Helping Those Children Most in Need
With more than three million children reporting abuse each year across the United States and approximately five children a day dying as a result of abuse, there is a clear need to do more to help those who are victimized.
For the past several years I have been championing legislation that would create a funding stream for children’s advocacy centers (CACs) across the Commonwealth. CACs serve as a one-stop-shop for the delivery of medical care and mental health treatment to child victims of physical and sexual abuse. CACs bring together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and police in order to provide an effective and comprehensive program of treatment and healing. By having these professionals all involved and represented under one roof, children are spared from having to repeat their harrowing tales over and over again to each department or level of service they access. CACs provide an essential service to children all across Pennsylvania.
We currently have 21 accredited CACs in Pennsylvania, and these centers are primarily funded by federal grants, charitable organizations, private donations and sponsoring institutions. Legislation I am sponsoring would create the Children’s Advocacy Center Funding Act, which would establish an account for grants to CACs that would be administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare. Funds would be raised through an additional $2 fee on initial filings of civil cases heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme, Superior and Commonwealth courts, as well as criminal cases heard by the Courts of Common Pleas.
With additional funding, existing CACs would be able to provide a greater range of services, and counties that wish to establish a CAC would have access to the assistance needed to help them.
Having access to medical, mental and legal assistance is essential to these children and I firmly believe that with my legislation we can help even more children get the help they need and deserve.
It is my sincere hope this legislation becomes law, and that we are able to help provide even greater services to the many children who look to CACs as a lifeline during a tragic period in their lives.
On a related note, I am also pleased to report that the House Judiciary Committee will be taking a tour this month of the Child Advocacy Center of Lehigh County to gain greater knowledge of the services provided by CACs and to learn more about how the centers operate. I am honored the committee has chosen to tour this organization and meet with those who make such a difference in the lives of abused children.
Focusing on the welfare of the youth across Pennsylvania has been a cornerstone of the House agenda this session. In addition to the introduction of my legislation, we have passed legislation into law to close loopholes in the state’s Megan’s Law to ensure more sexual predators have to register, as well as legislation banning texting while driving and providing increased training and safety measures for teen drivers to help improve safety on our roads.
I will continue to advocate for the health and safety of our young people, and will continue to spearhead efforts to make sure CACs receive the support needed to care for those children most in need.
For more information on House Bill 1739 and other legislative efforts, visit my website at www.JulieHarhart.com
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State Representative Julie Harhart
183rd District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Tricia Lehman