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Palmdale Backs Child Abuse Facility : City Council Votes $10,000 to Help Set Up Antelope Valley Center

Times Staff Writer

The Palmdale City Council on Thursday agreed to donate $10,000 in city funds to a community group working to establish a center for the treatment and prevention of child abuse in the Antelope Valley.

Although they had requested $50,000, board members of the proposed Antelope Valley Child Abuse Center praised the council decision.

“The City Council has showed it is enlightened on this subject,” said Gene House, a Palm Springs consultant who is heading fund-raising efforts for the center. “We are very grateful that the council has recognized the city’s responsibility to provide a municipal solution to this crisis.”

While council members spoke favorably of the project, they noted that the city of Palmdale has already donated staff time and other resources to help the center raise about $25,000 in private donations.

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At the suggestion of Councilman Dan Becker, they approved the contribution of a reduced amount of $10,000 to help establish the center, with the possibility of a $7,500 contribution next year depending on the center’s fund-raising success.

“I think we recognize that there’s a problem and something should be done about it,” Mayor Pete Knight said.

House said he hopes the decision will push the city of Lancaster and Los Angeles County to reconsider the center’s requests for money.

The proposed child abuse center has generated widespread interest and financial support in the Antelope Valley, with private contributors donating about $200,000 of the $300,000 needed for the center to open this fall.

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But the issue also has generated some discord, with some community leaders saying proponents of the center have been overzealous in seeking money from local governments.

The center’s board of directors--a group of doctors, executives and other community leaders--had asked the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster to commit an annual $50,000 each to the center, and asked for $100,000 from Los Angeles County. The facility would provide comprehensive treatment for child abuse victims and their families, and education programs for residents and law enforcement and social service agencies.

County officials and Lancaster city officials have said they do not have the money the center requested. Knight, a member of the proposed center’s board, had been among local officials who said granting the request would be unfair to other social causes.

But Thursday, representatives of the Antelope Valley Child Abuse Center told council members their cause merits special help because the child abuse problem is greater in the Antelope Valley than elsewhere and is the root of other social ills.

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“When you have a social crisis that has been demonstrated to cause a whole host of expensive, misery-causing problems, perhaps you have a right and obligation to give it priority,” House told the council.

Statistics from the county Department of Childrens Services, law enforcement agencies and schools show that the Antelope Valley has a higher proportionate rate of reported child abuse cases than more densely populated urban areas such as Long Beach and a county service area encompassing Inglewood, Santa Monica and the western San Fernando Valley.

Experts say the isolation of the high desert, its attraction to antisocial “loners,” and the pressures of long commutes to Los Angeles on working parents, along with a stronger propensity for neighbors in “small town” areas to report abuse, account for the high incidence of the problem.


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