SPRINGFIELD, Mo -- Child advocates are preparing for a battle in the capital to bring back tax credits.
The numbers are staggering in the Ozarks. Greene County is second in the state when it comes to child abuse per capita. However, It's a problem that reaches all across Southwest Missouri. Local agencies need all the help they can get where they can get it.
The following are quotes from children in the Ozarks during forensic interviews. The names and locations have been changed:
"He said if I told anyone this was happening, that he would hunt me down and kill me." -Angela, age 12, Bolivar.
"Why do people keep hurting me?" -Will, age 7, Nixa.
"It's Springfield and Greene County's dirty little secret that we have so much child abuse and child neglect," said Springfield City Manager Greg Burris.
Thankfully there are agencies like the Child Advocacy Center, CASA, and Isabel's house that step in when abuse happens. "Are our numbers higher because we have more of it or because we do a better job identifying it? I always say, the truth is, both," said CAC Executive Director Barbara Brown-Johnson.
The organizations experienced a set back in August that is hindering their ability to help children in the Ozarks.
"We were very disappointed that the tax credits weren't reinstated," said Brown-Johnson.
The Children in Crisis tax credit at the state level expired. The Child Advocacy Center has received nearly $250,000 over the last four years thanks to the tax credits. CASA gets about $100,000 a year; it represents about a third of its budget.
"It encourages not only more donations, it also encourages more donors," said Brown-Johnson.
"Allowing the tax credit to expire didn't save the state one dime," said State Senator Bob Dixon.
Sen. Dixon said the credits got caught up in a tangled mess at the capital. "Children should not be used as leverage," he said.
A coalition of legislators and child advocates has now formed. They hope to convince Jefferson City to bring the credit back. The city of Springfield has even added it to its official legislative priority list for 2013.
"At some point we've got to face up to it as a community. There's a lot of people that do know that we are number two in the state in child abuse and neglect rates. There's a lot of people that don't know that and don't want to know that," said Burris.
Sen. Dixon has pre-filed a bill for the next session in January. It's called Senate Bill 20. It will bring back the Children in Crisis credit.
If the credit doesn't come back agencies will be strapped. If they have to turn down cases, that case doesn't go away. It will most likely go to the state and social services. That means taxpayers will foot the bill.