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1st anti-child abuse grants from Penn State’s $48M issued

MARK SCOLFORO
Associated Press

HARRISBURG — The first round of grants to combat child sexual abuse in Pennsylvania was awarded Wednesday from a $48 million fund endowed by Penn State as a result of the Jerry Sandusky child molestation scandal.

In this file photo, former Penn State University assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, left, arrives for sentencing at the Centre County Courthouse in Bellefonte. Sandusky was later convicted of multiple counts of child sex abuse. Another former PSU assistant, Mike McQueary, testified that he witnessed Sandusky sexually abusing a young boy. McQueary has not been able to find work since his testimony became public.

The Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency voted to give 44 entities $3.4 million. The money will go toward hiring forensic interviewers and victim advocates, improving access to trauma therapists and helping people get counseling in underserved areas, among other things.

The university agreed to pay the money under a settlement with the NCAA over its handling of the Sandusky scandal, and a state law requires the money to remain in Pennsylvania.

“Out of these heinous acts can come some hope for our children, and the victims and survivors,” said commission chairman Josh Shapiro.

The commission said 93 applicants sought a total of $7 million, and those that did not get funded can reapply in the next round, which may begin in January. No more than $24 million can be distributed in the first five years, after which grants will be paid out of the earnings of what remains.

The newly awarded grants will help establish child advocacy centers in Blair and Clearfield counties, and one for Wyoming and Susquehanna counties. The centers bring together law enforcement and child welfare experts to respond to allegations of child abuse.

Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, who led a task force that recommended legislative changes to address child abuse following the Sandusky and clergy abuse scandals, said a child advocacy center in the State College area could have resulted in charges a decade earlier if it had been in place when Sandusky was abusing children.

Centre County now has a child advocacy center, and it received a $100,000 grant to improve its programs.

Sandusky, the university’s former assistant football coach, is appealing after being sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for child molestation.

In York: Three nonprofits in York will receive grants.

Turning Point Women's Counseling Center, 2100 E. Market St., York, will receive $82,712 to fulfill its mission of providing female survivors of childhood sexual abuse with specialized therapy services.

The services include art therapy, music therapy and sand tray therapy, and the center expects its services to have expanded 40 percent this year over last year.

People are referred to the center through the district attorney's office and the Children's Advocacy Center.

The grant funds will go toward the salaries clinical director, an art therapist, a music therapist, an executive assistant and an executive director as well as toward online art and music therapy training.

Leg Up Farm, 4880 N. Sherman St. Ext., Mt. Wolf, will receive $52,755 to support its equine-assisted therapy program. The program is intended to help adult and child survivors of child sexual abuse who are already getting help from York's Victim Access Center, or those on the VAC's waiting list.

The program is intended for those five years old and older. Leg Up Farm anticipates serving 15 adults and 34 children and adolescents. Throughout the year it receives funding, the group will work with VAC to develop a curriculum based on the program so it can be shared with the 34 other equine centers in the state.

Lessons will focus on the personal strength of each participant, building trust, overcoming obstacles, building self-esteem, appropriate boundary-setting, communication skills, building relationships, finding coping skills and trying new and challenging activities.

The York County Children's Advocacy Center, 28 S. Queen St., York, will receive $99,325 to meet its goals of increasing the number of referrals to the center, to increase the number of medical exams completed, and to increase advocacy time spent with victims.

The funds will be used to increase a part-time interviewer position to full-time, so that person can respond to an additional 20 referrals per week.

The center will also hire a full-time intake coordinator, who will take over many duties the family advocate now performs. As a result the family advocate will be able to focus on family follow-up and improved advocacy, particularly for children and families whose cases will not be prosecuted.