Costa, Poe Introduce Legislation to Protect Child Abuse Victims
WASHINGTON, DC—Co-Chairs of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus, Reps. Jim Costa and Ted Poe, introduced the reauthorization of the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCCA) that will improve accountability and extend the program for 5 years. The act provides funding to the National Children’s Alliance, local Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), and four Regional Children’s Advocacy Center programs. These centers and programs help expedite prosecution of offenders, reduce violent encounters, and improve safety in communities across the country.
“When one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18, this issue, which impacts every neighborhood, every school, and every community across the country, deserves action and continued vigilance,” said Rep. Costa.“Supporting victims of child abuse takes a comprehensive approach that meets the needs of the childwhile also gathering all the information necessary for a successful prosecution. We have come a long way in our effort to combat child abuse, but our job is nowhere near finished.”
“It is an unfortunate and unacceptable fact that thousands of children are victims of the despicable crime of child abuse in this country every year,” said Rep. Poe. “Through this piece of legislation, Congress ensures that those who are advocating for and protecting our children have the resources they need. We must do all we can to protect innocent children and make sure their needs are met so they can go on to live happy, productive lives.”
Funds from the act go directly to local Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) that are public-private partnerships aimed at bringing together local law enforcement, prosecutors, child protective services, and medical professionals involved in investigating cases of child abuse. In 2000, the program helped 100,539 children and has grown to 286,000 children served in 2012.
For 15 years, the Fresno Council on Child Abuse Prevention (FCCAP) has operated the only National Children’s Alliance (NCA) certified Child Advocacy Center (CAC) in Fresno County.
Esther Franco, FCCAP Executive Directoradded, “For 15 years, we have been working to offer child-friendly and prevention-focused services in Fresno County. Funding from VOCAA has given us the tools to improve our forensic interviews that help lead to the efficient prosecution of offenders and strengthen coordinated, multi-disciplinary efforts that meet the special needs of Fresno County. Sexual abuse can be difficult to detect, but we are making great strides in caring for the youngest victims here in the Valley partially thanks to the support we receive from VOCAA.”
The Community Action Partnership of Madera County (CAPMC) offers similar coordinated services in Madera County and also receives support from VOCCA.
CAPMC Program Manager Tina Figueroa-Rodriguez added, “The Victims of Child Abuse Act sets a standard for child advocacy centers to comply with which places child abuse victims as a top priority for best care. We see the difference that the Victims of Child Abuse Act makes in the lives of the families that we serve.”
As co-chairmen and co-founders of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus, Costa and Poe have been leaders in bringing the issue of crime victims’ rights to the forefront in Congress. The mission of the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus is to elevate crime victim issues in Congress in a bipartisan manner without infringing on the rights of the accused and to represent and to advocate before the Administration and within Congress on behalf of crime victims.