Nationally, at least five children die daily as a result of child abuse. Eighty percent of these children are 4 years old or younger.
In Pennsylvania, there were 31 child fatalities resulting from child abuse in 2011, 15 of which resulted in criminal convictions. At least 13 percent of the child fatalities in Pennsylvania involved sexual abuse allegations, not including open cases.
A child advocacy center can either be connected to a hospital or stand alone and is staffed by a multi-disciplinary team consisting of the police, prosecutors, medical staff, therapists and workers from Children, Youth, and Families.
Child abuse victims are examined in one place, at one time, eliminating the need for multiple appointments and facilitating teamwork and efficiency.
Pennsylvania has 21 child advocacy centers. Central Pennsylvania has none, forcing workers to transported children several hours away to centers in Harrisburg or Pittsburgh.
A child advocacy center in central Pennsylvania could benefit the surrounding counties of Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Centre, Clearfield, Fulton and Huntingdon. The need here is evident because of more than 1,000 child abuse and neglect investigations conducted in this area each year.
Pennsylvania's legislative session has ended for 2012. A bill that was on the agenda would have addressed funding for the establishment of child advocacy centers across the state of Pennsylvania.
The bill would have created the Child Advocacy Center Funding Act, which would establish the Child Abuse Multidisciplinary Response Account.
This account would be used to create and fund the operations of new child advocacy centers across Pennsylvania. A proposed way to fund the account would be to add a $2 fee to court costs and filing fees.
But the bill wasn't passed and now is dead.
It was proposed that a good way to fund this account would be to use a portion of the $60 million in fines that the NCAA imposed on Penn State in response to the sexual abuse scandal.
The Pennsylvania District Attorney's Association sent letters to Rodney Erickson, Penn State president, and Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, requesting that this be considered.
I have personally seen the benefits of child advocacy centers on child abuse investigations in my work and support legislative efforts to create and fund child advocacy centers.
Before and during the legislative session of 2013, I urge you to contact your local and state representatives and urge them to support these efforts as well.
This legislation would benefit child abuse victims, not only in central Pennsylvania, but across the entire state.
Sexual abuse has had central Pennsylvania in the spotlight for the past several years. It is easy to point fingers and discuss what they did wrong.
Let's use that same energy to do something that is right. If we can't protect every child from abuse and neglect, why can't we at least do something to reduce their level of trauma after the fact?
We need to do something. Support legislation to create more child advocacy centers.
Rebecca Miller of Loretto is working on a master of social work degree from the University of Southern California.