Budget amendment threatens support for abused children

Budget amendment threatens support for abused children

To the editor:

Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s Budget Amendment #139 poses a dire threat to the existence of Children’s Advocacy Centers across Virginia – including the Center for Alexandria’s Children. This amendment, slashing funding intended to replace disappearing Federal Victims of Crime Act funding, is a blow to the most vulnerable among us and must be rejected.

Since 2007, The Center for Alexandria’s Children has been the leading intervention organization in managing the reported average of 1,200 child abuse cases in Alexandria. With these devastating cuts, our Children’s Advocacy Center program is at risk. This funding is vital to ensuring that children who have been impacted by abuse have access to specialized, trauma-informed services locally.

This amendment reduces H.B. 30 allocations by staggering amounts: $564,902 in year one and $2,912,156 in year two. These funds are not frivolous expenditures: They are a lifeline for CACs struggling to cope with the disappearance of VOCA funding. By fiscal year 2026, VOCA funding is set to vanish completely, leaving CACs in financial peril. Trauma-informed mental health services, forensic interviews and victim and family support all hang in the balance.

Item 331 #3c of enrolled bill H.B. 30 initially included funding to replace these lost funds, but the governor’s cuts eviscerate these provisions, leaving CACs with a mere $2 million over the next biennium to cover losses of $5,477,158. This drastic reduction jeopardizes the ability of CACs to provide crucial services for abused children and their families. Without adequate funding, CACs like ours will be forced to shutter their doors, leaving a gaping hole in the safety net for vulnerable children.

The consequences of these cuts are profound. With child and family visits on the rise, CACs play an essential role in providing support and advocacy for victims of abuse. Currently, 28 CACs or satellite facilities serve more than 7,000 children and their families, a number expected to soar to nearly 10,000 if current trends persist.

The impact of these cuts extends far beyond mere numbers on a budget spreadsheet. As many as eight CACs, including the Center for Alexandria’s Children, may be forced to close entirely, depriving countless children of crucial services. For the remaining CACs, severe cutbacks in services are inevitable.

Furthermore, these cuts hamstring efforts to expand services to reach the approximately 20% of Virginia children and families who currently lack access to a CAC. At a time when the need for these services is greater than ever, slashing funding is not just short-sighted; it’s unconscionable.

We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the plight of abused children and their families. The amount of these cuts is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of the budget but constitute a lifeline for CACs.

We call on lawmakers across Virginia to stand up for abused children and reject Governor’s Budget Amendment #139. The future of CACs – and the innocent lives they protect – hangs in the balance.

-Giselle L. Pelaez,

executive director,

Center for Alexandria’s Children