An Update from Bud Cramer on the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities and CACs

Many of you may not know this, but I was asked to serve on the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (Commission). The Protect Our Kids Act of 2013 created this bi-partisan, two-year Commission to address the fatalities that claim the lives of innocent children every day. The initial meeting of the Commission was held Monday, February 24, 2014 in a public setting, and all Members were sworn in for a two-year tenure of service.

Members (listed below) heard from the Senate and House Staff from Finance and Ways and Means, as to Congressional intent of the legislation which created this Commission. Congressman Lloyd Doggett from Texas, principal author of the legislation that authorized the Commission, came in person to talk about the work of the Commission. He asked us to “be bold and not constrained” by Congressional intent as outlined in the legislation, and was particularly disturbed by the number of child deaths in Texas.

We had a review of past efforts to “report” on Child Deaths and Fatalities by Catherine Nolan, Director, Office of Child Abuse and Neglect, Children’s Bureau. As we all know many State Commissions have evaluated child deaths and reported recommendations to the federal government. Reference was made to the 1995 U.S. Advisory Board Report, A Nation’s Shame: Fatal Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, which had 26 recommendations and subsequent progress on some of these recommendations (enhancement of joint training on identification and investigation of CAN fatalities, implementation and operation of State Review Teams, State and Federal legislation, prevention services such as home visits, integrated services on child abuse and domestic violence, and interagency training, and many others). There were also reports on the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and subsequent reauthorizations which included language about State Child Death Review Panels; the Children’s Justice Act efforts and use of funds provided for training; and, the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011 which included language mandating agencies compile information on child maltreatment deaths and sources of that information (Child Death Review Teams, law enforcement, medical examiners, coroners, etc.), and why such sources are often excluded from information that is collected. The Commission Members were impressed with this significant history of past activity and recommendations, which are disturbing in light of the current problem and statistics related to child deaths.

We had a report and summary offered by Kurt Heisler, M.S., M.P.H., Office of Data, Analysis, Research, and Evaluation, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Child Maltreatment Fatalities and Federal Monitoring. States are reporting data through the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System(NCANDS), which was established in 1988 through CAPTA. Amazingly, PARTICIPATION IN ENTERING THIS DATA IS VOLUNTARY! NCANDS is much more than just a data collection system; it is also used for training and technical assistance, quality control, and analysis and dissemination through public reports and to researchers.

The Commission further reviewed CAPTA reporting requirements, state plans and content, and information states send via NCANDS; what is NOT COLLECTED – near fatality information, circumstances that led to child fatality, and many other dimensions; and, five year trends in the number of child deaths, fatality rates by age, and additional data points.

It is disturbing that seven states are not currently reporting child fatalities and there are many situations where states are not consistently reporting data (i.e. deaths to children reunited with families within five years). All of this information was provided to inform the Commission to determine our possible goals, outcomes, and agenda, and informational needs. I am very pleased theNational Children’s Advocacy Center’s Child Abuse Library Online (CALiO) will be a resource for the Commission, especially related to existing and emerging research.

Numerous panelists, Commission Members, and staff mentioned the important work done by Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs) throughout the United States, and mentioned having visited CACs and utilized them in their professional work. We are viewed as “the place where all trains pass or should pass regarding child fatalities”. There was significant dialogue about creative ideas for how CACs may be more effectively engaged in the future, and I will continue to support these ideas in moving toward implementation.

I am proud I can represent the fantastic work done by Children’s Advocacy Centers on this Commission, and will continue to advocate for the well-being and protection of children while further integrating the work of CACs in these efforts. I will continue to share messages with the field in regards to the work of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, and also the support of CACs from various Departments within the Federal Government.

Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities Members

  • Dr. David Sanders, Executive Vice President for Casey Family Programs
  • Theresa Martha Covington, Director of the National Center for the Review and Prevention of Child Deaths
  • Patricia M. Martin, Presiding Judge of the Child Protection Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois
  • Michael R. Petit, President and Founder of Every Child Matters Education Fund
  • Jennifer Rodriguez, Executive Director of the Youth Law Center (YLC)
  • Dr. David Rubin, Attending Pediatrician at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
  • Marilyn Bruguier Zimmerman, Director of the National Native Children’s Trauma Center
  • Amy Ayoub, Public Speaking and Presentation Skills Coach
  • Wade Horn, Director at Deloitte Consulting
  • Bud Cramer, Former Member of Congress and founder of the National Children’s Advocacy Center
  • Cassie Bevan, Lecturer in the Graduate School of Social Policy and Practice, University of Pennsylvania
  • Susan N. Dreyfus, President and CEO of the Alliance for Children and Families

Former U.S. Congressman

For research related to child fatalities visit NCAC’s comprehensive bibliographies.

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