U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, June 12, 2014
CONTACT: Jamie Serlin at 202-224-5042

Judiciary Committee approves bill to save advocacy centers for victims of child abuse

Victims of Child Abuse Act reauthorization would allow Children’s Advocacy Centers to continue serving child victims of violent crimes.

WASHINGTON – The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation Thursday to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA), which provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers that serve child abuse victims and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable. The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 was introduced in December by U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), co-chairs of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, and Senators Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii).

Though the success of these federal-state and public-private partnerships has earned them broad bipartisan support, Congressional authorization for Children’s Advocacy Centers lapsed in 2005, and the President’s last three proposed budgets have either zeroed out or significantly cut federal funding. In addition to reauthorizing the program, the VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 would strengthen accountability provisions and improve oversight of the program.

“We have a shared responsibility to protect our children from violence and abuse,” Senator Coons said. “Though we can’t prevent every tragedy, we can make sure that children and families have the resources they need to heal and obtain justice. Children’s Advocacy Centers bring all of these resources together under one roof for one mission – to serve justice for children. Demand for these services has only grown since the Victims of Child Abuse Act was enacted more than two decades ago. Children’s Advocacy Centers served close to 300,000 children last year and 1,000 communities still have no access to a center when a child is the victim of a serious crime. Reauthorization of this vital program is long overdue, and I’m grateful to my colleagues on the Judiciary Committee for joining me to move this bill forward.”

"The Victims of Child Abuse Act funding received by the Children’s Advocacy Center of Delaware is critically important in our efforts to ensure that our CACs and our multidisciplinary team partners are able to provide the very best response possible when presented with allegations of child abuse,” said Randall E. Williams, Executive Director of the Children's Advocacy Center of Delaware, Inc. “Our child victims deserve to receive the very best services available, and VOCAA funding has allowed our CACs and multidisciplinary team partners to receive the training, technical assistance, and support necessary to employ nationally recognized ‘best practices’ and ensure child victims are not further traumatized by the very systems designed to protect them."

"Nothing is more important than protecting children," said Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden. "Children’s Advocacy Centers are on the front lines in the fight against predators. This funding will make our children safer." 

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, preventing children from being re-traumatized by having to tell their stories multiple times. In 2013 alone, nearly 300,000 children were served at over 800 Children’s Advocacy Centers across the United States, with over 200,000 cases reporting sexual abuse. Their use 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 2013 would increase authorization levels for Children’s Advocacy Centers for the first time since VOCAA was enacted in 1990. Acknowledging current fiscal constraints, this moderate increase, from $20 million to $22.5 million, is still below an amount that would keep pace with inflation and population growth. The reauthorization would also strengthen the programs through enhanced accountability provisions, non-profit requirements, and limitations on conference expenditures.

Senator Coons has been an outspoken advocate for Delaware’s three Children’s Advocacy Centers. He visited the Wilmington Children’s Advocacy Center in October 2012 and the Dover Children’s Advocacy Center in April 2013. After the President’s proposed budget for FY15 cut support for Children’s Advocacy Centers by $8 million, Senator Coons led a successful effort to restore funding for the program in the Appropriations Committee’s annual funding bill for the Justice Department. The National Children’s Alliance honored Senator Coons at their annual conference last week for his efforts to sustain Children’s Advocacy Centers in Delaware and around the nation.

In addition to Senators Coons, Blunt, Sessions, and Hirono, the VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 is cosponsored by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Angus King (I-Maine), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Chuck Schumer (D - N.Y.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The following organizations have endorsed the VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013: National Association of Police Organizations, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, National Criminal Justice Training Center, Major Cities Chiefs’ Association, National Children’s Alliance, National Children’s Advocacy Center, National Center for Victims of Crime, Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department, and the National Child Protection Training Center.

Law Enforcement
Judiciary Committee
Criminal Justice
Justice Department
Senate Law Enforcement Caucus
Victims of Child Abuse Act
Appropriations Committee
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