HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A bill to expand programs that help detect and prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania was approved overwhelmingly by the state House on Monday and sent to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.
The House voted 197-5 in favor of the measure designed to expand the use of children's advocacy centers. Corbett's office said he planned to sign it.
The need for greater use of such regional centers was recommended by a legislative task force established soon after former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's arrest on child molestation charges.
"The task force at that time felt there should be a one-stop shop for everybody to get together when there is a problem with a child who had been abused or at risk in the system," said the prime sponsor, Rep. Julie Harhart, R-Lehigh.
The bill funds the centers with a new $10 surcharge on the cost of obtaining duplicate birth certificates that is expected to raise more than $2 million annually. The legislation also sets up a committee that would recommend how to administer the new funding. In the first year, half the proceeds will be dedicated to train people who are required to report suspected abuse.
In making grants, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency is supposed to consider the number of children served, the need for such services and the availability of other funding sources.
Supporters say it should result in an expansion of the existing system of 21 centers across Pennsylvania, which bring together experts from various fields to help abused children, and foster the use of multidisciplinary investigative teams.
Sandusky is serving a decades-long prison sentence after being convicted in 2012 of the sexual abuse of 10 boys over a 15-year period. He maintains his innocence and has a request pending before the state Supreme Court to take up his case on appeal.