State plans to cut child abuse programs criticized

Karen Bouffard, The Detroit News, May 14, 2009

Lansing --Gov. Jennifer Granholm's plan to slash nearly $14 million from services that help prevent child abuse will lead to more crimes against children and the loss of millions in federal matching grants for the prevention of child abuse, the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and child advocacy groups said Wednesday.

The cuts, part of an effort to balance the state's budget, come as police agencies statewide are less able to deal with the problem due to cutbacks in law enforcement, said Howell Police Chief George Basar, president of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

"Another $41 million in cuts in revenue sharing to local communities will result in more (police) layoffs at the local level," Basar said. "And while that's happening, we're eliminating prevention programs at the front end."

The cuts coincide with rising unemployment and economic hardship expected to result in an increase in violence against children, said Kathy "K.P." Pelleran, state director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids -Michigan, a group of more than 400 police chiefs, sheriffs, prosecutor and other law enforcement leaders.

The organization released its latest figures on child abuse in the state, showing that 29,638 Michigan children were abused in 2007. Based on research on the long-term effects of child abuse, the group predicts that 1,185 of those children will become violent adult criminals.

"One of the best investments is child protection," Pelleran said. "If we don't pay today, we will pay tomorrow."

The Nurse Family Partnership, a program that provides support for teenage parents in five counties, including Wayne and Oakland, will end under the cuts, according to the group.

Ending that program will hurt Michigan's chances of accessing part of $124 million in federal money available in 2010 as matching grants to states with evidence-based home visitation programs for low-income mothers and pregnant women, Pelleran said.

Michigan's Zero to Three Secondary Prevention Initiative, which gives home visitation and support for families of infants and preschoolers considered at risk of neglect or abuse, also would be purged, the group said.

"The children abused or neglected in 2007 would more than fill the Palace of Auburn Hills," Pelleran said. "And these acts of violence could have been prevented." (517) 371-3660

Chris Cejas Network To End Child Abuse

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