Our Opinion: Build safer community for children in NEPA; support advocacy groups like these

Times Leader
March 13, 2016

A grand jury’s recent report about alleged sexual abuse of children years ago by clergy in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown provides a disturbing new reminder of a tired and despicable theme.

Too often we read about religious leaders, teachers and other authority figures in Pennsylvania who view children as objects to be preyed upon, not lives to be treated as precious.

In the diocese’s case, the supposed perpetrators won’t face earthly justice. The statute of limitations for criminal prosecution has expired or the accused have since died, according to news reports. That means the alleged victims, including some newly emboldened to speak up since state Attorney General Kathleen Kane this month made public the grand jury’s report, can hope only to achieve some measure of healing by talking freely and getting connected with professional counseling services.

The situation, sobering as it is, no longer shocks. We have heard the story – in Philadelphia – and even seen the movie – of events in Boston – before.

And our sensibilities continue to be assaulted almost monthly, if not more often, by horrid behavior on the part of certain adults in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Public school teachers who engage in consensual sex with students. Molesters who formerly held positions of “trust.” Pedophiles.

Each new episode not only shames the offending participant, but also heaps more embarrassment on this community – a place already saddled with a sad legacy of indifference to the plight of some children. Recall, for instance, the prevalence of child labor in the region’s coal-mining industry and, more recently, the disregard of youths’ constitutional rights revealed as part of Luzerne County’s juvenile justice scandal.

As a community, we must do better.

As individuals, each of us can strive to help area children avoid victimization – or recover from the experience – and reach their full potentials. Support area organizations and projects such as those listed below. Your level of involvement can be significant, such as serving as a child’s mentor, or limited. The Luzerne County Child Advocacy Center, for example, maintains a “wish list” of common household and office items (children’s snacks, blank DVDs) that will help it fulfill its mission.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Bridge, mentoring program. Call 1-800-955-4376. Or visit

Children’s Service Center, a self-described “behavioral health care system.” Phone: 1-877-433-5112. Website:

Family Service Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Phone: 570-823-5144. Website:

Luzerne County Child Advocacy Center. Phone: 570-208-2895. Website:

Luzerne County’s Youth Aid Panels. Phone: 570-820-6335.

United Way of Wyoming Valley. Phone: 570-829-6711. Website:

Victims Resource Center. Phone: 570-823-0765. Website:

Through your donations of time, money or material goods, you can give young people in Northeastern Pennsylvania more of what they deserve: a loving, safe environment in which to grow.


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