Amberly’s Place Family Advocacy Center has been dealing with a number of child abuse and domestic violence victims, and the summer high temperatures don’t helping.
“Absolutely, the heat is impacting domestic violence and family violence,” said Executive Director Tori Bourguignon. “It’s a huge factor. People are hot and tempers are short. They’re struggling to pay their air conditioning bills. The combination of financial stress and the heat is contributing to all kinds of calls.”
Traditionally, the number of child abuse reports goes up as schools ready for a new year. Things pick up dramatically in July, she said, as the Children’s Justice Project, of which Amberly’s Place is the hub, provides mandated reporter training for teachers on how to recognize signs and symptoms of child abuse and the mandate to report it.
The number of abuse cases in Yuma County have remained steady except for one notable difference, according to the latest statistics released by Amberly’s Place.
The family advocacy center reported a 12% increase in the number of child sexual abuse cases in May when compared to the same time last year, which Executive Director Tori Bourguignon described as a “significant rise.”
“While this trend is disturbing, it also means that these crimes are being reported and the victims and families are getting the help that they need to begin to heal from this type of abuse,” Bourguignon said.
The community came through for Amberly’s Place by supporting Week in Paradise, the agency’s biggest fundraiser of the year.
Ticket sales raised $53,000 for the emergency needs of abuse victims in Yuma County.
“Our community is truly amazing,” noted Trevor Umphress, director of development. “Now these funds will be able to further assist us in our mission and ensure those that we serve do not go without.”
Amberly’s Place has kicked off Week in Paradise, which raises funds to help Yuma County abuse victims with emergency needs.
“This is our largest fundraiser of the year, and we are grateful for our sponsors and all who buy tickets in support of Amberly’s Place. As we face these funding cuts, this fundraiser is more important than ever,” Executive Director Tori Bourguignon said.
Amberly’s Place is facing a “significant” cut to its Victims of Crime Act funding, which has historically been the largest and most stable funding source for the center.
Amberly’s Place is facing a $225,000 funding cut for the upcoming year.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed court cases, resulting in fewer penalties deposited into the Victims of Crime Act fund, the largest funding source for the Yuma County family advocacy center.
VOCA funds do not come from taxpayers’ dollars. Rather, they are funded with criminal fines, penalties, forfeited bail bonds and special assessments collected by the federal government.
SAN LUIS, Ariz. – Financial contributions that City Hall pays to social service and other nonprofit organizations that serve San Luis will come under review by the new mayor.
Over the last two fiscal years, the city has approved more than $1 million in contracted services and in sponsorships to the organizations that stage events in the community and otherwise serve San Luis.
Mayor Nieves Riedel, who assumed office in December, says she has started a review of those allocations to make sure the city is getting the agreed-upon services and that the money is otherwise used for the intended purposes.
She said money will only be given to the organizations that submit reports on their uses of the funds, and depending on whether the city’s budget allows for the financial distributions.
“When they bring me (requests for) donations for approval, and I ask questions, I realized that there’s a list of the same people receiving (the money) and that they receive it systematically,” she said.
“I’m a person of numbers,” said Riedel, who heads a housing development company in San Luis. “And the numbers don’t lie. The residents of San Luis, Arizona, have the right to know how we are spending their money, because it’s not our money, nor is it the city employees. It’s the public’s money.”
First to come under review were the organizers of the Off Road Expo in San Luis, an event that brings together off-road vehicle vendors and enthusiasts of the pastime to the city’s Joe Orduno Park. The city committed $25,000 for contractual services and $10,500 in sponsorships.
The Gila Ridge High School girls basketball team recently had the opportunity to extend their influence beyond the court and into Amberly’s Place, the nonprofit dedicated to supporting victims of abuse.
From Jan. 26 to Feb. 2, the team hosted a fundraising drive for Amberly’s Place and collected approximately 550 items for donation. These items ranged from foods like cereal and pasta to essential hygiene products like diapers and wipes.
According to the Yuma Union High School District, Gila Ridge girls basketball coach and health teacher Lindsay Martin has been involved in the community since before she started teaching and coaching. She came up with the idea for the team to start a drive for Amberly’s Place as a way of getting them involved.
“We are showing these young ladies that it is not just about basketball,” Martin said. “It is who you are as people at the end of the day. These girls want to help and be involved not just in school but in the community.”
Amberly’s Place had an “incredibly busy year” in 2022. The family advocacy center experienced a 22% increase in domestic violence cases, an 18% increase in child sexual abuse cases over the previous year, and the number of reported cases of elder abuse and human sex trafficking more than doubled.
“If you look at the data across 2022, you will notice significant increases in several areas,” said Tori Bourguignon, executive director.
However, not all was bad news. The report indicated that cases of child physical abuse were down by 18% when compared to 2021.
The center helps victims of domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault and elder abuse. Secondary victims are those who witness and/or are directly impacted by the abuse of the primary victim.
“We are grateful for our law enforcement and DPS (Arizona Department of Child Services) partners for allowing us to assist you in serving victims,” Bourguignon said.
The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) has awarded approximately $200,000 in grant funding to five Arizona organizations to improve the investigation, prosecution and judicial handling of case involving child abuse and neglect.
“All Arizona children deserve the opportunity to thrive in safe, stable and nurturing environments,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey said. “I’m grateful for the organizations and individuals who work tirelessly day in and day out to strengthen families, protect our kids, and prevent child abuse and neglect throughout our state.”
Amberly’s Place in Yuma is one of the organizations. The others are Childhelp Inc., Flagstaff Medical Center, Yavapai Family Advocacy Center and the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center.
The funding, which is being given through the FY2023 Children’s Justice Act, will be used to support organizations that improve multidisciplinary coordination, provide training for professionals involved in the and prosecution of child abuse and neglect cases, and support the development of child and family advocacy centers.
“Protecting Arizona’s most vulnerable from abuse and neglect and providing critical support to ensure all Arizonans have the opportunity to thrive, is a collaborative and statewide effort,” said GOYFF Executive Director Maria Cristina Fuentes. “We are proud to support the growth of the strong continuum of care in local communities through organizations who are dedicated to keeping Arizona children safe.”
The Children’s Justice Act Grant is a formula-based program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854