In 2010, Erie County had more than 900 reported cases of child abuse, the fourth-highest total for all counties in Pennsylvania.
The newly formed Erie County Child Abuse Task Force will focus on reducing that number and creating safer environments for children. Members also hope to strengthen the delivery of parent and caregiver support services to at-risk families and promote the importance of advocacy, education and public awareness.
The Erie County Child Abuse Task Force is led by Gannon University and by Dr. Carolynn Masters, dean of Gannon’s Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences. The task force is comprised of leaders from numerous local agencies and organizations who have joined together so as to better respond to the growing problem of child abuse.
The task force recently held an introductory news conference on the steps of the Erie County Courthouse. “The unfortunate number of incidents of child abuse, to include recent high-profile cases, underscores Gannon University’s decision to establish the Erie County Child Abuse Task Force,” Masters said, noting that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. “The task force is a new, collaborative approach to increasing awareness of child abuse prevention and reporting.”
The reality, though, is that abuse often goes unreported. During the news conference, Masters reiterated the importance of contacting authorities if abuse is suspected. “The greatest gift you can give is to report child abuse,” was a key message from the task force.
During the news conference, Masters acknowledged members of the group who were in attendance:
- Jack Daneri, Erie County District Attorney
- Paul Lukach, Crime Victim Center
- Amy Jones, Erie County Office of Children and Youth
- Dr. Mandy Fauble, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health
- Dr. Wayne Jones, Saint Vincent Health System
- Dr. Fred Mirarchi, UPMC Hamot
In addition to Gannon University, the task force member organizations include the Achievement Center, Bethesda Children’s Home, the Bradley H. Foulk Children’s Advocacy Center of Erie County, Crime Victim Center, the Erie Community Foundation, Erie County Care Management, the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the Erie County Office of Children & Youth, Early Connections, the Erie School District, Safe Harbor Behavioral Health and SafeNet.
Individuals who suspect child abuse can call the Erie County Office of Children and Youth at 814-451-6600 or the Pennsylvania Childline at 1-800-932-0313.