Sens. Chris Coons, D-Delaware, and Roy Blunt, R-Missouri, co-chairs of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, along with Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Jim Costa, D-California, introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act, which provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers that serve child victims and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable.
The success of these federal-state and public-private partnerships have earned them broad bipartisan support and it is time for Congressional reauthorization. The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 would ensure funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers through 2023 and strengthen oversight of this critical program.
In Delaware, there are Children’s Advocacy Centers in Wilmington, Dover and Georgetown.
“When a child is the victim of physical or sexual abuse, his or her life will never be the same,” said Coons. “Seeking justice should be a part of the healing process — not a source of further trauma. Children’s Advocacy Centers provide a safe, supportive space for young victims and help law enforcement officers bring perpetrators to justice faster, more effectively, and at a lower cost. These facilities are a critical asset to law enforcement, to our criminal justice system, and, most importantly, to the children in our community who have been the victims of truly horrific crimes. I thank my colleagues for working with me to ensure they can continue to serve children in need in Delaware and around the country.”
Children’s Advocacy Centers employ a multi-disciplinary team of trained professionals to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been victims of abuse. These interviews are designed to be admissible in court while also preventing children from being re-traumatized by having to tell their accounts multiple times. In 2017 alone, more than 334,000 children were served at over 850 Children’s Advocacy Centers across the U.S. Evidence gathered and subsequently used in child abuse cases saved, on average, more than $1,000 per case in court, child protection, and investigative fees.
The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 would increase authorization levels for this work. Acknowledging current fiscal constraints, this moderate increase, from $20 million to $25 million, will strengthen the programs while also enhancing accountability provisions.