State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Pa. District Attorneys Say Penn State's $60 Million Fine Should go to Children's Advocacy Centers

by on August 08, 2012 11:33 AM

Members of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association announced their endorsement of Penn State's $60 million fine going toward children's advocacy centers throughout the state. 

"In our analysis Pennsylvania's children's advocacy centers should be considered the priority of the NCAA endowment's funding," said Mark Wagner, President of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA) and Adams County District Attorney.

Letters have been sent to NCAA President Mark Emmert and Penn State President Rodney Erickson, as Penn State is expected to administer the $60 million endowment fund. 

In the letter, the PDAA said children's advocacy centers offer a comprehensive approach in assisting child sexual abuse victims, including treatment, prosecution and prevention.

There are 67 counties in Pennsylvania but only 21 have children's advocacy centers, Wagner said. The centers utilize muti-disciplinary teams to provide open, comprehensive services in the areas of child abuse prevention, investigation and healing for victims and families. 

"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. "The problem is the lack of dedicated funding has prevented children's advocacy centers from being available to all Pennsylvania children."

Children's advocacy centers are a major benefit in child sexual abuse cases because it allows for an environment for victims to feel safe. They don't need to endure several repetitive interviews conducted by various law enforcement officials. 

Children don't have to be afraid they won't be believed or that action against their abuser won't be taken, Newman said. 

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said she has been working toward creating a center in the area and while training of staff continues, additional funds are needed to move forward. 

"Would things be different in our community if we had a child advocacy center and the proper interviews had been done back in 1998," Parks Miller said. "Would there be a different result? Would there have been less victims?"

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.

"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."

Parks Miller said that she has spoken with many adults who as children were victims of abuse have expressed support for a center in Centre County, and the district attorney said she is actively pursuing locations. 

"The challenge is to create a safe, child-friendly, non-threatening environment," Parks Miller said. "Where child victims can become children again."

Among several district attorneys present was Seth Williams, Philadelphia district attorney, Penn State alum and former Penn State undergraduate student body president.

Following the press conference held by PDAA, Penn State released its statement: 

"Penn State recognizes the fine work done each day by our state's district attorneys, children advocacy centers and countless organizations that help children. The University is working to formulate a plan to create and administer the fund. It is our hope the fund will produce countless opportunities to help children in need. We appreciate this valuable input and will provide additional details when they become available."

Laura Nichols is a news reporter and @LC_Nichols on Twitter.
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