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Jason Kutulakis, 'passionate' child advocate, dies

Written by Flint McColgan/York Daily Record-Sunday News | Feb 1, 2016 3:30 AM
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Jason Kutulakis gestures while speaking during a tour of the York County Childrens Advocacy Center in January 2016. (Photo: Screen grab from a video by Flint McColgan, York Daily Record)

(Carlisle) -- Jason Kutulakis was a Carlisle lawyer whose influence was felt statewide, including in York County. He died Sunday morning from an apparent heart attack, according to a statement from his law firm.

"The Carlisle legal community has lost an immensely talented and dedicated attorney," said Jay Abom, managing partner and co-founding partner of Abom & Kutulakis, in a prepared statement.

While the law firm is based in Carlisle, it also maintains an office in York at 35 E. Philadelphia St.

"Jason was my partner, my friend and the best and most passionate legal advocate for the welfare of children this commonwealth has ever had. My prayers are with Joanne (his wife) and Alex (his daughter) at this time of mourning. May we all find comfort in our memories of Jason and his legacy of achievement," Abom added.

Former Gov. Tom Ridge weighed in late on Sunday with a statement declaring Kutulakis "a remarkable civic leader who dedicated much of his life to the protection of child-abuse victims."

"Jason Kutulakis leaves a legacy that will continue to impact the lives of young people for decades to come," Ridge said through a release by SRA Communications. "His life made a difference and will continue to do so."

In addition to Kutulakis' legal work -- he specialized in the areas of construction law, civil litigation, workers' compensation insurance defense litigation, business counseling and municipal law, according to his law firm's biography -- he was a guiding force in child welfare in Pennsylvania.

In 2012, he was appointed by then-Gov. Tom Corbett to the 11-person Pennsylvania Governor's Task Force on Child Protection following the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal at Penn State University where he helped to review and make recommendations on the state's child abuse laws.

He has also served for children in other official capacities including as a member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Juvenile Procedural Rules Committee, the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Children's Rights Committee -- the organization that also named him the 2006 Child Advocate of the Year -- and as a solicitor of the Dauphin County Social Services for Children and Youth, according to his ChildFirst PA biography.

But his work in child protection was more than just that. He was responsible for bringing dedicated child abuse forensic interview training to the state through ChildFirst PA, a weeklong training course that directs forensic interviewers through the entire procedure of interviewing child victims of physical and sexual abuse and defending those interviews as evidence when an abuse case goes to court.

"It's the only training that exists in the state for training our professionals," said Kimberly Duffy, a forensic interviewer for the York County Children's Advocacy Center. "It was a testament for everything he did in his life, which was to work for children."

She said that before his work forensic interviewers would have to go out of state for training.

Just on Jan. 21, Kutulakis helped Deborah Harrison, the executive director of the York County Children's Advocacy Center, give Congressman Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, a tour of the facility and a deeper understanding of the work done there.

Duffy said that Kutulakis' goal was to have a children's advocacy center within an hour's commute time from any child in Pennsylvania.

Duffy not only trained under Kutulakis but also became a ChildFirst faculty member herself.

In an emotional statement, Duffy described him as dedicated and passionate.

"I can very honestly say that he is probably one of the best individuals I have ever met in my life," she said. "Everything he did was with the intent and the desire to make the world a better place for children."

"Everybody says everybody is a good person but I can't say enough about him," she added.

*This article is part of a content-sharing partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record

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