Harris County Commissioners Create Early Childhood Resiliency Fund For Young Victims of Domestic Violence
Photo: HCP4

Harris County Commissioners Create Early Childhood Resiliency Fund For Young Victims of Domestic Violence

May 07 2024

In a unanimous vote Tuesday, Harris County Commissioners approved $6.2 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to create the Early Childhood Resiliency Fund. The program will increase access to early intervention for children and families experiencing or exposed to domestic violence.

In 2022, Harris County led the state in intimate partner homicides, and intimate partner violence homicides in Harris County doubled from 2019 to 2022, per a 2023 study by the University of Houston’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Children exposed to domestic and intimate partner violence experience trauma and are at greater risk of depression and anxiety, and these risks increase when children themselves are abused.

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, additional short-term and long-term impacts of trauma include: 

  • Anxiety and Fear: Pre-school children are more likely to revert to activities they did as younger children, such as bedwetting, thumb-sucking, difficulty falling or staying asleep, and experience terror and severe separation anxiety.  
  • Guilt and Self-Esteem Issues: As children grow older, they internalize guilt and blame themselves for the abuse. This can have an impact on their academic performance and peer relationships.  
  • During and after adolescence, boys are ten times more likely to abuse a female partner, and girls are six times more likely to be sexually abused if they have witnessed their mother being abused. 

“Everyone deserves to be safe and free from violence — especially our children. We must support all victims and ensure they have access to care that will promote healing and reduce risks of trauma-related challenges. Through the Early Childhood Resiliency Fund, we can help end the cycle of abuse,” Commissioner Lesley Briones said.

The Harris County Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity (DEEO) will lead the Early Childhood Resiliency Fund in partnership with the Harris County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council (HCDVCC).

“This fund will provide over $5 million for grants to local domestic service providers to meet the developmental and therapeutic needs of young children exposed to domestic violence. We look forward to working collaboratively to ensure this fund successfully reaches families in need,” said Estella Gonzalez, Executive Director, DEEO.

HCDVCC will distribute $5.3 million to service provider organizations through a grant program to address the developmental and therapeutic needs of young children exposed to domestic violence. The remaining $900,000 will go toward HCDVCC’s administrative costs.

“This funding will provide opportunities for local nonprofits who are under-resourced to meet the demand for services to employ new and innovative efforts to support families and children in ways that will improve long-term outcomes and restore hope and resiliency. We hope that this will serve as a model for our community. We thank Harris County Commissioners for their leadership, and we are honored to partner with the Department of Economic Equity and Opportunity to make a difference,” said Barbie Brashear, Executive Director, HCDVCC.

Any service provider specializing in intimate partner violence and/or domestic violence that provides trauma intervention for families and children may apply for a grant.

Priority will be given to organizations that also provide temporary shelter, housing, and non-residential programming. 

HCDVCC is expected to begin awarding grants by early 2025. 

“We know a significant portion of families served through local Domestic Violence service providers include young children, and we know from research that exposure to this type of violence negatively impacts childhood development. The Resiliency Fund will help us better address the developmental and therapeutic needs of these young children, helping us serve those youngest and most vulnerable in our communities,” said Santrice Jones, Director, Early Childhood Initiatives, DEEO.

Applications are anticipated to open in late 2024. To learn more about the HCDVCC and DEEO visit their websites hcdvcc.org or deeo.harriscountytx.gov.

Source: HCP4

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