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Gill/Ruiz Call GOP Failure To Support Funding Restoration For Sexually, Physically Abused Children ‘Stunning’

Officials Say Move Will Force Closure of Essex-based Center

TRENTON – Senators Nia H. Gill (D-Essex) and M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex/Union) today said the failure of Senate Republicans to support the restoration of funding to a program that provides services to children who have suffered sexual and physical abuse was a stunning action that places critical treatment and counseling services in jeopardy.

The Senators expressed their dismay after a failed attempt by the Senate to override a $537,000 cut to the Wynona Lipman Child Advocacy Center, which the governor vetoed from the FY 2012 budget. Officials at the facility have said the loss of funding will force the center to close.

“This is not about politics. This is about real life for thousands of children who have suffered traumatic abuse, often times at the hands of someone they know. Wynona�s House provides critical medical and counseling services to these young people, and does so in a unique way that seeks to minimize the trauma they experience in the aftermath of abuse. They do this by bringing together service providers to treat and counsel children in a compassionate manner. This approach allows officials to conduct a single interview of an abused child, as opposed to having the victim go through the details of their ordeal over and over again with numerous agencies,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex). “That the Republican Party could not find it in their hearts to support such a program is appalling. This was a stunning act. By abdicating their legislative responsibility, Republicans allowed the governor to cross a dangerous line unchecked.”

Each year in Essex County, there is an average of 5,000 cases of child abuse reported, with over 1,000 cases substantiated � the highest in New Jersey. Of the children and families served by Wynona�s House:

� 83 percent of children are below the age of 11;

� 71 percent of the abuse is sexual in nature;

� 56 percent of families are headed by women;

� 59 percent of families are living at or below the national median income level;

� 92 percent of the alleged offenders are known to the victims.

Statistics show that the need for services is increasing. Already in 2011, 114 children have received video interviews as compared to 171 in all of 2010. The interviews (conducted of children ages 5 through 11) are for use in court proceedings, in lieu of a child testifying.

“The Wynona Lipman center provides a safe haven for young children who have endured sexual or physical abuse. It is a program that offers vital support services and treatment to children at a time when they desperately need them. Without this funding, officials at the facility have said it will be forced to close,” said Senator Ruiz. “This is a horrifying prospect, especially given the fact that Essex County has the highest rate of child abuse in the state. I am shocked and disappointed by today’s vote.

“At a time when everyone recognizes the difficulty of a single organization standing on its own, this program serves as a national model for creating successful partnerships to provide comprehensive services to abused children. It is believed to be the first program in the nation to bring together individuals from a county prosecutor�s office, from DYFS and from medical institutions to ensure that treatment is successful,” added Ruiz. “For the past three years, a line-item has been included in the state budget to fund Wynona�s House. To now defund this item will put this program in jeopardy of closure.”

The Senators� resolution, SCR-200, which would have restored $537,000 to the Newark-based Wynona Lipman Child Advocacy Center, failed by a vote of 24-15. The center serves as a central location to provide medical evaluations and treatment, counseling services, law enforcement support and other services to abused children. Officials at the center have said without a restoration of the cut, which represents 75 percent of state funding to the facility, it will be forced to close. The facility received an allocation of more than $500,000 in each of FY 09, FY 10 and FY 11.