Governor Signs Bill to Help Victims of Child Abuse, Supporting Child Advocacy Centers

From The Office of Governor John Lynch

CONCORD - Gov. John Lynch today signed into law legislation to help victims of child abuse and neglect by making it easier for law enforcement and health care providers to join together to investigate crimes and to provide services to young victims.

"One of my top priorities as Governor is to make sure we are doing everything possible as a state to give all of our children the opportunity to grow up safe and healthy," Gov. Lynch said." To do that we must make sure we are working together to prevent child abuse and neglect and to protect those who hurt children to the fullest extent of the law."

"This new law will make it easier for law enforcement, mental health practitioners, health care providers, and social workers to join together to gather the evidence needed to convict those who abuse children, and to help young victims begin the recovery process," Gov. Lynch said.

The legislation, SB 370, supports the state's Children's Advocacy Centers, by allowing law enforcement, the state Division for Children, Youth and Families, local county attorneys, victim advocate services and medical and mental health professionals to use a team-approach to investigating child abuse and providing services to victims. By fostering greater cooperation between law enforcement officials and health care professionals, young victims can avoid the unsettling and often harmful process of repeatedly discussing their crimes during separate encounters with criminal investigators, health care professionals, state officials and victim advocates.

Based on a national model, Children's Advocacy Centers provide a safe and neutral environment for the evaluation of child abuse and exploitation; coordination of services for victims and families; and for child abuse prevention through community education.

New Hampshire currently has four Children's Advocacy Center programs: the Child Advocacy Center of Rockingham County in Portsmouth, the Hillsborough County South Child Advocacy Center in Nashua, The Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center in Laconia, and the Child Advocacy Center of Grafton and Sullivan Counties at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon. An additional five Children's Advocacy Centers across the state expect to be up and running within the year.

The legislation was sponsored by Senators David Gottesman, Joe Foster, Lou D'Allesandro, Bob Clegg, Bob Letourneau, and Martha Fuller Clark, and Representatives Maureen Mooney, Bill Knowles and Janet Wall.