A state grant of $50,000 was announced for the planned Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in Pike County, meant to help children who need to be interviewed about often trying circumstances, for criminal court cases.

MILFORD - A state grant of $50,000 was announced for the planned Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC) in Pike County, meant to help children who need to be interviewed about often trying circumstances, for criminal court cases.

County commissioners, at their June 7th meeting, authorized the grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency (PCCD). District Attorney Raymond Tonkin said these funds came state assessments on birth certificates.

Tonkin said that much progress is being made to establishing the center. The CAC will allow for a single interview of a child, rather than have the boy or girl be submitted to telling what happened over and over again for multiple agencies concerned with the criminal case. A forensic interviewer conducts the interviews.

In addition to the D.A.’s Office, Pike County Children & Youth, the Victim Witness Project and law enforcement become involved. Interviews will be conducted in a non-leading fashion and will be recorded both by audio and video, he said.

Sarah Wilson, Senior Deputy District Attorney, said, “On a weekly basis we are seeing children come in for an interview. It is really opening up in the child-focused environment that we are developing here in Pike County. It is really a great place for kids to come and talk about some of the worst things that have ever happened to them.”
She said they have re-affirmed their affiliate status with the National Children’s Alliance. This is an important step, she added, to establish a fully accredited CAC.

The D.A.’s Office also is in the process of using the grant funding to purchase a program to allow the D.A.’s Office and the other agencies to track cases. This is to help ensure the children are receiving justice, as well as treatment they may need, Wilson said.

The Pike County CAC is being planned together by the commissioners, the D.A.’s Office and Safe Haven of Pike County.

Tonkin stated that in the near future there will be some specific outreach to the community about the CAC.
Chairman Matthew Osterberg remarked that families of victims in these cases, who are already going through so much stress, will have the advantage of utilizing a CAC close to home for the interview. The next nearest CACs are in Lackawanna County and Monroe County.

More program funding

A second grant from the PCCD totaling, $28,367, is for the Justice Reinvestment Project. Tonkin said that this money will be used to purchase 15 ballistic vests for law enforcement, benefiting the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department, Milford Borough Police Department, Shohola Township Police Department and the County Detective’s Bureau. Additionally, four mobile computers will be purchased for patrol cars, and an evidence module for a computer program to make sure that evidence is tracked of properly.

This grant is provided through a $60 million endowment created by Penn State University following the 2012 conviction of the university’s former football coach, Jerry Sandusky in a child molestation scandal. Penn State was fined for that amount, and agreed in a settlement to set aside the funds to be spent in Pennsylvania to address child sexual abuse.

The commissioners also authorized execution of a third PCCD grant, $122,774, to fund the continuance of the Victim Witness Program.

Pike County Commissioners meet on the first and third Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the County Administration Building, 506 Broad St., Milford.