HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY CALLS ON MORE STATE FUNDING TO FIGHT CHILD ABUSE-Andrew Stelzer

03/27/06

A child is abused in the United States every 10 seconds, and 4 children die every day because of abuse. Hillsborough County are launching a campaign to get increased funding from the state for prevention programs, to try and stave off what they say is a growing crisis in the community.

SOUND “Simon says to yell. Simon says sit, everybody stand

Hillsborough County has the highest rate of child abuse in the entire state. Now the newly created Hillsborough county child abuse task force is calling on the state legislature to pull the county of a bad position. County commissioner Rhonda Storms is a member of the task force, which was established last year to formulate some solutions to the problem.

ACT-Storms “Were gonna change the way children are treated in hills. Were also gonna change the way government responds. No more is it satisfactory..�

Speaking at a press conference in Kate Jackson Park in South Tampa, Storms credited judge Martha cook for bringing her attention the high rate of child abuse in the county.

ACT-cook “Our caseloads are getting enormous and we cannot provide relief fast enough. ..More that 5000 kids are under the supervision on DCF, half of which are under the age of 5…some studies say this is when bonds are made they are not growing.�

Cook said the fastest growing population of children entering the foster care system is infants, largely because of the increased use of babies born to meth users. She said she would like to have a guardian ad Litem advocate, for every foster child under the age of 5.

ACT-cook “If we don’t take care of our children, they languish in foster care, they hot the streets with no skills if you don’t get an education you are condemned to a life of poverty because they had no caregivers..�

There are only 350 guardian ad Litems in the county, and 2200 children under 5 years old who are eligible for one. More Guardian Ad Litems is one of the three items to task force is calling for. The other two are more foster parents, and for the state Senate to match a proposed increase in funding the Hillsborough county, which has been proposed by the house. Don Dixon is with the children’s board, which allocated 2.2 million dollars last year to organizations in Hillsborough County that serve abused children.

ACT-Dixon “I just learned Friday that the house has doubled its commitment to 25 million..They also increased the allocation by 6.5 million for foster parent rate increases. Id like to say thanks to the legislature and we urge the senate to follow suit and the governor..�

April is child abuse prevention month, and commissioner Storms has enlisted county tax collector Doug Belden to help assemble statistics which will be used to lobby state legislators and raise public awareness about the more than 500 children is foster care in Hillsborough county.

ACT-Storms “Miami Dade county gets 30 million more than us, although we have more children in the system..’

Ashley Kyle went into foster care when she was 5 months old. Now she’s 20, and volunteers at Hillsborough Kids as a peer counselor for teens going through the foster care system.

ACT-Kyle “As I aged our, I needed housing. Housing is not there for people when they get out of foster care. You are out n your own..The most important thing is programs to assist people when they get out, you don’t have a normal background..�

Attorney Track Sheehan is a member of the children’s board

ACT “Hills is historically way under funded. When you look at Dade or manatee there is a huge disparity, those $$ are what we need to make the difference, so we can provide to Dade..�

After the press conference, Kyle said that restrictions on her life when she was in foster care were also a big problem.

ACT-Kyle “The restrictions are you cat attend extra curricular activities, you can’t stay night at friends, ride in car with friends, background check issue puts restrictions in foster care..�

For more information about how to become a foster parent or guardian ad litem, log onto www.hillsboroughkids.org

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