HARRISBURG – Legislation designed to secure a reliable funding stream for the state's Child Advocacy Centers has been approved by both the state House and Senate and now heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law, announced Rep. Julie Harhart (R-Lehigh/Northampton), author of the measure.
"I have been working on legislation to fund the state's CACs for the last 10 years and am overjoyed that these important facilities will now have funding to help them continue their mission," said Harhart.
"The work done at these centers is life-saving for many of the children who seek help, and it gives law enforcement the information needed to track suspected abusers. I am thankful my colleagues in the General Assembly recognize and support the need to fund these vital centers. I look forward to seeing it signed into law in the coming days."
A CAC is essentially a one-stop-shop treatment program for abused children which brings together doctors, nurses, prosecutors, social workers and law enforcement.
This multidisciplinary approach gives abused children the best chance to recover and also provides the most effective way to gather evidence to bring perpetrators to justice.
House Bill 316 establishes a $10 fee increase for the cost of duplicate birth certificates in order to fund existing CACs, support the development of new CACs, train individuals mandated to report suspected child abuse and for other child abuse-related costs.
The cost of a duplicate birth certificate would therefore rise from $10 to $20.
Currently, CACs are supported through federal funding, grants, donations and fundraising events.
Under Harhart's legislation, it is estimated the duplicate birth certificate fee increase would raise approximately $2.86 million per year.
"According to the Task Force on Child Protection, it is recommended every child should be within a two-hour car ride of a CAC," said Harhart.
"With only 21 CACs currently spread across 67 counties, more facilities are definitely needed, which this funding will help support."
Under the legislation, an advisory committee comprising 21 members, including the victim advocate and representatives from law enforcement, county children and youth agencies, and victim service providers, would also be created to make recommendations regarding how to administer the funding.
House Bill 316 garnered approval in both the House and Senate.
It is supported by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the Department of Public Welfare.