(CBS) — A program that helps the youngest of trauma victims and their families could become another casualty of Illinois’ budget crisis.
Just two years ago, two sisters — 5-year-old Aislinn and 4-year-old Kaelynn — didn’t want to be hugged or kissed or touched. Years of abuse by their biological parents had left the then-preschoolers physically and emotionally traumatized.
“They wouldn’t go to bed because they were afraid they weren’t going to be in the same place they woke up,” says guardian Joanne Vrtacnik. “Or, bad things had happened to them in the night.”
But that changed after she and her husband began caring for the girls and turned to the Safe from the Start program for help.
“If we did not have this option there’s a good possibility the girls would not be with us today because I don’t think we could have handled it. We wouldn’t have known where to turn,” Vrtacnik says.
The 15-year-old program helps young children who’ve lived through domestic violence, street violence and abuse.
Illinois gave the state’s nine sites $1.2 million a year.
Until this one.
“Unfortunately, we were eliminated from the stopgap budget for some unknown reasons,” a program director, Mary Reynolds, says.
Two of the sites have since closed. Reynolds says the remaining sites are in jeopardy.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” she says. “We receive phone calls every day of families looking for supportive services.”
For more information about efforts to restore funding, click here.