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Budget Woes Force Private Agency to Drop 2 Programs on Child Abuse

December 08, 1988|WILLIAM DIEPENBROCK | Times Staff Writer

Budget problems will force a private Ventura County child-abuse prevention and intervention group to drop two major programs and reduce another one, starting Jan. 1, the group's chief executive said.

Child Abuse and Neglect, which has battled child abuse since 1975, will stop teaching parenting skills to teen-age mothers and will no longer send trained volunteers to the homes of families struggling with child abuse. It will eliminate three of seven classes that teach such skills as effective discipline.

"The decision to terminate programs has been extraordinarily painful," Sara Lively, the program's executive director, said this week. "It is deeply traumatic for our clients. In many cases, we have nowhere to refer them."

Child Abuse and Neglect is the only Ventura County organization dedicated solely to correcting child abuse, although other multiservice agencies offer similar programs. In 1987, the group served more than 22,000 people through assistance programs, training and public presentations, Lively said.

The three programs will be cut because of strains on the group's $350,000 budget, she said.

The group spent its $10,000 reserve and cut back costs to survive a loss of about $60,000 in revenue in 1988, but may not be able to pay December's bills, Lively said. Next year's budget will be $299,000.

Personnel problems at the group's thrift store in Ventura cut the store's revenue from an expected $45,000 to $25,000, Lively said. In May, the group was forced to relocate its headquarters when Mound Elementary School reopened, eliminating the space used for bingo games--the source of $15,000 in 1987. Bingo brought in $3,000 in 1988, Lively said.

United Way, which gave $39,000 in 1987 and '88 and $43,000 in 1988 and '89, delivers less than the group believes is needed to keep pace with growth, Lively said, adding that insurance costs for the thrift-store trucks have increased.

The teen-age parent program, one of two in the county, sought to help young mothers who are likely to abuse their children because of their own immaturity, said Doug Miller, deputy director of the county's child protective services division.

County Offers Program

The county health agency runs a teen-age mothers' program that will be available for parents who can no longer get aid from Child Abuse and Neglect, Miller said.

In 1987, the county received 5,412 complaints of suspected child abuse, and 429 children were relocated in shelters.

Lively said Child Abuse and Neglect directors have been trying since summer to find more funds. Programs will be reintroduced if the money becomes available, she said.

The group charges for its services on a sliding scale. The teen-age and in-home volunteer programs are free, and the parenting classes cost $1. Counseling costs up to $25 per session.

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