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Panel chairman visits Mercy’s child abuse center

June 27, 2015 ·  By Danielle Fox / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for www.post-gazette.com

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from Bright Futures4kids

Josh Shapiro, chairman of the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, visited A Child’s Place in Mercy Hospital on Wednesday at an opportune time.

Last week, the commission announced that $48 million of Penn State University’s penalties from the Jerry Sandusky case will go toward combating child sexual abuse, partly through child abuse centers such as A Child’s Place.

Mr. Shapiro, who is a former state representative and helped start a child advocacy center in Montgomery County, called child abuse an issue close to his heart. Mr. Shapiro said he wants to use the funding to found and help child abuse centers across the state. He is visiting several centers across the state and started with A Child’s Place.

“The best collaborative approach that exists for dealing with child abuse is through child advocacy centers across Pennsylvania,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Mr. Shapiro toured the center’s examination rooms, which feature security cameras and games hand-painted on the walls, and then sat down with employees to discuss the state’s need for child abuse centers.

The commission has already given more than $2.6 million to CACs this year. A Child’s Place received $200,000, which Mary Carrasco, the center’s director, said has allowed the center to establish satellite locations in Fayette, Westmoreland, Washington and Beaver counties.

The center and its satellite locations serve about 700 children a year from 12 counties.

Desirea Patterson, a forensic interviewer at A Child’s Place, said CACs are a “one-stop shop, so parents don’t have to go so many places.”

The centers treat physical and sexual abuse from the initial investigation to prosecution. The centers also work on emotional healing with a coordinated law, medical and social service response through multidisciplinary investigative teams — composed of member groups such as the District Attorney’s office, juvenile probation centers and KidsVoice in Allegheny County.

“What happens behind these walls is truly remarkable,” Mr. Shapiro said.

To receive grant funding from the NCAA/​Penn State settlement funds, center officials must submit an application that the commission will review and then respond to on a need basis in the fall.

The commission must award up to $24 million during the first five years. After that, it can spend only the interest on the remaining $24 million unless the fund receives more donations or settlement money.

“[We] can’t afford not to apply,” Dr. Carrasco said of her center.

Danielle Fox: dfox@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1240.

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