Congress Passes Legislation Critical for Valley Survivors of Child Abuse

Press Release

Date: Dec. 20, 2018
Location: Washington, DC

The U.S. House of Representatives updated and reauthorized funding for programs in the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA) today, including Children's Advocacy Centers and support organizations. These programs are vital for providing Valley survivors of child abuse the services and justice they need to heal and live healthy, productive, and full lives.

"This is an important step to support some of the most vulnerable in our communities: victims of child abuse," said Valley Congressman Jim Costa (CA-16), lead Democrat on the House's version of the bill and co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus. "Addressing these cases can be very difficult, but we know that Children's Advocacy Centers are effective at bringing together community and government resources to support victims. We have seen the power of these Centers and this approach in the Valley, across California, and throughout the country. Our goal with this legislation is to ensure that all of our children -- especially victims of these horrendous crimes -- have the support they need to grow up healthy and safe and pursue their fullest potential."

There are currently five Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) located in Fresno, Merced, and Madera counties providing services for thousands of children in the Central Valley. For example, VOCAA funds support the Family Healing Center in Fresno, which provides trauma-informed forensic interviews and therapy to 300 children every year. The Valley Children's Hospital clinic sees another 1000 cases per year. To better address the unmet need, this reauthorization includes resources to create, train, and support new CACs in underserved areas.

"Children's Advocacy Centers of California (CACC) fully supports the reauthorization of the Victims of Child Abuse Act," said Erin Harper, Executive Director of CACC. "With over 58 counties in California, we have seen the incredible impact Children's Advocacy Centers have in helping abused children heal from abuse, and helping communities hold offenders accountable. VOCAA funding makes communities safer, children healthier, and investigations more efficient. We very much appreciate Rep. Costa's commitment to achieving justice and healing for abused children in California. He is a leader in the mission to ensure that all children are safe, healthy, and whole."

Over the past twenty years, CACs have been proven successful at effectively and compassionately serving victims of child abuse. In recent years, the number of child abuse victims served by CACs has tripled, reaching nearly 335,000 children in 2017 alone.

"As the national association and accrediting body for Children's Advocacy Centers, National Children's Alliance not only thanks Representatives Jim Costa and Ted Poe, as well as Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Chris Coons, and other CAC champions for their leadership in introducing the Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018, but also in championing the cause of children on Capitol Hill," said Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children's Alliance. "This crucial bill is something our nation's CACs and our children rely on, and is the only federal program solely dedicated to developing CACs and improving the services they provide to kids that have been abused. With Congress in our corner, CACs now serve more than 330,000 abused children every year, and have provided healing mental health services to more than a million children over the past decade."

"Every day, children suffer from a heinous crime at the hands of evildoers -- child abuse," said Congressman Ted Poe (TX-2), lead Republican on the House's version of the bill and Rep. Costa's fellow co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus. "The passing of the Victims of Child Abuse Act ensures that Children Advocacy Centers across the country are able to continue to expedite the prosecution of offenders, reduce violent encounters, improve safety in communities across the country, and most importantly, protect our children."

The legislation updating and reauthorizing VOCAA programs passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate and by a vote of 388 to 2 in the House of Representatives. It will be sent to the President to sign into law.