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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: January 15, 2013 09:26 AM
From: Representative Julie Harhart
To: All House members
Subject: Children's Advocacy Centers
I am introducing a bill to fund children’s advocacy centers.

Essentially, a children’s advocacy center is the focal point for the delivery of medical care and mental health treatment to child victims of physical and sexual abuse. A “one-stop-shop” for the tiniest victims of crime, a children’s advocacy center brings together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers, and police in order to provide a unique and essential program of treatment and healing. This “multi-disciplinary approach” gives these wounded children the best chance to recover and also provides the most effective way to bring perpetrators to justice. Children’s advocacy centers utilize techniques which not only minimize the trauma of children who must tell a heartbreaking story of abuse, but also employ strategies to increase the odds of gaining convictions.

As we all know, child abuse has reached epidemic proportions. According to Childhelp, a national organization which provides the National Child Abuse Hotline, over three million reports of child abuse are made every year in the United States. Approximately five children a day die in the United States as a result of abuse. More than three out of four of those children are under the age of four. Ninety percent of the victims of child sexual abuse know their perpetrator. Sixty eight percent are molested by family members.

Sadly, Pennsylvania is not immune. According to the 2011 Annual Child Abuse Report published by the Department of Public Welfare, 34 children died in Pennsylvania as a result of abuse. In 2010, the Department reported 33 children died at the hands of perpetrators.

In 2011, there were over 3,400 substantiated cases of child abuse in Pennsylvania. Over fifty percent of the child abuse cases which the Department of Public Welfare classified as “substantiated” in 2011 involved sexual abuse. Sixty seven percent of the substantiated reports of child abuse in 2011 involved child victims who are girls; thirty three percent involved child victims who are boys. Eighty percent of the children who were sexually abused in 2011 are girls and twenty percent are boys.

These statistics demonstrate clearly the need is great. The Task Force on Child Protection noted Pennsylvania contains 67 counties but there are only 21 Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs). In its report, the task force stressed the need to support existing CACs and to help CACs take root in areas where none currently exist. The task force noted the goal should be that an abused child is within a two-hour car ride of a CAC.

My legislation establishes a mechanism to help existing CACs and to help establish new CACs, based upon the regional concept articulated by the Task Force on Child Protection. Based upon the grant program the General Assembly established to fund domestic violence centers and rape crisis centers found in the Administrative Code, my legislation provides that a $15 fee would be assessed on defendants who are found guilty of a crime. The money (about $2.2 million a year) would be provided to existing CACs and those wishing to found new CACs. The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency would administer the grant program.

The legislation also provides for an additional $5 to be assessed on defendants under the Administrative Code with respect to funding domestic violence centers and rape crisis centers. The increase will raise about $700,000 in additional funding for domestic violence centers and rape crisis centers.

I hope you will join me in sponsoring this legislation.

Introduced as HB316