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Federal funding to help NYS hire interviewers, improve child abuse investigations


It's Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month, which coincides with the announcement of a $10 million federal grant to enhance services provided to children who are victims of crime.

The New York State Office of Victim Services, who obtained the two-year grant, is making the funding available to some state-approved Child Advocacy Centers. Eligible centers can apply for the funds to help offset the cost to purchase and install video recording equipment and hire specially trained staff to interview young victims of sexual and physical abuse.

“What we’re looking to do is make sure that the programs have the forensic interviewers and equipment that they need to conduct statements and interviews of children that are child sensitive, developmentally and culturally appropriate, and legally sound,” said Director Elizabeth Cronin.

Child Advocacy Centers were developed as a way of trying to minimize the trauma for child victims of crime. The centers bring together the parties who would be dealing with the child, such as police or family court officials, identifying just one person to speak to the child while the others view.

“If you imagine a six-year-old child who’s been through a traumatic event, having to sit in a police squad room answering questions, or being in a District Attorney’s office,” Cronin said. “That can add to the child’s fear and lack of feeling safe.”

All 36 Child Advocacy Centers across the state are eligible to apply for up to $75, 000 annually over two years to pay the salary and benefits of a forensic interviewer, and also up to $50,000 to purchase and install the necessary equipment.

Bivona Child Advocacy Center is one of the contenders.

“Hopefully we’ll get this money so we can say the community does a great job in supporting Bivona,” said Anna Potter, the center’s associate executive director. “If we don’t get this money, what it means is that we have to go back to the community. We have to go back to development strategies and funding asks out to the community and say, ‘Please help us.’"

Applications for funding are due on May 12, 2017, with grants scheduled to be awarded in early summer.

Sasha-Ann Simons joined the team at WXXI News in 2015 as a Multimedia Reporter/Producer. She tells stories about the innovation economy and technology in upstate New York and also does general assignment reporting. Sasha-Ann is the host of Arts InFocus, WXXI-TV's weekly arts and culture program. She is also a fill-in host and regular contributor to Need To Know.