Wednesday, July 18, 2012

PA reports 1,700 cases of child sex abuse in 2011

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare reported more than 1,700 cases of child sex abuse in 2011.  One tool in the prosecution of child abuse are the Child Advocacy Centers (CAC).

The CACs have a variety of staff on hand to assist children who may have suffered physical or sexual abuse. In 21 facilities throughout Pennsylvania, multidisciplinary teams of doctors, police, and counselors treat children who have suffered abuse. The centers have been described as one-stop shops.

But state lawmakers are grappling with the question of how to push more funding to the CACs way.

That funding is vital, says Rep. Julie Harhart, R-Lehigh, judging by the rate of reported child abuse.

"Just in 2011 there were over 3,400 substantiated cases of child abuse in Pennsylvania and over 50 percent of the child abuse cases, which the Department of Public Welfare classified as substantiated, were classified as sexual abuse," she told WHYY.

Harhart wants to create a special fund to help support existing centers and create new ones. She has proposed generating the money from a fee on court filings.

The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has another idea. Rep. Ron Marsico, R-Dauphin, says he'll propose hiking the fee on child abuse background checks.

Marsico, who said he anticipates that will rankle groups required to check the abuse history of new employees, told WHYY he's offering the idea, "just throwing that out, just for discussion."

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