The first grants from the endowment created with $60 million fine imposed after the Jerry Sandusky scandal are ready to be distributed this fall.
Josh Shapiro, chairman for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, said child advocacy centers will be the recipients.
“Pennsylvania, unfortunately, only has 23 accredited and associated child advocacy centers,” Shapiro said. “I say unfortunately not because of any fault of those 23, but because we have 67 counties in Pennsylvania. We need more child advocacy centers.”
Allegheny County has two of those centers and, according to Shapiro, they receive roughly 1,500 reports of child abuse from within the county per year.
The centers streamline the process to the victims and their families.
“You have the district attorney’s office, you have county child advocates, you have other supporters of these children and people involved in the law enforcement process working together to make that child as comfortable as possible amidst an unbelievably difficult circumstance,” Shapiro said.
Mary Carrasco, director of A Child’s Place at Mercy, one of the local advocacy centers, said her organization is there the entire way to help families.
“I think the healing process probably starts with the first phone call when a distraught parent calls in, and is trying to find out the process and is talking to our intake people,” Carrasco said. “That begins the process of comforting a family.”
Shapiro said the individual services the centers offer are nothing new, but the entire process was inefficient. This led to redundancies such as making a child tell his or her story multiple times to multiple people.
“Everybody was doing their part,” Shapiro said. “The problem was it wasn’t being done in a coordinated fashion. The poor child and their family were being bounced around from facility to facility. Here, everybody’s under one roof.”
The NCAA, which levied the fine against Pennsylvania State University over its handling of the molestation case against Sandusky, a convicted former assistant football coach, agreed in September that all money garnered to pay the fine could remain in the state to battle child abuse.