Jan. 16, 2003 – Dilsa Capdeville, for three decades the territory's most prominent advocate on behalf of victims of child abuse, says she had to turn down a desperately needed $90,000 federal grant for her agency, KidsCope, in order to continue delivering the level of services her young clients need.
KidsCope has been serving children in crisis on a shoestring budget since Capdeville left the staff of what was then Women's Resource Center and founded her own agency in 1996. When she told the Law Enforcement Planning Commission recently that she was turning down the 2003 Victims of Crime Grant from the U.S. Justice Department, she knew the move would leave her with almost no funds to run the agency.
But federal Justice authorities want the number of counseling sessions a child can have limited to four, Capdeville said. The problem is, sometimes youngsters are so traumatized that it might take 10 visits before they are willing to talk.
Now, to keep her doors open, Capdeville is thinking of making some changes, including something that has never been done at KidsCope — charging its clients and their families fees.
Those who cannot afford to pay will never be turned away, she said, but for the rest, fees for services may have to be assessed, on a sliding scale.
There's also talk of cutting back on certain services, such as some work done with the judicial system.
But at the same time, Capdeville said, she also wants to try some new techniques in the year to come that may increase the effectiveness of the services provided by KidsCope and increase the agency's focus on working directly with children.
Times are tough for the little agency on Education Street. With no budget now for a secretary, the staff has been reduced to the director and one social worker/counselor. The workload, however remains unchanged: providing counseling and therapy services for young victims of abuse, children living in traumatic circumstances, and sometimes whole families; visiting schools; training police, nurses and teachers; preparing young witnesses for court, and more.
Unfortunately, Capdeville said, good works don't pay the rent. And, with overdue overhead accumulating, KidsCope will be leaving its current location for smaller, cheaper quarters down the street. "We're going to move at the end of the month to the Corbier Building," she said. "There's a couple of offices available there, and then there's a couple of people who'll be moving."
Eddy Charles is the director of the Law Enforcement Planning Commission and as such is responsible for administering federal grant programs. From reading the application forms, making on-site visits and reading the KidsCope annual report, he said, he knows the agency is getting the job done. "I like the place and I like the treatment the kids are getting," he said.
And Charles also said he understands why Capdeville felt she couldn't do the job that needs to be done if she had to comply with the restrictions of the Victims of Crime Act grant. The federal Justice Department has stringent rules and restrictions on the kind of services and the amount of services to be provided to crime victims, he said. If a grant recipient strays from the rules, he said, it can trigger the kind of probe that will send agents from Washington, D.C., into the territory to shine a harsh light on the offending recipient.
However, in the year that KidsCope has been a Victims of Crime Act grant recipient, the agency has never had that kind of a problem, he said.
"I hate to see agencies that serve victims of crime falling by the wayside because either the funding is not available or the restrictions are too tight," Charles said.
Capdeville said she is not about to give up. Nor are her supporters willing to surrender.
Last weekend, a not-for-profit organization called Caring People United honored Capdeville for her work with KidsCope and raised more than $2,000 for the agency from an auction at a banquet where trial lawyer Johnnie Cochran was the guest speaker. Organizer Shellie Tobias said the group will make a further donation from the banquet proceeds, and another banquet honoree has pledged $5,000 more.
KidsCope, meanwhile, is waiting for appropriated funds from the V.I. government. The first installment arrived last month, but how much more to expect and when it will show up, Capdeville doesn't know. "The V.I. government pledged $75,000, but then it got cut with the across-the-board cuts along with the other agencies," she said.
Eddy said he would like to find a grant that will suit the agency's needs and hopes to meet with Capdeville shortly to review the alternatives.
Help has come and could come from other quarters, too. There is a Community Development Block Grant funding source, and a new "Do Nothing Ball" fund raiser. The soca group Krossfyah held a benefit performance that netted KidsCope $4,000.
And on Thursday evening, KidsCope and another not-for-profit group, Child Watch, hosted the second annual child advocacy interfaith service, at Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Cathedral on St. Thomas. While the groups called on the community to join in a service of "hope, healing and zero tolerance" for family violence and abuse, the event was also an occasion for Capdeville to put out an appeal for financial support. (See "Child-advocacy interfaith service is Thursday".)
On Capdeville's wish list is community support for KidsCope in the form of volunteers. Extra hands will be helpful for the move to new quarters at the end of the month. And while she and social worker Kate Zednick are keeping the doors open and providing client services, helpers would be invaluable in getting the paperwork out on time.
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