With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 (H.R. 6655/S. 3705), received unanimous support in the Senate just before the 112th Congress adjourned last night and it passed the House of Representatives in December by a vote of 330-77. Supported by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (The Coalition), the Protect Our Kids Act creates a bipartisan, two-year Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, consisting of 12 members who will be appointed by the President and congressional leaders. The commission will also work together to evaluate current programs and prevention efforts, and recommend a comprehensive national strategy to reduce and prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities.
Experts estimate that upwards of 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, and nearly 82 percent of the victims are under the age of four. These preventable deaths are significantly underreported in the U.S., as there is no national standard for reporting this data.
In addition to advocacy from the Coalition, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report issued in 2011 spurred the Act. The report called on the Department of Health & Human Services to “further strengthen data quality, expand available information on child fatalities, improve information sharing, and estimate the costs and benefits of collecting national data on near fatalities” in order to help prevent child fatalities nationwide.
As Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children’s Alliance, recently testified before the House Ways & Means Subcommittee, “The overall rate of abuse has declined and the overall substantiated physical abuse appears to have declined, but what has not declined is the rate of child abuse fatalities or near fatalities that warranted emergency department treatment. The horrifying persistence of fatal child abuse despite the implementation of effective prevention and intervention measures for most other forms of abuse calls for a deeper examination of its causes and scope.”
The Coalition believes that fatal and near-fatal child abuse and neglect is a preventable public health problem. With allies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Advocacy Institute, and First Focus, the passage of the Protect our Kids Act was a truly bipartisan effort to prevent fatal child maltreatment. Introduced by Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, lead co-sponsors of the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 on the House side include Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Erik Paulsen (R-WI) and on the Senate side Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Kerry (R-MA). In all, 17 Representatives and six Senators co-sponsored the bill.
Michael Petit, President of Coalition member Every Child Matters, lauds passage of the bill he has long worked towards, saying, “For the first time in decades, a Congressionally-sponsored panel will be collecting information on the conditions which create violence for so many children in their own homes. And that could help prompt our national government to make investments in children and families a budget and political priority.”
# # #
ABOUT THE COALITION
The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (http://endchildabusedeaths.org) is comprised of five national organizations, formed in response to a collective concern about the escalating number of child maltreatment deaths across the country. The five organizations include the National Association of Social Workers, the National District Attorneys Association, National Children’s Alliance, the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths, and Every Child Matters Education Fund.
ABOUT THE MEMBERS OF THE COALITION
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with 145,000 members and 56 chapters. NASW works to enhance the professional growth and development of its members, to create and maintain professional standards, and to advance sound social policies.
The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA), founded in 1950, is the oldest and largest professional organization representing criminal prosecutors in the world. The National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse (NCPCA), a program of NDAA, was established in 1985. NCPCA is staffed with professionals involved in the investigation and prosecution of child abuse, exploitation and technology facilitated crimes against children. NCPCA trains approximately 15,000 child abuse prosecutors and allied professionals annually, and provides technical assistance to thousands more.
The National Children’s Alliance (NCA) is a professional membership organization dedicated to helping local communities respond to allegations of child abuse in ways that are effective and efficient – and put the needs of child victims first. NCA provides training, support, technical assistance and leadership on a national level to local children’s and child advocacy centers and communities responding to reports of child abuse and neglect.
The National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths (NCRPCD) is a resource center for state and local child death review programs. It promotes, supports, and enhances child death review methodology and activities at the state, community and national levels. NCRPCD provides technical assistance to help teams develop, implement and sustain a prevention-focused CDR process. The center also manages a child death case reporting system in which 41 states submit comprehensive data on their child deaths.
The Every Child Matters Education Fund (ECM) was founded in 2002 with the mission to make children’s issues a political priority. To that end ECM has promoted the adoption of smart policies for children and youth. These include ensuring that children have access to affordable, comprehensive health care services, expanding early-care and learning opportunities and after-school programs, preventing violence, abuse, maltreatment and fatalities against children in their homes and alleviating child poverty.