Congress Introduces Bipartisan Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2013
Reauthorization will secure funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers, helping to solve child-abuse cases while protecting child victims of violent crimes
National Children’s Alliance
On December 10, 2013, Congress introduced the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA) Reauthorization Act of 2013, re-emphasizing its support for federally funding the development of Children’s Advocacy Centers, and for training and technical assistance of Children’s Advocacy Centers and professionals in the areas of child abuse intervention and prevention. This effort to restore and secure the future of this important funding was driven by a bipartisan group of senators led by Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), co-chairs of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, and cosponsored by Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). In the House, Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) and Representative Jim Costa (D-CA), co-chairs of the Victims’ Rights Caucus, led this effort.
Though the success of the federal-state and public-private partnerships associated with the Children’s Advocacy Center model have earned them broad bipartisan support, Congressional authorization for Children’s Advocacy Centers lapsed in 2005, and most recently the President’s proposed budgets for 2013 and 2014 have zeroed out federal funding. The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 will restore funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers and strengthen oversight of this critical program.
“When a child is the victim of physical or sexual abuse, his or her life will never be the same,” Senator Coonssaid. “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 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.”
“I join Senator Coons, and the other legislators who played a critical role in the passing of the VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 in recognizing the important role the Victims of Child Abuse Act plays in protecting our nation’s children,” remarked Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of National Children’s Alliance. “For nearly two decades, Children’s Advocacy Centers have existed in communities across the country – however, there remain many children who do not have access to these critical services in times of need. The VOCAA Reauthorization Act of 2013 is the first step in the continued evolution and growth of the Children’s Advocacy Center model. With this ongoing support we can hope to one day not only meet the needs of every child victim of abuse, but work together on prevention efforts that will ultimately eradicate child abuse from our society.”
Child 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 2012 alone, more than 286,000 children were served at over 800 Child Advocacy Centers across the United States, with over 197,000 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 Child Advocacy Centers for the first time since the 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.
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, the National Child Protection Training Center, and End Child Prostitution and Trafficking.
For more information about National Children’s Alliance and the over 750 Children’s Advocacy Centers serving our nation’s children, visit www.nationalchildrensalliance.org;.
National Children’s Alliance is the national association and accrediting body for the over 750 children’s advocacy centers serving each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient, and put the needs of child victims of abuse first, National Children’s Alliance provides support and advocacy to its accredited membership, as well as numerous developing centers, multidisciplinary teams and child abuse professionals around the country, and the world. As the national authority on multidisciplinary approaches to supporting child victims of abuse, the purpose of National Children’s Alliance is to empower local communities to provide comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to victims of child abuse. Founded in 1998, National Children’s Alliance provides accreditation opportunities, financial assistance, training, technical assistance, research and education to communities, child abuse professionals and children’s advocacy centers throughout the United States in support of child abuse intervention, advocacy and prevention.