Budgets Cuts Jeopardize Oklahoma Child Abuse Prevention Program

Thursday, January 13th 2011, 5:18 pm
By: News On 6

Dan Bewley, News On 6

TULSA, Oklahoma -- People who work to stop child abuse are worried state budget cuts will kill a state program.

The Department of Health has proposed eliminating an office that works with nearly two dozen programs across the state to prevent child abuse.

Ten-day-old Maggie May Trammel died last November. Her body was found in a washing machine. Her 26-year old mother, Lyndsey Fiddler, has been charged with felony child neglect.

1/11/2011 Related Story: Bartlesville Infant's Death Adds Fuel To Federal Lawsuit Against Oklahoma's DHS

"Child abuse and neglect is preventable but it is not a simple issue," said Desiree Doherty.

Desiree Doherty is Executive Director of The Parent Child Center in Tulsa. Its goal is to end child abuse and help moms and dads learn how to become better parents.

They do it through home visits where each support worker, like Kristin Hollis, visits nearly a dozen families a week. It served more than 600 children and parents in 2010.

"Children don't come with instructions so a lot of parents need a little guidance," Hollis said.

The program receives much of its funding from the Office of Child Abuse Prevention, or O-CAP. But Department of Health Officials have been told to cut the budget by as much as 10 percent and O-CAP is one program it's proposing to be eliminated.

Dan Bewley, News On 6: "Where would they get this information if this office is cut and the program is gone?"

Kristin Hollis, Family Support Worker: "I don't know."

The State Health Department is quick to point out that this is only a proposal, there's nothing definite right now. But if the Office of Child Abuse Prevention were to be cut, it would save the state a little more than $3 million.

In a statement to the News On 6, the Health Department said: "We don't want to make any cuts and we know a cut like this would have an impact on Oklahoma children and future generations. But we must be able to continue to focus on disease outbreaks and this is one potential avenue for cuts."

Doherty's hoping it doesn't come to that saying the lives of 2,000 Oklahoma children are at risk.

"It is difficult for me to imagine making decisions about budget cuts on the backs of children," she said.

The Health Department says the final say will come from the state legislature. Doherty is scheduled to meet with Health Commissioner Dr. Terry Cline next week.