The Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee met last Thursday to elect a senate committee co-chair, hear presentations from the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board, and the Children’s Advocacy Center’s of Kentucky.

According to Kentucky Revised Statute, “The Child Welfare Oversight and Advisory Committee was created to review, analyze, and provide oversight on child welfare, including but not limited to foster care, adoption, and child abuse, neglect, and dependency.”

State Sen. Julie Raque Adams (R-36th District) was elected to be co-chair of the committee.

During the Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention Board presentation, executive director of the Office of Trafficking and Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Heather Wagers said, “The board undertook several measures to improve operations and further their charge. The board adopted revisions to the bylaws that increased oversight of grants, and also adopted an anti discrimination policy.”

“Our funds are dwindling, but we are in the works of creating different modes to receive funds,” said board member LeAnna Homandberg.

Homandberg outlined the board’s five goals: to increase awareness and understanding, to fund services and programs, attain greater influence in child policymaking, increase board effectiveness, and ensure continued growth and viability of the Child Victim’s Trust Fund. The fund is administered by the board and its purpose is to enable child sex abuse medical examinations at Children’s Advocacy Centers.

The trust fund has gradually decreased since the fiscal year 2018, and CVTF license plate revenue has decreased sharply over the past 10 years, according to the presentation.

The board awarded $166,198 in statewide and regional grants for the fiscal year 2021-22.

“Anything that we go out and train on at the Kentucky Attorney General’s Office is always trauma-informed as it relates to sexual assault,” said Assistant Deputy Attorney General Amy Burke. “We often don’t think of sexual assault cases of being at that level but they are every bit, if not harder than murder cases. They are every bit as technology-assisted and maybe more so.”

Laura Kretzer and Jacqueline Sugarman of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Kentucky presented its mission, challenges, and opportunities.

“Every allegation of child abuse is serious, and a child is at the heart of each case; however, there are many professionals who are responsible for a part of the quest for justice and healing in each child, Kretzer said.

Kretzer and Sugarman also presented CAC-Kentucky’s funding request for the new fiscal year, which includes allocations for increases in state general operating funds, medical programming and replacing lost revenue with American Rescue Plan Act funds. The total annual funding request is $14.4 million.

Kretzer said the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) accounts for 50% of funding for CAC-Kentucky. Is not funded by tax dollars, but instead is funded by fines and fees of federal convictions.

Sugarman said medical providers at CAC-Kentucky offer a myriad of treatment solutions. They conduct medical evaluations and examinations, receive special training, access state-of-the-art medical equipment, among other practices.

“Studies have looked at this issue, and they’ve supported the fact that doctors don’t get a lot of training in child abuse, and certainly not child sexual abuse, during their residency,” Sugarman said.

Adams’ concluding questions addressed low reimbursement rates.

“Are we just stuck in an old reimbursement rate that will never see the light of day? That is an area that we should try to figure out how we can keep them connected but disconnect them so that we can hopefully increase some dollars coming in,” she said.

The committee’s next meeting is Wednesday, Aug. 11.