The York County Children's Advocacy Center is looking for a 30 percent increase in funding after a policy shift in June has led to an increase in the center's case load.

Deborah Harrison, the center's executive director, told the York County Commissioners on Wednesday the center will need more funds next year to accommodate interviews with an expected 200 additional children.

As of June 1, the center has been conducting interviews for local children ages 3-17 reported as victims of sexual and "extreme" physical abuse, as well as those who witness violent crimes. Previously, only 14-17-year-old victims of alleged sexual abuse would be interviewed in the courthouse, a process local officials worried was intimidating for minors already dealing with trauma.

Harrison said the money is particularly necessary now that the center has so many children coming through its doors. She added that forthcoming state regulations might lower the threshold of what qualifies as "extreme" physical abuse, further increasing the center staff's workload.

She said funding the best possible care for child abuse victims decreases the state's burden in the long term.

"The cost of providing services to 600 children today, $105,000, equates to the expense of just housing three or four inmates," Harrison said. "The research is really compelling in terms of how crucial it is to intervene with children who have experienced sexual and extreme physical abuse."


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Expanding: The center recently brought on a part-time interviewer to accommodate the extra case load, and Harrison said the additional funding from the county's discretionary account would allow the center to increase her hours. This would lessen the burden on the center's one full-time forensic interviewer, decreasing the possibility of her suffering "vicarious trauma," Harrison said.

"We're not going to turn children away from our doors, but one of the things we try to be really conscious of is the burnout of forensic interviewers," Harrison said. "We don't want to lose our interviewing staff."

District Attorney Tom Kearney emphasized at the commissioners meeting the Children's Advocacy center also works hard to offset county funds with state grants and fundraising.

"They go out of their way to do the things that need to be done in order to not only encourage the community to support this organization, but to raise the necessary funds," Kearney said.

The center's recent mini-golf fundraiser brought in nearly $12,000, Harrison said, and they will also be holding a "ghoulish gala" later this year. She said the center plans to receive funds from a newly available state grants, but expects those will only cover the grants soon set to expire.

"It is taxpayer dollars but... children are the most vulnerable members of our society and they don't have a vote yet," Harrison said. "I think the county owes it to them to do the very best by them."

A larger process: Final decisions regarding the funds are several months off. York County's budget process begins around July and goes through the end of the year, spokesman Carl Lindquist said. Departments still have to submit and defend their budgets. The commissioners will not receive a preliminary county-wide budget until November, in time for a final December vote.

— Reach Michael Tabb at mtabb@yorkdispatch.com.