Wichita Child Advocacy Center still in business, despite headline

A headline in the Thursday August 6, 2009 Wichita Eagle is a little bit misleading: “Sedgwick County budget saves pavilions, denies site for abused kids.”

Recognizing that the reporter who wrote the story probably didn’t write the headline, the fact is that the Sedgwick County Commission didn’t deny a site for the Child Advocacy Center. This Center is still operating. What happened at the meeting is that the county commission declined to grant a last-minute request for funding that would improve the Center’s office quarters.

The request for funding was sprung on the commission at the last moment, with Wednesday’s meeting being the first time the commission received a formal request. Commissioner Karl Peterjohn told me that representatives from the Center didn’t attend public workshops or hearings, or participate in the budget process. They did have private discussions with some commissioners, including Peterjohn, but these discussions, in Peterjohn’s case, were general in nature and did not contain a specific request.

Peterjohn pointed out that in light of the recent problems with Rainbows United and their bankruptcy filing, it is only prudent for the county to expect a business plan with specific details. That was not presented to the county commissioners.

It’s important to note, Peterjohn said, that the Center’s current location is provided at no cost from state of Kansas, in the state office building downtown. The state even pays utilities.

Testimony by Diana Schunn, Child Advocacy Center executive director, revealed that sometimes victims of crimes and perpetrators of crimes might have to use the same waiting room, which I can understand might be uncomfortable. But the center schedules cases so that victims and offenders in the same case aren’t there together.

Schunn also mentioned that parking is a problem at the state office building. Questioning by Peterjohn revealed that people don’t want to pay a fee to park in a garage adjacent to the state office building. (That garage charges a flat rate of $3.00 to park all day.) While there is a visitors’ parking lot a block away, people don’t like to use it.

The action the county commission took — or rather didn’t take — is far removed from denying a site for abused kids, as might be concluded if all one did was to read the Wichita Eagle headline. The Center is functioning, although in conditions that might be less than ideal.

Related to this issue is the consideration that the county funded a pavilion used for, among other things, horse and dog shows. Some have asked: aren’t children more important?

Yes, they are. That’s why I would have voted to let the horse and dog show people fully pay for their pavilions.


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