The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) today released its final report

17 Mar, 2016, 08:00 ET from Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) today released its final report: Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.  CECANF was established by Public Law 112-275 (112th Congress), the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012. Beginning in February 2014, twelve Commissioners, appointed by the president and Congress, began a two-year process of studying and reviewing issues related to child abuse and neglect fatalities. Through a series of public hearings and meetings with experts across the country, CECANF heard testimony from government leaders, researchers, public and private organizations that serve children and families, those who work on the front lines of child protection, and more.

"If we as a nation continue on our present course, an estimated 1,500 to 3,000 U.S. children will die from maltreatment next year," noted Dr. David Sanders, Chairman. "Our current network of services and supports does not adequately ensure safety for children because much of it is reactionary after a death has occurred. Over the long term, we need to dramatically redesign our approach to ensure children and families in crisis receive the supports and interventions they need to address the complex issues impacting families and prevent harm before it occurs. Based on what we learned as a Commission, I am convinced that we have the knowledge to reduce the number of children who will die today, tomorrow and in the future."

"The Family First Act aims to reduce the reliance on group homes and redirect funds to support evidence based time limited interventions to keep at risk families together," said Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. "That the Commission found consensus on this bipartisan, common-sense initiative is welcome news. I look forward to continuing our work together to ensure we get this proposal enacted into law. " 

"This report highlights the heartbreaking frequency of preventable child deaths, tragedies that Congress simply cannot continue to sweep aside," Sen. Ron Wyden, Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee said. "I'm grateful for the commissioners' work and especially pleased the Commission supports the Family First Act, draft legislation that Chairman Hatch and I have been working on to keep vulnerable families safely together."

"Far too many children die each year from abuse and neglect. As Chairman of the Congressional subcommittee overseeing the nation's child welfare system, I'm focused on finding ways to better protect children from harm," said Rep. Vern Buchanan, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. "The Commission's report provides valuable information on how we can work to reduce these tragedies based on solutions from communities across the country, including from my own community in Hillsborough County, Florida. I commend the Commission for their thorough analysis of the problem as well as their thoughtful recommendations on ways we might address it, and I look forward to working with federal, state, and local leaders to improve the way we work together to keep kids safe."

"The report provides a modest map to prevent child abuse, but we need the political drive to steer these changes into law and avoid lurching from one tragedy to another," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, Ranking Member of the Ways & Means Subcommittee on Human Resources and author of the legislation creating the Commission.  "With more state and federal leadership, we should provide the resources to build better coordinated partnerships that give vulnerable children hope. I am especially pleased by the unanimous recommendation to reauthorize the successful home visiting effort to empower young parents and know that we must also continue to explore new initiatives." 

While the Commission found few evidence-based programs to prevent child maltreatment deaths, it did identify a number of findings that can guide those charged with child protection and safety in more prevention-focused interventions.

Key findings included:

  • Children who die from abuse and neglect are overwhelmingly young; approximately one-half are less than a year old, and 75 percent are under 3 years of age.
  • A call to a child protection hotline is the best predictor of a child's potential risk of injury death before age 5.
  • A number of children who die were not known to child protective services (CPS) but were seen by other professionals (e.g., health care), highlighting the importance of coordinated and multisystem efforts. 
  • Access to real-time information about families is vital to child protection efforts, but legal and policy barriers prevent this from occurring.
  • We do not know the exact number of children who die from abuse and neglect, although we know it is critical to have these data to understand what works.
  • We know a lot about what puts children at risk, but there are few promising solutions and only one evidence-based practice shown to reduce fatalities—the Nurse-Family Partnership.

 

CECANF's report outlines a proactive approach to child safety with stronger collaboration among agencies that come into contact with children, more informed decision-making based on better data and tools, and a public health approach that emphasizes prevention. Key recommendations of the Commission include:

1.    States should undertake a retrospective review of child abuse and neglect fatalities from the previous five years to identify family and systemic circumstances that led to fatalities. Congress and the administration have significant roles in the implementation and oversight of this recommendation.

2.    Every state should review their policies on screening reports of abuse and neglect to ensure that the children most at risk for fatality—those under age 3—receive the appropriate response, and they and their family are prioritized for services, with heightened urgency for those under the age of 1.  

3.    The administration should lead an initiative to support the sharing of real-time information among key partners such as CPS and law enforcement.

4.    State receipt of funding from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) should be contingent on existing child death review teams also reviewing life-threatening injuries caused by child maltreatment.

5.    All other programs—such as Medicaid and home visiting programs—should be held accountable for ensuring their services are focused on reducing abuse and neglect fatalities.

