A Strategy to Protect Our Children

“Every day, four to eight children in the United States die from abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or caretakers. No one knows the exact number, and there has been little progress in preventing these tragic deaths. Most of the children who die are infants or toddlers.”

—from “Within Our Reach A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities”

In 2013, Congress took notice of those concerning stats like ones above. It passed the Protect Our Kids Act and assembled the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF). Over a two-year period, a team of a dozen commissioners put their public and private sector expertise to task. Their nationwide review of practices and programs revealed that no state has a “sufficiently comprehensive plan to eliminate” child abuse and maltreatment fatalities. So, the commission used what it learned to judiciously recommend a foresighted national strategy.

In time for National Child Abuse Prevention Month this April, GPO makes available the commission’s final report in both digital and print formats.

In “Within Our Reach A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities,” Chairman David Sanders writes, “If we as a nation do nothing different to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities, somewhere between 1,500 and 3,000 U.S. children will die from maltreatment.” He calls for a proactive, not reactive, approach to eliminate child abuse and neglect fatalities. That’s exactly what this policy guidance document aims to do—fundamentally reform old practices and make prevention standard practice.

Several of the chapters dig into the complex conditions that make children vulnerable, especially in disproportionately affected minority communities. Until quality services are made equitably available, opportunities to decrease child fatalities will be missed. Another focus is the “disparity between federal legislation on child safety and the impact at the local level.” Proposed solutions include more multi-disciplinary, real-time data sharing and accountable leadership. Notably, the commission recommends the Children’s Bureau be elevated as a direct report to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


Image excerpt from CECANF Report.

The commission acknowledges that without a way forward, its final report is dead on arrival. So, it recommends that the U.S. government critically review child maltreatment deaths going back five years. The report concludes that “an immediate safety analysis of children who died in the past…will create a national learning community to better protect children and prevent fatalities” in the future.

The commission’s strategy lays out a lot of reasonable action steps. Grounded in practicable research, it’s an earnest effort to produce evidence-based results. Results “within our reach” that will manifestly save children’s lives.


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About the author: Our guest blogger is Chelsea Milko, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Public Relations Office.

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