Capitol Hill is seeing bipartisan support on proposed child abuse legislation. Missouri senator Roy Blunt (R) teamed up with senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) to introduce the Child Abuse Deaths Disclosure Act, which would better assess deaths associated to child abuse and neglect.
According to numbers released by that National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), more than 1,700 children died from abuse and neglect, but according to legislatures, the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Federal law defines child abuse as:
Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
But, as both lawmakers and NCANDS explain, there is no universal policy for how states ought to enforce and track child abuse numbers — leaving many abuse and neglect stories untold. Proposed legislation would require:
- States to form a multidisciplinary task force to annually investigate all child abuse-related fatalities and report their findings to the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention. The task force would also be responsible for submitting an annual report to state and federal agencies with recommendations on how to prevent child abuse deaths.
- The Department of Health and Human Services to consult with state and local agencies, child and family health and welfare providers, and law enforcement to redefine the standard for child abuse and maltreatment fatalities
- Fatality and abuse investigation teams to be specially trained in improving practices used by law enforcement and public officials and understanding and acknowledging how demographic factors (race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.) can effect practices used by authorities
In the Four States alone, there were more than 100 reported deaths related to abuse or neglect, with Arkansas and Missouri topping the list with 37 and 33 fatalities. Oklahoma saw another 21 with Kansas adding in 14. However, according to lawmakers, one death is one too many — and the key to fixing the problem? Starting.
“We have an obligation to do all we can to keep children safe,” Blunt explained. “Having a complete and accurate understanding of the circumstances surrounding every child abuse-related death will give policymakers, law enforcement, and public health officials the information they need to prevent these heinous deaths.”
“The only way we can prevent more of these tragic deaths is if we get an accurate picture of the problem and treat child abuse prevention like the public health issue that it is,” Brown added. ”That is why we must get an accurate picture of the problem and tailor our response to meet the needs of families in Ohio and around the country.”
Although the bill is in its early stages, it has seen a wide array of support from other senators along with several organizations like the National Children’s Alliance, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Within Our Reach, and the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities.