Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pausing for National Missing Children’s Day

One missing child is one child too many.
By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

After 18 years without her daughter, Jaycee Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, “enjoyed every minute” of their reunion in 2009. “[Terry’s] like a little mother hen right now,” said Dugard’s grandmother. Hopelessness and endless heartache is felt by many when a child goes missing, but great joy abounds when just one is found.

Twenty-eight years ago President Ronald Regan proclaimed May 25th National Missing Children’s Day. The day marks the anniversary in 1979 when 6-year-old Etan Patz disappeared from a New York street corner on his way to school. Nearly 30 years later, a strong collaborative effort exists among law enforcement agencies, advocacy groups, and private organizations that help locate and recover missing children.

Many creative platforms are emerging to further awareness including various internet and wireless phone campaigns. NetSmartz.org uses the internet to teach children safety awareness and empower them to make responsible decisions online and in real life. Facebook and the U.S. Department of Justice AMBER Alert Program have joined together for Facebook users to receive instant feed of abduction alerts. Wireless phone users can sign up for the Wireless AMBER Alerts, and this 24-hour hotline is available to report a missing child, seek assistance in locating a child, or report the sighting of a missing child.

The California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP) approaches child safety and victim recovery with great care. Last year, CalVCP assisted nearly 23,000 child victims of abuse, assault and sexual assault, some also being victims of abduction. We stand committed to doing all we can to assist each one in recovery.

Let us continue to make child safety and assistance a priority. Together with first responders, community activists, government groups, mothers, fathers and families, we can make a great difference working side by side. It is my hope the others missing in our state be found quickly so they too can be reunited with their families and share the joy that Jaycee and her mother now enjoy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

First Responders: Lives Depend on Them

By Julie Nauman, VCGCB Executive Officer

Being the first line of defense to save lives and protect the public is no small task. Without first responders such as EMTs, firefighters, and law enforcement, lives would be lost. It’s that simple.

I am proud to recognize these heroic officers during National Police Week (observed May 15-21) which honors those first responders who protect the public while risking their own lives on a daily basis.

California’s law enforcement know all too well what it means to be first on the scene of a DUI crash, murder, rape or even a child abuse case. Time is critical and lives are at stake, and emotions are high.

Despite the chaos and the panic, many first responders are able to calm a desperate situation and get the victim the help they need at that moment and beyond. First responders help to inform victims and their families of CalVCP’s services by providing them with a first responder card at the crime scene.

These cards give victims and their families a number to call for help with funeral expenses, counseling, medical treatment and even crime scene clean up. Being able to provide victims with resources upfront is an important step toward recovery.

Assisting and treating victims is a group effort. From the first responders, to the County victim assistance centers, to the District Attorneys and the medical professionals, victims are treated with dedication, professionalism and the utmost respect.

As we observe National Police Week, I would like to take a moment to publicly thank our dedicated officers for the great work they do. Without them, we would not be able to reach the many victims that need CalVCP’s services.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remembering Victims of 9/11

Recent events in the news have turned our thoughts to the hundreds of September 11 victims residing in California. All four planes that were hijacked on September 11, 2001, were headed to California – three to Los Angeles and one to San Francisco. United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93, which was en route to San Francisco, crashed just outside of Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Upon hearing of the horrific attacks, the VCGCB took immediate action to provide assistance to victims and their families. Emergency legislation enabled us to provide aid to the victims and to help Californians deal with the trauma and aftermath of the attacks. The VCGCB also took action to receive federal grant money from the federal Office for Victims of Crime. These grants provided additional benefits and funding for peer support group meetings for the next three years for the victims in Northern and Southern California.

The VCGCB reached out to those in need by expanding the programs call center to handle increased communications, developing a special newsletter for 9/11 victims to enhance communications, and translating hate crime fact sheets into seven languages to better serve those in need. We also partnered with the California State Bar Association to provide pro bono legal assistance to victims in need of these services. In addition, the VCGCB collaborated with national assistance programs such as the Red Cross and United Way to identify the varying needs of victims and potential resources.

CalVCP has paid out over $4 million in assistance to family members and survivors to provide mental health treatment, funeral and burial expenses, income and support loss as well as other benefits. It is difficult to comprehend the pain and tragedy experienced by these victims. They have traveled a long and difficult path in learning how to accept and live with this experience. Their courage and resilience are inspiring.