Gannon University's Role in Creating the Erie County Child Abuse Task Force Honored with PCAR’s Vision of Hope Award

Posted: May 30, 2013

A challenge issued by a former Pennsylvania First Lady and a prominent Gannon University alumna was taken up by a University Dean. The result was a renewed commitment to protecting Erie County children from violence, and an award for the people who made it happen.

Former First Lady Michele Ridge, Dr. Wanda Filer, a family physician in York, PA, a director at American Academy of Family Physicians and a Gannon alumna, issued a challenge along with Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape (PCAR) CEO Delilah Rumburg for Erie County to be represented in efforts to end child sexual abuse.

Responding to the challenge, Gannon University Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carolynn Masters, at the time the dean of the Morosky College of Health Professions and Sciences, created a plan to bring all of the key agencies in Erie County together.

Through her efforts, the Erie County Child Abuse Task Force came into being, and was honored with PCAR's 2013 Vision of Hope Award at the Coalition's May 4 gala in Harrisburg.

The Vision of Hope Award is presented annually to recognize those who show a commitment to protecting children through violence prevention and intervention work, and ensure the safety of our children through increasing awareness, strengthening policies or creating campaigns that promote healthy families and communities.

"The Erie County Task Force is a remarkable group of more than 20 agencies that have banded together to battle child sexual abuse in Erie County," PCAR CEO Rumburg said. "Since the group's formation in 2011, they've kept the issue of child sexual abuse in the public eye through community events and education efforts."

This year, Kathleen T. Patterson, Ph.D., RN, assistant professor and director of Gannon's Villa Maria School of Nursing, and Crime Victim Center of Erie County executive director Paul Lukach are the current co-chairs of the Task Force.

"We have hosted monthly meetings and have collaborated on multiple community events to educate the public," Masters said. "We have also sponsored national speakers to raise awareness and educate health professionals. Our primary focus is to raise awareness and a call to action - if you suspect abuse, report it! With law enforcement, educators and other mandated reporters--together we are stronger." 

Member agencies of the Task Force are: Achievement Center; Bethesda Children’s Home; Bradley H. Foulk Children’s Advocacy Center; City of Erie School District (Student Services and Student Assistance); Crime Victim’s Center of Erie County; Diocese of Erie: Office for Protection of Children and Youth; Erie County Care Management; Erie County District Attorney’s Office; Erie Family Center; Erie Community Foundation; Erie County Health Department; Erie County Office of Children and Youth; Erie Police Department; Family Services of Northwest PA; Gannon University; Parental Alienation Awareness Organization; Presque Isle Psychiatric Association; Safe Harbor Behavior Health; Safe Net Domestic Violence; Saint Vincent Health System; Shriners Hospital for Children; Success by 6; and UPMC Hamot.