now would only impact the child victims of sexual and physical abuse because they would be left to navigate a system that has been greatly impacted by COVID-19 without a liaison,” remarked Det./Lt. Meredith McKay, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Without this funding our clinical counseling program which provides services to over 85 child victims and their non-offending caregivers, there will be deep cuts to services and economically disadvantaged child victims whose cases have been closed by DCF’s Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) will have no clinical counseling available to them.” said Maria Savatierre, Executive Director, Deirdre’s House, Morris County’s Child Advocacy Center.

“These funds will enable our CAC to continue to build a community network of approved health and mental health providers, provide transportation services for client appointments, and to better assist clients struggling with the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the economic downturn, protests for racial justice and other current issues,” stated Dominic Prophete, CEO, Wynona’s House. “This funding will help address the encroaching psychological and emotional impact on children, helping to avert a mental health crisis in children due to this convergence of national crises.”

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