Child abuse funding falls short of expectations

Sunday, April 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Agencies that investigate child abuse in Oklahoma are adjusting to lower-than-expected revenues from a law implemented last year.

The Legislature last April increased civil filing fees and certain other court fees by $10, a move that was expected to raise as much as $3.8 million annually to fund child abuse multidisciplinary teams.

It now appears the funding will be $1.6 million per year, said Barbara Findeiss, executive director of the Child Abuse Network office in Tulsa.

It had been expected that the two urban advocacy centers, in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, would each receive $600,000 in state funding. Instead, it appears each will receive $150,000, Findeiss said.

``It has taken some of the wind out of our sails, but we haven't given up hope,'' she said.

The multidisciplinary teams can include law enforcers, doctors, prosecutors, mental health professionals, social workers and others who work together to investigate child abuse and neglect allegations. The concept is to achieve more effective abuse and neglect investigations through teamwork.

Cash flow problems for the program were caused by glitches within a new state court computer accounting network. The glitches caused court clerks in metropolitan areas to be several months behind in reconciling their financial records.

``It is my understanding that those problems are pretty much solved and larger counties are reconciling the accounts,'' Findeiss said.

Tulsa County Court Clerk Sally Howe Smith said the accounts are reconciled up to October of last year. She said her office has transferred $234,362.55 to the child abuse multidisciplinary account, which is administered by the Department of Human Services.

Cathy Simms, administrator for DHS child protective service programs, said the two urban centers, 10 non-urban centers and 12 child abuse teams have applied for funding.

Findeiss said Tulsa's child advocacy center conducts an average of 85 medical evaluations for children each month. Statewide, about 25 percent of all investigations result in confirmed cases of child abuse, she said.

The Tulsa center operates on a $450,000 yearly budget and has been in existence since 1992, she said.

``For years, the philanthropic community has come through for us,'' Findeiss said. More state funding would ``replace the heavy burden we have put on the philanthropic community.''