Bizzarro, Harkins, Merski: Nearly $461,000 to strengthen protection and advocacy for victims of child abuse

ERIE, Dec. 11 – Grants totaling $460,735 will expand protection and advocacy services for children throughout Pennsylvania and enhance those supports and services for Erie-area children and families, state Reps. Ryan Bizzarro, Pat Harkins and Bob Merski, all D-Erie, announced today.  

The funding – administered by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency – includes $400,000 to an Erie-based organization that trains support professionals on best practices and adherence to national standards in investigating and treating child abuse.

“We’ve worked hard to secure this funding, which will allow us to broaden the reach of child protection and advocacy services throughout Pennsylvania – especially to unserved and underserved areas,” Bizzarro said. “I saw the effects of abuse while working as a witness coordinator and victims’ advocate, and I know how important access to those services can be. They need to be available to all children, regardless of where they live.”

Harkins added that some of the funding will go to promote best practices in the Erie region.

“Investigating and prosecuting abuse can place huge stresses on children who have already suffered unthinkable trauma,” Harkins said. “This funding will help ensure that children have a safe, supportive environment for evaluation and counseling and that professionals are trained on best practices that can prevent retraumatization of child victims and encourage healing.”

Merski agreed, citing the importance of ongoing casework.

“Effectively addressing abuse requires coordinated efforts by a team who investigate, examine and treat, but the healing process takes time and ongoing therapy,” Merski said. “Among other measures, this funding will support team efforts to increase the number of children and families who seek and receive follow-up counseling.”

The following grants were awarded to these agencies:

  • $400,000 to the Pennsylvania Chapter of Child Advocacy Centers and Multidisciplinary Teams to develop teams that can expand child advocacy and investigative work throughout the state. 

  • $47,000 to the Children’s Advocacy Center of Erie County to reduce reliance on fundraising and ensure continuation of quality services to Erie County child abuse victims.

  • $13,735 to the Crime Victim Center of Erie County to analyze collaboration between the center and child advocates in a way that will increase the number of referred child victims who seek follow-up counseling and support services.

The PCCD grants were made based on recommendations by the Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Committee, which advises the commission about child advocacy and investigatory programs.