National Children's Alliance Urges Congress to Save Children From Dying

Jan 20, 2010, 10:00 ET from National Children's Alliance

Children need the protection of their government as the number of maltreatment deaths increase

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As part of a campaign to stop child abuse and neglect deaths, National Children's Alliance and its partners – the Every Child Matters Education Fund, the National Association of Social Workers, and the National District Attorneys Association – are running ads that urge Congress to address the fatalities that claim the lives of innocent children every day. Specifically, the advertisements ask Congress to hold hearings and provide emergency funds to stop state cuts in child protective services. The advertisements will run in Roll Call, The Hill and Politico. The ultimate goal is to compel legislators to bring the national attention and federal resources to bear on what has become a national tragedy.


In addition to placing ads and delivering the recommendations, the four partnering organizations will urge their constituents to contact members of Congress and let them know that stopping child maltreatment deaths should be a top priority.

"As the national association of Child Advocacy Centers, we understand how imperative it is for Congress to recognize and act on this national crisis.  These numbers are staggering and if we don't mobilize as a country, our children will continue to suffer," remarked Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children's Alliance.

According to We Can Do Better: Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths in America, a report released in October, 2009, nearly five children die in America every day from abuse or neglect. Federal data shows that 10,440 children in the U.S. died from abuse and neglect between 2001 and 2007, but experts say the real number may be as many as 5,000 higher. A weak economy and resulting state budget cuts are putting even more children at risk, as evidenced by the multitude of newspaper stories from across America that link an increase in child abuse to the worsening recession. To see a compendium of these stories, entitled "The Growing Crisis in Child Protection," click here.

During the Summit on Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths last October that followed the release of the report, more than 100 child welfare stakeholders from across the country met to discuss strategies and tactics for combating child abuse and neglect and for shoring up a child protection system that is stretched too thin. Following are recommendations resulting from those discussions.

  1. Building upon the best of current child protection systems, the government should take the lead in developing a national strategy for stopping maltreatment deaths. It should include public health and social services aimed at strengthening families and preventing maltreatment in the first place, along with state of the art assessment tools to identify and properly assess those at risk.
  2. Current levels of federal spending are far below the level needed to protect all children at imminent risk of harm. For example, three to five billion dollars are required to allow child protective workers and other frontline personnel to have smaller caseloads and better training, not only so that they will be better prepared to immediately protect children, but so that they will consider having lifelong careers in child protection bringing needed maturity and experience to the system. Continuing education and training across disciplines should be mandated, focusing especially on licensure, accreditation, and support for sub-specialties. Funds are also needed to provide a wide array of public health and social services to help at-risk kids, including comprehensive in-home services for all children already in the system.  
  3. In consideration of expanded federal spending, states should be required to adopt national standards drawn from existing best practices and policy for protecting children.
  4. Congress should modify confidentiality laws to allow policy makers, the press, and the public to understand better what protection policies and practices need to be improved in the aftermath of a child's death.
  5. The Department of Health and Human Services should standardize definitions and methodologies used to collect state data related to maltreatment deaths and should require states to provide such data to the Department and within and across systems in order to receive federal funds. Further, state child death review teams should be adequately funded.
  6. The Department of Health and Human Services, in cooperation with state child protective and public health agencies, should conduct a public education campaign to encourage reporting of child abuse and neglect, and to enlist communities in the protection of children. And because much maltreatment and many maltreatment deaths arise from neglect, neglect should receive equal focus in the campaign and by those involved in child protection.
  7. To better protect children at imminent risk of severe harm, the federal government, led by the Departments of Justice and Health and Human services, and in cooperation with states, should adopt a model protocol for assuring that civil and criminal legal proceedings are closely coordinated between child protection and law enforcement agencies.

According to Every Child Matters President Michael Petit, author of the report, We Can Do Better: Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths in America, "Only a national approach will overcome inadequate funding and less than robust social policies to protect families. Child abuse and neglect exacts a heavy toll—thousands killed, millions of lives ruined, and costs of more than $100 billion a year. We must do better."

As a nation, we know a great deal about preventing abuse and neglect and related fatalities. When provided with support services and appropriate supervision, the vast majority of potentially abusive and neglectful parents can learn to safely care for their children and families. Many abused children develop the resiliency to overcome the abuse they've sustained, but for others, these patterns of abuse will continue into the next generation.

National Children's Alliance (NCA) is a national association 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 of abuse first. As the accrediting body for the over 700 Child Advocacy Centers around the country, NCA provides training, financial support, technical assistance, leadership, national advocacy and access to current research findings on a national level to children's advocacy centers around the country as well as numerous developing centers, multidisciplinary teams and child abuse professionals. As the national authority on multidisciplinary approaches to supporting child victims of abuse, NCA's purpose is to empower local communities to provide comprehensive, coordinated and compassionate services to victims of child abuse.

Available Topic Expert(s): For information on the listed expert(s), click appropriate link.

Teresa Huizar

SOURCE National Children's Alliance