Officials at Carroll's Family and Children's Services are counting heavily on a fund-raiser set for tomorrow in Westminster. They hope the Beach Party Dance will bring in $5,000 to $8,000 -- enough to make a difference for the agency's Sexual Abuse Treatment Center.
Despite the County Commissioners' vote last month for a 27-cent tax increase that avoided widespread cuts in county services, the agency lost half its budget for sexual abuse counseling services.
The cuts have forced the abuse treatment program -- which last year served 309 clients, including 105 children -- to review priorities and look for alternative funding sources.
"We're still here and we're still working with clients, but we're attempting to redefine who has first priority for treatment," said Sandra L. Rappeport, Carroll County district director of Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland .
Although the agency hasn't had to rely on outside fund raising, program officials say that's about to change.
"I bet we'll have one every year now; we have no choice," said Beth Albright, supervisor of the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center.
The center was among several nonprofit social service agencies originally targeted for cuts in county funding to offset a projected $5 million deficit in the county's 1997 operating budget.
The commissioners' vote last month to increase the property tax from $2.35 to $2.62 per $100 of assessed value averted deep cuts to programs serving the county's youth, the elderly and the needy.
But the 1997 budget, which takes effect July 1, includes only $136,000 for the abuse treatment program -- about half of its county allocation for fiscal 1996. The cuts mean the loss of two full-time therapists and two part-time clerical and administrative
positions. The employees have been absorbed into other counseling programs run by Family and Children's Services.
The abuse treatment program will continue to treat child victims of sexual abuse and their nonoffending parents. But the reduction in funding means that counselors cannot provide treatment to offenders and adult survivors of child sexual abuse -- two groups that the center has worked with in the past.
"Everybody needs and deserves treatment," Albright said. "Ultimately, there's the potential for offenders who haven't gotten help to victimize more children."
Rappeport said she plans to apply for federal grants to restore counseling services that have been eliminated because of budget cuts.
In the meantime, counselors at the Sexual Abuse Treatment Center will continue to treat their clients, conduct assessments of offenders and make recommendations for their treatment. But Rappeport notes that the center is the only local agency that counsels sex offenders who abuse children.
"There's no other agency [in Carroll] that treats offenders, and that's a big gap," she said. "There are private therapists, but that's expensive."
Carroll's Family and Children's Services agency also seeks state and federal money to expand its domestic violence counseling unit.
Rappeport said she has applied for a $37,000 grant through the Maryland Victims of Crime Fund to make more victims of domestic violence aware of the services available to them. Part of the money would be used to pay for a program in which a counselor and a police officer would visit the homes of women who have called 911 to report incidents of domestic violence. Visits would be made within three to five days of the original call.
"We can't respond to every single call, but we'll try to focus on cases where there's been an assault to provide information about the services we offer," she said.
The grant also would pay for a program to counsel the families of incarcerated abusers, including children who have witnessed domestic violence.
In the fall, Rappeport said, she plans to apply for federal money to hire a full-time victims' advocate to work in the county courthouse, assisting women seeking restraining orders against abusive spouses. She said a similar arrangement in Montgomery County has been effective.
Rappeport said a Family and Children's Services survey conducted earlier this year showed that 66 percent of women who went to the courthouse to seek protection from abusers did not know of her agency and the services it offers.
"We know we have to be over at the courthouse," Rappeport said. "It's scary [for a victim] to go there by yourself and not know what you're doing."
The Sexual Abuse Treatment Center's Beach Party Dance will be held from 8 p.m. to midnight tomorrow at Wilhelm Ltd. Caterers on Route 140 in Westminster. The event features live music, "boardwalk" food, games and a fashion contest. Tickets are $30. Information: (410) 876-1233.
Pub Date: 6/07/96