Proposal to fund First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth

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Today, Tuesday February 28th, the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee heard legislation authored by Rep. Alicia Kozlowski (DFL-Duluth) to fund the First Witness Child Advocacy Center in Duluth. HF 774 would fund a grant from the commissioner of human services to First Witness Child Advocacy Center to demolish and renovate certain buildings for use as a training and advocacy center.

“This new building would include child and teen centered spaces. Spaces for ongoing advocacy services and additional forensic interview for those emergency cases. A multidisciplinary team space that allows for law enforcement and social services to truly respond to the needs of these difficult cases. And finally, a training center that would serve the entire state, that will bring investigators and advocates from around the state and country to learn from our national model,” says Tracie Clanaugh, from First Witness Child Advocacy Center.

First Witness Child Advocacy plays a crucial role in disrupting the cycle of violence both on the individual and the community level. A grant funding the center is of the utmost importance.

“Can you imagine if you were instead of me sitting here, a kid sitting here testifying? Now, imagine in a courtroom. Courtroom that’s built on authority, built on authority for law, authority for judges. That’s an intimidating space for a kid to walk into. It’s particularly intimidating when a kid walks in and the person on trial might be a loved one. Somebody they trusted, somebody they cared about, somebody who took care of them testifying. They probably want to run over and give that person a hug. Despite the terrible things that maybe they’ve done to them. We’re in a system built on authority, system anchored on authority, and that works really well for adults. It does not work well for kids,” said Jon Holets, of St. Louis County Attorney’s Office.

The Child advocacy center would appropriate $1,500,000 in 2024 from the general fund to the commissioner of human services for a grant to First Witness Child Advocacy Center. We’ll keep you updated on this proposal.