Lack of Funding Forces Webb Safe Haven County Child Protection Program to Close



For nearly two years, Nancy Sandoval has been sheltered from fear. She uses the peaceful space provided by Safe Haven, a program that helps parents safely transfer custody of their children.

But when Sandoval visited the center on October 26 and received a closure notice, her fear returned. Safe Haven, where Sandoval takes his 5-year-old son to visit his father, has announced that it will close on November 30 due to a lack of funding.

Susana Rivera, program director for Serving Children and Adults in Need, the nonprofit that oversees the center, said she had not received an initial notification to request third-party funding. SCAN took over the program two years ago, Rivera said, after the county approached them. The SCAN website says it is funded by Webb County and private donations.

“We weren’t included in the original email,” Rivera said. “When we finally contacted, they gave us an extension and we did not receive funding.”

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On average, 100 families receive assistance from Safe Haven. The aid aims to secure family ties between individuals divided by divorce or domestic violence, effectively breaking the cycle of physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

“It’s a lot of help for us,” said Sandoval. “We’ve had a lot of problems in the past, a lot of violence. I don’t want the program to end.”

Sandoval said Safe Haven has helped improve her family life. Before finding out about the program, she explained that almost every meeting with her ex-husband would involve violence. Whether it was physical or verbal abuse, the acts of violence had a negative influence on the family.

Isela Dabdoub, CEO and President of SCAN, was informed that their request for third-party funding was not approved in electronic correspondence with the administrator of the Commissioners Tribunal, Leroy Medford. However, Medford further informed Dabdoub of the possibility of receiving funds during the year.

“In order for your funding request to be reconsidered, additional legal action in the form of a requested budget amendment will need to be taken to court so that funds are allocated to your organization during the fiscal year,” Medford wrote. .

Webb County Budget Officer Lalo Uribe said if they decide to apply it was more than positive the county would fund the program.

Last year, the organization approached commissioners for a funding review, Uribe said.

“I’m sure the court would take that into account,” Uribe said. “It’s a great program. We would love to help them, but it has to be a formal request, and so far there is no formal request.”

Despite the possibility of securing funds, Dabdoub said the decision to shut down Safe Haven has already been made. Dabdoub said $ 100,000 to $ 110,000 is needed for the program to work effectively, but the organization was ready to continue with $ 55,000.

“We helped and delivered this program, and we did it with 50% of the funding the previous agency was receiving,” Dabdoub said. “We’ve already helped but we just can’t keep doing it. Every year we go through this, we’ve been through it last year and now again.”

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Rivera shared similar feelings that they couldn’t take families through days of uncertainty. She said it wasn’t fair to families or Safe Haven staff.

Due to budget cuts in Webb County last year, Uribe said commissioners cut all third-party funding by 50%. Safe Haven had previously received $ 110,000 from the county, Uribe said. For the 2015-16 fiscal year, the county budgeted and approved $ 55,000 for Safe Haven. The program received the same amount for the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to Uribe.

Safe Haven operated with half the funding it originally received. Since funding for the 2016-2017 fiscal year ended on September 30, Rivera said the program has had to run its operations with unrestricted funds. But even donations have declined dramatically, she said.

“It’s very difficult to run a program without money coming in,” Rivera said. “I think the funding is very critical. The program is very critical because there are families who go through a lot of conflict, and it is the only safe place where they can exchange children between custodial and non-custodial parents or visit. safe with their children Without Safe Haven, many families will not have the safe space to do so.

Safe Haven maintains a child friendly environment, promoting healthy interactions. Custodial parents enter from one side of the building while non-custodial parents enter through a separate entrance.

“We try to make sure they don’t interact with each other and to avoid any potential conflict,” Rivera said. “It’s the only safe way they can swap children without having to see each other.”

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Rivera said there were fears of potential conflict between the families if they chose to interact after Safe Haven officially closed. As families must seek new refuge, Rivera said the organization cannot refer them to other agencies.

“We are not in a position to do that at all. Families should contact their lawyer and try to make other arrangements through them. Once we close our doors in a month, we cannot make any more arrangements. for families, ”Rivera said. noted.

“There really is no other service,” she added.

Dabdoub said the organization wanted to do the right thing and give families enough time and notice to understand their situation in the absence of Safe Haven.

“The visits were underway before the program went into effect,” Dabdoub said. “I’m sure there are plenty of ways to do this now that the program is about to end. I think we’ve done more than our part.”

As for Sandoval, she hopes that the program, which has secured her a place free from the threat of a violent past and ensured the well-being of her family, finds a source of funding to continue her services.

“It’s our family safety,” Sandoval said. “It’s more than me, there are a lot of families who are very touched. It is most important to have this peace.”



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