HARRISBURG – August 9, 2023 − The Senate Aging and Youth Committee, chaired by state Sen. Judy Ward (R-30) and Sen. Maria Collett (D-12) held a hearing on Tuesday to gather information about the critical roles played by children’s advocacy centers across Pennsylvania.
Children’s advocacy centers (CACs) coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases by utilizing teams of professionals involved in child protective and victim advocacy services, law enforcement and prosecution, and physical and mental health.
Pennsylvania has 41 CACs, which provided services to 15,735 children in 2022. Types of cases include sexual abuse, physical abuse, child witness to violence, drug endangered children and others.
“Child advocacy centers are an invaluable resource in the fight against child abuse. Through their partnerships with advocacy groups, law enforcement and local government agencies, they take a child-focused approach to the abuse investigation process, allowing allegations to be investigated and evidence to be gathered in a way that considers the child’s emotional, psychological, and physical needs,” Ward said. “I am encouraged by the in-depth testimony received at today’s hearing, and I look forward to working with Sen. Maria Collett and the rest of my colleagues on how we can best support child advocacy centers in their life-saving mission.”
“Sadly, child abuse happens in all corners of the Commonwealth. Today’s diverse group of panelists made a compelling case regarding the need for and value of greater investment in the Commonwealth’s CACs,” added Senator Collett. “As a former Deputy Attorney General representing New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services, I saw firsthand the impact that supportive services – or the lack thereof – make in ensuring the best possible outcomes for children who have suffered unimaginable trauma.”
The hearing consisted of three panels giving testimony on an overview of the role of children’s advocacy centers, how the centers are working with youth in their communities, and how they assist law enforcement and child protection officers.
A Blair County parent described how her daughter, a sexual assault survivor, was aided by a CAC and the county multidisciplinary investigative team, which coordinates child abuse investigations between county agencies, law enforcement and a health care professional.
Robin Boyer, director of intake services at the Lancaster County Children and Youth Agency, explained how CACs ensure child abuse investigations meet high standards.
The panel also heard from representatives of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the Blair County Children’s Advocacy Center, and Mission Kids Children’s Advocacy Center, as well as Cumberland County District Attorney Sean McCormack.
Committee members asked testifiers what the General Assembly could do to help CACs, and several testifiers spoke about challenges facing CACs, including funding and staffing.
State support for CACs was enacted as part of the comprehensive bill package adopted by the General Assembly from recommendations included in the Task Force on Child Protection’s Joint State Government Commission report released in November 2012 in the wake of the Sandusky scandal at Penn State.
Hearing video and written testimony can be accessed at the Senate Aging and Youth Committee website.
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