OLYMPIA -- State funding cuts to the Sexual Assault Response Center in Kennewick could prevent law enforcement officers and prosecutors from receiving vital child abuse investigation training and might wind up costing the state more in the long run, according to state officials.
SARC's Kids Haven program is one of 18 preparing for the effects of state budget cuts to the Children's Advocacy Centers of Washington.
The House Democrats' budget proposal would cut $250,000 from these programs, harming one of Washington's most vulnerable groups -- children who are victims of sexual assault, said Mary Ann Murphy, executive director of CACWA.
Murphy told the Herald that the 30 percent cut to the program's funding by the House Democrats' budget is an improvement on Gov. Chris Gregoire's proposal to completely eliminate the program.
But the cut by House Democrats is equivalent to the funding necessary to serve 100 children each month, Murphy said.
CACWA serves 5,000 children a year, Murphy said.
JoDee Garretson, executive director of SARC, said the agency's Kids Haven program already has canceled its next trip to a conference in Seattle because of budget shortfalls.
In years past, the center has put on its own conferences by bringing speakers to the Tri-Cities, but future conferences are unlikely, she said.
In addition to offering training for officers and prosecutors, SARC provides counseling to victims.
Kids Haven served 179 children in the past six months, Garretson said.
When someone reports a child abuse case to Kids Haven, a member of the Benton County Prosecutor's Office conducts an interview with the child, then coordinates with law enforcement agencies at the county and city levels for further investigation, if necessary. The counties and cities pay for this portion of the services, Garretson said.
SARC relies on state funding to pay for training and counseling.
Investigating physical and sexual abuse cases without the training and coordination provided by children's advocacy centers would cost the state $1,000 more per case, Murphy said.
And the emotional and physical harm caused to victims, compounded through a lifetime, are even more, she said.