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As the national news media continues to focus on the Sandusky and Syracuse child abuse allegations, a coalition of national experts applauded a bill introduced this week by U.S. Senators.
John Kerry (D-MA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Representatives Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) and Joseph Crowley (D-NY), who were joined by ten members of the House Ways and Means Committee, proposed a bill that could make a significant impact towards reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect, and make improvements throughout the child welfare system.
More than seven children die from abuse and neglect every day in America – some 2,500 a year – reflecting the estimated 50 percent undercounting in the officially estimated figure of 1,560. A child is abused or neglected every 36 seconds in the United States, yet only 40 percent of abused children with substantiated cases receive services, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Representatives of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (NCECAD) expressed concern that the current national media attention being paid to the Sandusky and Syracuse child abuse allegations would not create the needed additional pressure on Congress to deal with wider child death and abuse problems.
Such focused attention on specific abuse cases often obscures the need for wider attention to the problem, according to the NCECAD experts. Pointing to the need for multi-faced solutions, NCECAD members applauded the recently introduced Protect Our Kids Act, which would establish a commission to study and evaluate federal, state, and local public and private child welfare systems.
Protect Our Kids would also develop a national strategy and recommendations for preventing child abuse and reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect. The full text of the legislation is available online at www.endchildabusedeaths.org.
Kimberly Day, spokesperson for the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, said: “It is important that the media is covering the most recent high profile and horrific child sexual abuse cases, but it is also important that the public understand that what they are hearing is only part of a larger problem of child abuse and neglect in the United States.
The proposed bill will provide a national strategy for improving our child protection system by recommending practices that protect children and prevent abuse and neglect”. “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.”
Rep. Doggett, ranking member of the Human Resources Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over this issue stated, “Addressing this ongoing tragedy requires a better understanding of the causes of abuse and neglect and a determination of the most effective steps to prevent maltreatment. This bipartisan commission offers a way to develop a more coordinated, national response.”
“As a father to three young kids, it breaks my heart to hear the thousands of stories of children suffering from abuse or neglect every day. What’s worse is the alarming number of children who die each year from mistreatment. The simple fact is, even one child’s death from abuse, neglect or maltreatment is one too many,” said Rep. Crowley.
“This is an issue of grave concern and one that deserves a national focus. That’s why I’m proud to fight alongside tireless advocates like the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, and I am glad to have worked with them and my colleagues in creating legislation that will help determine how we as a nation can better protect our children.”