Social service agency braces for budget cuts

March 10, 2010 3:43:09 PM PST
Workers at an organization that helps children in Chicago paid close attention to the governor's address Wednesday.

The Chicago Children's Advocacy Center is welcoming and bright because children go there under dark and difficult circumstances. Most are victims of sexual abuse. It is no place parents wants to bring their child.

The agency does not see a need for its services waning.

"It was dark, it was cloudy, it was very hard," said a mother who did not want to be identified to protect herself and her daughter who came to the center for help. "I thank God for this place. They want to help you restore not only you but your child, your whole family, that they're able to restore back again."

Some the center's staffers watched the governor's budget address Wednesday hoping for more details about their funding. Fifty percent of their budget comes from the state. Last year, nearly half of their staff was preparing for layoffs when funding came through at the last minute. Now, they are waiting to see what the next budget brings.

"Less money, less staff, but not fewer kids. That's the other thing we face here since we are the first responders for sexual abuse. We don't control the number of kids who come through our agency," said Char Rivette, Chicago Children's Advocacy Center.

This year, the center's staffers hope, human services will not be a last thought.

"It is difficult for human service agencies funded by the state of Illinois to live in this limbo state, because we still have children and families coming to the door," said Rivette.

"If it was your child, how would you feel? I think they should keep it open and keep the budget going in its place and all the different things that they can go to. It is for kids and parents," said the anonymous mother.

Without treatment, victims are more likely to face depression and make unhealthy choices. The center gets 2,500 referrals each year. Often, cases requires support from other agencies. Cuts to other agencies can also impact their clients.