SHAWNEE — A center that provides services for abused children may close because of an accreditation issue that has caused it to lose state funding.
The Unzner Child Advocacy Centre in Shawnee has lost its 2011 accreditation through the National Children's Alliance. The accreditation is required by the state Department of Human Services for the center to receive its annual $90,000 for operations at the center.
The center is overseen by the Youth and Family Resource
"We're not sure how we're going to handle it yet, but without money, we can't keep the doors open," said Susan Morris, director of the Youth and Family
Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon said they're looking for a solution. "The value of the Unzner Centre is too important to children and this community to lose," he said. "We're going to do whatever it takes to keep it open."
The Unzner Centre is a kid-friendly house used by professionals to interview and examine children who may have been sexually or physically abused. Along with forensic interviews, medical examinations and counseling for children, it also is used by medical professionals to examine adult rape victims.
About nine children a week are seen at the center. It is open normal business hours, Monday through Friday. Some professionals have keys to the house for use after hours for emergencies. It's generally staffed with a director and counselor.
Its overall annual budget is about $105,000, with $90,000 from the state Department of Human Services and the
The center was opened in 1995 and has been accredited by the National Children's Alliance for nine years.
The accreditation membership requires a center to meet 10 standards, which include
The Oklahoman's calls to the National Children's Alliance were not returned.
Morris said reviewers from the alliance visited the center in August, and notified her in October they weren't going to renew the Unzner Centre's accreditation.
Morris said she didn't know the outcome of the review until October, because the reviewers didn't have a traditional exit meeting with her or her staff about their findings. Some of the findings in their report simply aren't true, she said.
An appeal on behalf of the Unzner Centre was sent Monday to the National Children's Alliance. Regardless of the results, it will not help them regain their funding from DHS.
Morris said the state's 2011 money was allocated in October, and no more exists for the
Smothermon said they are looking at other funding alternatives to keep its doors open,
Morris said if no funding is obtained, it may be possible close the center during the day and open it on an as-needed
"At least we could do that until we run out of money to pay the electricity bill," she said.