The Children's Trust Fund supports grants to 44 counties. During the past year over 68,000 parents, children, professionals and community members received face-to-face support or training through these programs. Over 70,000 educational materials made it into the hands of parents, professionals and the public.
The Children's Trust Fund also supports efforts to prevent shaken baby syndrome and Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths, where otherwise healthy babies die due to accidental suffocation and unsafe sleep conditions. This is the leading cause of deaths for infants under 1 year in West Virginia, and yet the Governor's budget proposes cutting funds for these programs. We lose 35 babies every year in West Virginia due to entirely preventable sleep-related deaths. That's one child every 10 days. It doesn't take the wisdom of Solomon to know that cutting the funding to these programs is a bad idea.
Equally disturbing are proposed cuts of over 14 percent to domestic violence programs and 7.5 percent to the domestic violence legal fund.
Consider this: On any given day, West Virginia domestic violence programs provide services to around 500 women, children and men. Someone calls a domestic violence hotline every nine minutes. In 2010, nearly 15,000 domestic violence cases were filed in West Virginia family courts. One-third of all homicides in West Virginia are related to domestic violence and over two-thirds of all women murdered in the state are killed by a family or household member.
Child advocacy centers, which coordinate services for abused and neglected children throughout the state, have been targeted with a 7.4 percent funding cut. Family Resource Networks, which are local coalitions that improve services for children and families, and Family Resource Centers, which provide key services in one location, face funding reductions of 8.5 percent. These services help to leverage resources in local communities far beyond the little they receive from the state.
The proposed budget even slices 25 percent from early childhood home visiting programs, despite the fact that these have been proven to prevent child abuse, reduce the number of low-birth weight babies, and promote health and better educational outcomes. Research confirms that these programs help families succeed, so that their children are ready for school and have the safe, healthy lives they deserve. In fact, a task force recently convened by the governor has recommended expanding these programs, rather than reducing them.
Taken all together, these cuts amount to around $980,000 -- less than two one-thousandths of the state budget, yet they would do great harm to these services and to those who must rely on them.
On behalf of the West Virginia Council of Churches and its constituent members, I urge Gov. Tomblin and the Legislature to restore funding to these vital programs. West Virginians care about children and families.
We need to make sure our treasure is where our heart is.
Klusmeyer is bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of West Virginia and president of the West Virginia Council of Churches.