Corbett approves millions to fight child abuse

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HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Corbett signed legislation Monday designed to step up efforts to prevent child abuse in Pennsylvania by doubling the fee for duplicate birth certificates, which would raise nearly $4 million a year.


The main bill is expected to provide nearly $3 million to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency as grant money for child-advocacy centers and multidisciplinary investigative teams, and $1 million for the Department of Public Welfare to use to train doctors, teachers and other professionals who are required by law to report suspected abuse.


For the year starting July 1, when the law takes effect, DPW will receive all the new fee money to pay for mandatory reporting training and other child abuse prevention costs.


The bill also establishes an advisory committee that will work with the crime commission in awarding the grants.


The expanded use of regional child advocacy centers was recommended by a legislative task force established soon after Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State assistant football coach and a Washington native, was arrested on child molestation charges. Twenty-one centers are operating, and supporters said the legislation should result in an expansion of the system.


“It is raining outside but it is a sunny day in here today because it’s a bright future for the children of Pennsylvania,” Corbett said at a news conference where he was flanked by about three dozen supporters of the legislation.


The bill increases the fee for copies of birth certificates from $10 to $20. It will be the first time the fee has been increased since 2004, when it was increased from $4.


Corbett, who is running for re-election this year, promised in his 2010 campaign not to raises taxes or fees. Asked what he would call this latest fee increase, he said, “It’s a cost of doing business.”


The Republican said the legislation builds on years of progress in dealing with child abuse.


“We clearly need to punish those who victimize our children, but we also need to heal the children and to break that cycle of victimization,” he said.


Additional revenue for the child-abuse legislation will come from transferring a $408,000 surplus from the anti-drug DARE license-plate program, which is being terminated.


Corbett also signed a bill to establish a statewide electronic database through which law-enforcement and county agencies can share information about suspected child abuse.


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