Only 21 of 67 counties have access to comprehensive approach to child sexual abuse prevention, investigation and healing
August 8, 2012 : District Attorneys throughout Pennsylvania said today that Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) should be considered the priority when funding decisions are made regarding the $60 million NCAA endowment created by a consent decree to assist victims of child abuse.
In a letter to Penn State University President Rodney Erickson and NCAA President Mark Emmert, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) said expanding access to CAC services, which offer a comprehensive approach in assisting child sexual abuse victims, including treatment, prosecution and prevention, would best fulfill the requirements of the consent decree. Penn State University is expected to administer the fund.
“In our analysis Pennsylvania’s Children’s Advocacy Centers should be considered the priority for the NCAA endowment’s funding,” PDAA President and Adams County District Attorney Shawn Wagner said. “Moving forward, district attorneys want to ensure that all of the good intentions currently spotlighting the issue of child sexual abuse are directed and focused on proven services that promote healing and justice for victims and hold their abusers accountable for their criminal acts.”
“It is sad and extremely frustrating that there are children who have endured the horrors of sexual abuse and are not able to get the services they need because of the lack of adequate funding,” said Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
CACs are county-based, utilizing multi-disciplinary teams providing proven, comprehensive services in the areas of child abuse prevention, investigation and healing for victims and their families. In Pennsylvania, only 21 out of 67 counties are able to offer CAC services to child victims of sexual abuse and other crimes. Their lack of geographic reach and dedicated funding sources currently make it impossible for their services to reach all of Pennsylvania’s children and families. Budgetary decisions are made on an annual basis and depend upon grant applications and local fundraising efforts.
“Where we have Children’s Advocacy Centers, they are a proven, comprehensive service,” said Abbie Newman, President of the Pennsylvania Chapter of Children’s Advocacy Centers and Multi-Disciplinary Task Forces and Executive Director of Mission Kids, Montgomery County’s CAC. “The problem is the lack of dedicated funding has prevented Children’s Advocacy Center services from being available to all of Pennsylvania’s children.”
Research demonstrates that child abuse investigations handled through a Children’s Advocacy Center have a shorter length of time to disposition, better prosecution outcomes, higher rates of caregiver and child satisfaction, more referrals to mental health services and better access to medical care. Anecdotally, use of this model results in more guilty plea agreements sparing victims further trauma of testifying at trial.
“District Attorneys who are fortunate enough to have Children’s Advocacy Centers in their communities have seen their tremendous success on behalf of victims and justice,” Wagner said. “We ask that Children’s Advocacy Centers are considered the priority when funding decisions are made regarding the Penn State-NCAA’s $60 million endowment.