412 Pennsylvania children have died from substantiated child abuse
Staggering 10-year toll may be greater than official state statistics reveal
HARRISBURG, Pa., July 10, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, the Protect Our Children Committee (POCC) released Examining Child Abuse Fatalities to Improve Child Protection. The report reveals that 412 Pennsylvania children died as a result of substantiated child abuse between 2002 and 2011.
A fuller examination of a subset of 146 fatalities occurring between 2008 and 2011 discovered that:
- 83% of the children died before they reached a 5th birthday;
- 51% lived in a family active with or previously known to a children and youth agency; and
- 64% of the fatalities led to the filing of criminal charges
Beyond the official 146 substantiated child abuse fatalities, POCC identified an additional 31 fatalities that resulted in criminal charges, including 15 cases in which convictions were secured. POCC's review led to the conclusion that either: some or all of these 31 fatalities were not substantiated as child abuse under the state's Child Protective Services Law (CPSL); or that cases were indeed substantiated, but for some other reason were not included in the Department of Public Welfare's Annual Child Abuse Reports or state statistics.
Examining Child Abuse Fatalities to Improve Child Protection also addressed the Commonwealth's compliance with Act 33 of 2008 – the bipartisan supported law requiring standardized reviews of and public reporting about child abuse fatalities and near fatalities. POCC examined another subset of 104 substantiated child abuse fatalities occurring after December 2008, which is when Act 33 took effect. POCC discovered that DPW has publicly released only 33 percent of the reports. Fewer than 10% of the reports for substantiated child abuse fatalities were released for Central and Western PA, while the Southeast Region made 71% of such reports available. Even when released, reports were found to be heavily redacted impacting the opportunity for objective review of antecedents to a child's fatality as well as the quality of the child protection recommendations put forth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that the annual price tag for confirmed fatal and non-fatal child abuse cases is $124 billion. Pennsylvania has proven itself a national leader in investing in evidence-based voluntary home visiting services like Nurse-Family Partnership. The Commonwealth has woven these proven services into the state's early care and education agenda. These services strengthen families and build the competence and self-sufficiency of a child's first teachers – the child's parents. POCC noted, however, that the Commonwealth remains without a statewide articulated and measured cross-discipline child abuse prevention strategy.
In December, Pennsylvania's General Assembly and Governor Corbett created the Task Force on Child Protection charged, in part, "to restore public confidence in the ability of the Commonwealth to protect the victims of child abuse." With the release of the fatality report, POCC reiterated its call for the creation of a state-level independent Office of Child Advocate. Bipartisan legislation is pending in both chambers of the PA General Assembly (House Bill 2302 and Senate Bill 1363).
The full fatality review report can be found at www.protectpachildren.org.
SOURCE The Protect Our Children Committee
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