BLOOMINGTON — Less funding will mean reduced hours of operation for a service that helps to protect children while their parents are in court.
The Children’s Room, operated by Children’s Home + Aid in the McLean County Law and Justice Center, will be closed on Wednesdays and will close at 3 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. on the other weekdays, Tiffanny Powell, the agency’s family support services program manager, said Tuesday.
The cut will take effect next week.
“It’s really devastating to me to have to do this,” Powell said. “There will be children in the Law and Justice Center who will hear things that they shouldn’t.”
Judge Elizabeth Robb, chief judge of the 11th Judicial Circuit, noted that court proceedings can be long and harsh.
“Having a safe and child-friendly environment for children to play during court proceedings has been extremely beneficial to the children and to their parents and family members,” Robb said in a prepared statement. “We are very distressed to hear that, due to funding cuts, the hours of operation will have to be curtailed.”
The service includes three rooms for children up to age 12 whose parents have courthouse business, including those involved in domestic violence and child custody cases, Powell said. The service, staffed by an outreach worker, includes a nursery, toys and a computer station. In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 550 children used the service.
The service is supported by $5 from each civil case filed in McLean County as well as private donations. The service received $14,000 less from court filing fees last year because fewer civil cases were filed.
In addition, so far this fiscal year, private donations have dropped $3,000, said Angie Fulton of Children’s Home + Aid. The Children’s Room has an annual budget of $47,000.
Fulton hopes private donors can make up the difference.
“This is an unduplicated, needed service in our community,” she said.