WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), co-chairs of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, along with U.S. Representatives Ted Poe (R-Texas) and Jim Costa (D-Calif.), introduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA), 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 addition to Blunt and Coons, original cosponsors include U.S. Senators Todd Young (Ind.), Shelley Moore Capito (W. Va.), Richard Burr (N.C.), Mike Rounds (S.D.), Deb Fischer (Neb.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Mazie Hirono (Hawaii). 

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,” Senator Coons said. “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.” 

“In 2017, our state’s 22 child advocacy centers provided a safe haven to more than 8,500 of Missouri’s most vulnerable children,” said Senator Blunt. “This bipartisan bill will ensure Child Advocacy Centers and law enforcement have the resources they need to coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases. I urge my colleagues to support the vital role these centers play in keeping kids safe and holding abusers accountable by passing this bipartisan commonsense bill.”

“I’m extremely grateful to Senator Coons for continuing to support Children’s Advocacy Centers not only in Delaware, but across our nation,” said Randall Williams, CEO of Children’s Advocacy Center of Delaware, Inc. “As a result of continued bipartisan support, the Victims of Child Abuse Act has played a vital role in allowing these centers to reduce the devastating impact that child abuse has on children and their families, but there is much more still to do to ensure that all children have access to the services they need. In Delaware in 2017, the Division of Family Services received 21,305 reports of child abuse, neglect or dependency, which was the largest number of reports ever received. The reauthorization of this legislation is essential as we grow this program to one day meet the needs of every victim.”

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 United States. 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 critical work. Acknowledging current fiscal constraints, this moderate increase, from $20 million to $25 million, will strengthen the programs while also enhancing accountability provisions.

The following organizations have endorsed the VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2018: the National Children’s Alliance, North East Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, National District Attorneys Association, Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, Fraternal Order of Police, National Sheriffs’ Association, National Association of Police Organizations, Major County Sheriffs’ Association, and the Sergeants Benevolent Association.