In the wake of recent shocking cases of child abuse and neglect such as the Penn State cover-up scandal, the infamous Casey Anthony murder trial and the ongoing global abuse investigations of Catholic Priests, the issue has become headline news. Sadly, most cases of abuse both across the globe and in the United States go unreported, or are reported too late to protect innocent children. In the U.S. alone, some 12,180 children died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2008, according to the Administration for Children and Families; however, the actual number of child deaths is significantly higher, as many child maltreatment deaths are not properly recorded. Additionally, a number of studies have shown that there is a substantial amount of child abuse and neglect related fatalities, which are also not recorded. Child welfare experts predict that with the continuing economic downturn, child abuse will likely increase.
Earlier this year, in the post, Preventing Child Abuse: Is the United States Doing Enough, I wrote about the 12 July 2011 congressional hearing, which coincided with the release of a report called Child Maltreatment: Strengthening National Data on Child Fatalities Could Aid Prevention by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The hearing called upon national experts to explain why the number of child deaths, especially within the child welfare system, have been underrepresented. According to the report and testimony, methods to tally and analyze the deaths of children who have been abused or maltreated are seriously flawed, and the latest annual is significantly low. The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (NCECAD) and other groups state that the number of children whose deaths are related to abuse and maltreatment each year is understated by some 55% to 75%, and that the 1,700 reported in 2009 is closer to some 2,500 abuse-related deaths.
Last week , U.S. Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), along with U.S. Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY) joined ten members of the House Ways and Means Committee to introduce the Protect Our Kids Act. If passed, the bill could have a significant impact on reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect, and make improvements throughout the child welfare system. The bill will create a National Commission on Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths to study and evaluate federal, state, and private child welfare systems and develop a national strategy to prevent and reduce abuse-related deaths.
“This legislation in an important step that Congress and our nation need to take in order to better protect our children from abuse and neglect,” said Senator Collins. “This is not a Democratic or Republican issue–this is an American issue–one that we can’t wish away, but that we must face head on and work to eradicate. Our legislation would establish a commission to develop a comprehensive national strategy for reducing child abuse fatalities. An increased understanding and awareness of child abuse and neglect can lead to improvement in agency systems and practices and help prevent future child abuse fatalities (Every Child Matters).”
The Act is heavily supported by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, a group of five organizations including: The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), National Center for Child Death Review (NCCDR), National Children’s Alliance (NCA), Every Child Matters, and National District Attorneys Association (NDAA). The Coalition was formed in 2009 in an effort to draw attention to and help prevent the some 2,500 child abuse deaths each year in the United States.
The introduction of the bill is long awaited and considered a success for all who have been tirelessly fighting for the rights of our children; however the battle ahead remains long. In order for this bill to pass support is needed by all, so please take a moment and contact your congressperson and ask them to support this bill and our children! Please click here and sign the petition to Protect Our Kids. United we can reduce child abuse and neglect deaths in the U.S. and set an example to increase legislation abroad.
Knowing the warning signs of abuse are key for every adult in keeping our children safe from harm; awareness is the first step in prevention. Please see my previous article, Knowing the signs of abuse to protect our children, to learn more about how you can protect and prevent children from abuse. And while we need to increase our awareness and prevention programs, we must also strengthen our laws to ensure that all children are given a fighting chance.
For more information please see my previous articles on child abuse and resources: Links for Abused Children and Parents, Books for Children and Parents of Victims of Abuse, and Crisis Hotlines