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NCCASP applauds Congress for Reauthorizing the Victims of Child Abuse (VOCA) Act

The bill signed into law on Jan 7, 2019 reauthorized Victims of Child Abuse Act of 1990 for five years, at $25 million per year. This is the only Federal program solely dedicated to Children's Advocacy Centers. This legislation will also update language of the statute to reflect the latest research and trends, and better reflect the relationship between and among CACs. CACs help children who have been abused report abuse, receive justice, and become a survivor with the help of therapy all in one safe, and child friendly environment.

Specifically, language is included to allow State chapters of CACs to assist local communities in coordinating efforts, including oversight and technical assistance. This legislation will ensure that grants to local CACs allow for a portion of the grants to be distributed to State chapters, to allow them to provide technical assistance, training, coordination, and oversight. Oversight and assistance of CACs by State chapters is complemented by authorizing the Department of Justice's Director of the Office of Victims of Crime to collaborate with State chapters, to provide oversight and technical assistance to local CACs as well as communities that want to develop a local CAC.

This bill will also provide protections for people who in good faith report suspected child abuse, including professionals who are called upon to consult in a child abuse case, or provide a medical diagnosis. Under current law, individuals who report suspected child abuse in good faith are protected from lawsuits. However, it is unclear whether such protection also extends to secondary reporters, such as professionals who consult on a child abuse case. For example, a pediatrician may be asked for their opinion by a colleague regarding a child's injury resulting from possible neglect or abuse. Providing this opinion is not currently protected in the same way as primary reporters of child abuse, and some pediatricians are now being sued in civil court for assisting in abuse cases. The lack of protection may deter pediatricians from assisting with child abuse cases.

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