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Blunt, Coons Bill to Protect Victims of Child Abuse Passes House, Is on its Way to the President’s Desk

December 20, 2018

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Chris Coons (Del.), co-chairs of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, announced that their bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA) passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support and is on its way to the president’s desk. The legislation provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers that serve child victims and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable.

“Every year, Children’s Advocacy Centers protect thousands of our state’s most vulnerable children,” said Blunt. “By reauthorizing funding for this critical program, Child Advocacy Centers and law enforcement will continue to have the tools they need to coordinate the investigation, treatment, and prosecution of child abuse cases. I thank Senator Coons, our colleagues in the House, and advocacy groups across the nation for their help in getting this bill to the president’s desk.”

“Children’s Advocacy Centers protect children in Delaware and all across the country, and I’m very glad that Senator Blunt and I have been able to work across the aisle to move forward a reauthorization of the Victims of Child Abuse Act,” said Coons. “This legislation will ensure that law enforcement, along with health and other service providers, have the resources they need to care for children who have been abused and quickly prosecute the perpetrators of these horrific crimes.”

“National Children’s Alliance (NCA) is grateful to Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Chris Coons, and Representatives Jim Costa and Ted Poe, for championing the cause of America’s children in introducing the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018,” said Teresa Huizar, Executive Director, National Children’s Alliance. “As the national association and accrediting body for Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), NCA knows that this Act, funding the only federal program solely dedicated to developing CACs and improving the services they provide to kids that have been abused, is critical to the more than 330,000 children our member CACs serve each year. Once again, Congress shows, by reauthorizing and updating the Act, that it values the impact of the CAC model. Sen. Blunt led the effort in Congress to give our movement the continuity crucial to our provision of healing mental health services to more than a million children over the past decade. Thanks to the 115th Congress, and especially our champions for children, Sen. Blunt, Senator Coons, Rep. Costa, and Representative Poe, for their leadership in making this program one that children can rely on.”

“Senator Blunt’s ongoing leadership on the Victims of Child Abuse Act this year and for more than a decade is critical to meet the needs of over 8,000 child victims in Missouri each year,” said Joy Oesterly, Executive Director, Missouri KidsFirst. “Because of the Victims of Child Abuse Act, Missouri’s 22 accredited children’s advocacy centers (CACs) may access resources and research required to help them and their community partners work together in caring for our most vulnerable victims of sexual and physical abuse.”

“The funding that the CAC of Delaware receives through the Victims of Child Abuse Act is critical to the continued operation of our three CAC’s here in Delaware,” said Randy Williams, CEO Child Advocacy Centers of Delaware. “We rely on federal and private grant funding for over 43% of our annual revenue. We very much appreciate Senator Coons’ unwavering efforts to ensure that CAC’s nationwide have the financial resources required to provide essential services for victims of child abuse.”

Blunt and Coons introduced the bill in May 2018. They previously introduced similar legislation, which was signed into law in 2014, to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Program through 2018.

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. Use of Children’s Advocacy Centers leads to faster criminal charging decisions in sexual abuse cases, increased felony prosecutions of child sexual abuse, and lower average per-case costs.

In addition to Blunt and Coons, original Senate 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.), Bob Casey (Pa.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii) and Dick Durbin (Ill.). U.S. Representatives Ted Poe (Texas) and Jim Costa (Calif.) introduced similar legislation in the House.

The bill has garnered widespread support from the nation’s top advocacy groups, including the National Children’s Alliance, National Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, National Association of Police Organizations, National Sheriffs' Association, Fraternal Order of Police, and National District Attorneys Association. The bill is also backed by the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, the North East Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, the Midwest Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, the Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, the National Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Southern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center. 

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