America’s children represent our nation’s prospect for a bright and strong future. They are smart, hopeful, inquisitive and insightful. It is incumbent upon all of us to do what we can to keep them safe from harm and help them to have opportunities for promising and productive lives. The fact that many children in our communities are not safe in their homes is far beyond tragic. Thankfully, Americans across our country work tirelessly to end violence and turn hardship into hope for abuse victims. Backing these local efforts with needed resources is an essential part of making continued progress in ending abuse.
This fall, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, on which I serve, approved S. 2961, Victims of Child Abuse Act Reauthorization Act of 2018, that would reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA) through 2023. This bipartisan legislation would provide continued support for the coordinated investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse.
First enacted 28 years ago, VOCAA has provided for federal programs to respond to child abuse cases. Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs), supported through VOCAA, are a central part of this response. CACs enable teams, including law enforcement, prosecution, health care, mental health, victim advocate, and protective services professionals, to work together to serve child victims of violent crimes and prosecute abusers. The bill sponsors report that 2,278 child victims were served through Children’s Advocacy Centers in Idaho in 2017 alone, and they were among the 335,000 child victims served nationwide.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports that there are nearly 800 CACs located in communities across our nation. CRS explains that CACs are “intended to coordinate a multidisciplinary response to child abuse . . . in a manner that ensures child abuse victims (and non-offending family members) receive the support services they need and do not experience the investigation of child abuse as an added trauma.” CRS also reports that based on 2016 numbers, 72.2 percent of children served through CACs were 12 years of age or younger.
VOCAA has also supported Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs), who speak and work on behalf of child victims in court proceedings, and the law has supported the training and technical assistance of judicial and other personnel involved in investigating and prosecuting child abuse cases.
I commend those working to protect and help children in all of our communities. This work is no doubt heartbreaking, but also motivating continued progress. Those working to bring healing and hope to troubled and hurting children and families are making a difference in the lives of many throughout Idaho. I look forward to the enactment of this legislation that puts resources in place for continued support of this greatly valued work to protect children, end abuse and help with recovery.