PHILADELPHIA -- Prosecutors in Pennsylvania hope to steer some of the $60 million in fines Penn State must pay the NCAA over the Jerry Sandusky sex-abuse scandal to children's advocacy centers across the state.
The group is not seeking a specific amount of money, but wants to add to the 21 advocacy centers that now exist across 67 counties, Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams said.
The centers offer a single place for children to tell their stories of abuse to a trained interviewer, while police, therapists and others watch remotely. This prevents children from having to tell their stories repeatedly to various experts. The centers also offer various services or referrals to the victim and family members.
The $60 million fine is part of the NCAA sanctions facing Penn State in the wake of the sex-abuse scandal involving Sandusky, a former assistant football coach. He was convicted in June of abusing 10 boys, sometimes on Penn State's campus, from 1994 to 2008.
The advocacy centers have been sprouting up in the past decade or so. Some counties contribute to their center's operating budget, while others have to raise all of their funds from donors or grants. Centre County does not yet have a center.
"Getting a [center] within a reasonable distance, say within an hour's drive, or at [every] county seat, would be the most monumental thing the folks up at Penn State could do with this money," said Bucks County District Attorney David Heckler, speaking with Williams and other prosecutors at the Philadelphia Children's Alliance, the center that serves Philadelphia. The event followed earlier stops Wednesday in State College and Harrisburg.
A school spokesman said Penn State is still contemplating how to use the money, but hopes to help children in a variety of ways.
"Penn State recognizes the fine work done each day by our state's district attorneys, children advocacy centers and countless organizations that help children. The university is working to formulate a plan to create and administer the fund. It is our hope the fund will produce countless opportunities to help children in need. We appreciate this valuable input and will provide additional details when they become available," spokesman David La Torre said in a statement.
Also Wednesday, the ranking Democrat in the state House wrote to Penn State president Rodney Erickson, arguing the NCAA fine should be used to fight child abuse in Pennsylvania.
Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, asked Erickson how decisions will be made about the $60 million and what procedures will help ensure the money is spent properly.
"While child sexual abuse undeniably is a national problem, the impact of the Sandusky case has been, and will continue to be, felt most immediately in Pennsylvania," Dermody said.