GULFPORT—The Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Center was forced to suspend many of their services due to lack of funding. Though the center was set to close down the afternoon of Monday, June 30, the board of directors was able to continue funding just one critical program.
There is a great need for the services that the CAP provided; Child abuse and neglect increased state-wide by more than 300 percent after Hurricane Katrina. Though inadequate funding has halted most of the centers functions, the President of the Board of Directors of CAP, Jim Allen explained to News 25 how they are funding one important program.
“The Board of Directors voted to keep just a small part of what we do open,” said Allen. “We have funding for one thing that we do and that’s our forensic interviewing. We have funding for that.”
Abused children come to the CAP Center to meet with forensic interviewers trained to work with children. The kids tell their story during a recorded interview that serves as evidence in a court trial. This service allows the abused child to only go through the interview process once, as opposed to multiple times in a court setting.
“It’s incredibly important that children have a safe place to go to tell their story about what has happened to them, and it is just as important to turn around and keep these centers open—these services available—so we can successfully prosecute those who are abusing these children,” said Hope Haven Executive Director, Terry Latham.
The CAP Center fund forensic interviewing until the end of July. On July 31 the center will have to find a more permanent solution.
“We’ve heard from several like-minded non-profit organizations that are interested in partnering with us. They just needed more time to take a look at what we do and take a look at our finances and see if we’re a good fit for what they’re doing,” said Allen.
Child abuse and neglect is a growing problem in South Mississippi. Coastal counties make up one-third of the number of children that have been abused or neglected statewide. Directors of these children’s service centers believe the community must realize how dire the need for these centers is.
“It isn’t a priority and it needs to be. If we can’t take care of our kids, what kind of community are we? What kind of people are we?” said Latham.
The CAP Center in Gulfport plans to do everything possible to stay open and regain the services they’ve temporarily discontinued. Suspended programs include Parent Aide, Welcome Baby, Parenting Classes, and Supervised Visitation.
Donations are accepted on the CAP Center’s website