6.    Federal legislation should include a minimum standard designating which professionals should be mandatory reporters of abuse or neglect, and these professionals should receive quality training. 

 

The Commission outlined a national strategy for a child welfare system for the 21st century based on a public health approach to child safety. The strategy calls for enhanced leadership and accountability at the federal, state, local and tribal level, better data and research to inform decision-making, and a multi-disciplinary approach to building and sustaining healthier families and communities. Additional recommendations from the Commission that lay the groundwork for systemic reform as outlined in its national strategy include:

1.    Elevate the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS') Children's Bureau to report directly to the Secretary of HHS.

2.    Using information from their review of fatalities, every state should be required to develop and implement a comprehensive state plan to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities.

3.    Congress should conduct joint committee hearings on child safety, provide financial resources to support states, and encourage innovation to reduce fatalities. While all Commissioners agreed that funding is needed to support these efforts, no consensus was achieved on the amount of funds to be provided.

4.    Congress should support flexible funding in existing entitlement programs. Some high-cost interventions, such as long-term group care and generic parenting programs, have been demonstrated as less effective. Reinvesting resources might improve outcomes. 

 

The Commission's report also focuses on three groups of children who present unique challenges when it comes to preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities: children known to the CPS system today who are at high risk of an abuse or neglect fatality, American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children for whom little if any data exist, and African American children who die from abuse and neglect at a rate that is two-and-a-half times greater than that of white or Hispanic children. They called for improved data collection and analysis for these populations as well as pilot studies of place-based intact family courts in communities with disproportionate numbers of African American child maltreatment fatalities.

"Given the endemic nature of child maltreatment in the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) applauds the Commission for recognizing that solutions to child maltreatment fatalities should not only target the prevention of future deaths, but also must encompass prevention of child maltreatment itself in the first place," commented AAP president Benard P. Dreyer, MD, FAAP. "Adverse childhood experiences, including abuse and neglect, witnessing domestic violence, parental substance abuse, parental mental health problems, and poverty are risk factors for maltreatment and contribute to lifelong negative health implications for children experiencing them. The AAP recently issued its first ever policy statement on poverty that encourages advocating for strong federal anti-poverty and safety net programs, and the Commission rightly recognizes the same need as an integral element of child abuse and neglect prevention."  

"We are grateful to the commission for holding hearings throughout the country to amplify policy discussions about these critical issues facing America's children and we appreciate the transparency that the commission has exhibited since the very beginning," said James M. Hmurovich, president & CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America. "We support the recommendations that would improve access to high-quality prevention services and strategies, address the gap between the real needs of children and the current funding and that improve federal and state laws to enhance support for families and reduce child abuse and neglect. We stand with CECANF in imagining a new child welfare system for the 21st century and look forward to the appropriation of necessary funds to implement these important investments.  We share a common belief that every child deserves a great childhood in loving, safe and nurturing environments because children are, in fact, our future."

"Our members are greatly encouraged to see that the Commission's recommendations are rooted in a public health approach to child safety - one that engages multiple partners in finding real solutions and values everyone's role in building and sustaining healthier families and communities," noted Tracy Wareing

Evans, Executive Director of the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA). "Working jointly with our many partners we believe we can build stronger Child Protective Service agencies.  The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and its affiliate, the National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators (NAPCWA), stand ready to work with policymakers to assure that states and counties have the necessary tools to build a stronger child welfare system.  We commend the Commission for its thoroughness and commitment to addressing such an important issue at this time."   

"The report represents a major step toward developing a national strategy to fulfill our vision of safety, permanency, and well-being for all children," commented Julie Krow, MA, LPC, Deputy Executive Director, Community Partnerships, Colorado Department of Human Services, and President, National Association of Public Child Welfare Administrators (NAPCWA). "As public child welfare leaders, we are committed to developing our agency's capacities to insure that all children are safe, nurtured, thrive in permanent families, and develop to their full potential. NAPCWA appreciates the efforts of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities in writing such a thoughtful report and including our members in the process." 

"Our recommendations will support stronger CPS agencies working with multiple partners using better data to identify and protect children," noted Sanders. "Now the focus shifts to the president and Congress who have the opportunity to provide the necessary tools and resources, including greater flexibility in funding, to support these recommendations and ensure that our nation's children remain safe, protected and free from harm."

About The Commission

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is a federal agency established by legislation to study and make recommendations on eliminating child abuse and neglect fatalities.  The Commission was formed as a result of the "Protect Our Kids Act" and is made up of six Presidential appointees and six Congressional appointees. For more information and a copy of the full report, please go to http://eliminatechildabusefatalities.sites.usa.gov.

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