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The term of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities expired on March 18, 2016.

Eliminating Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities: Creating a National Strategy for Change

Filed in Commissioner’s Blog By on November 2, 2015

Dr. David SandersBy David Sanders, Chairman

November 2, 2015

Ivan, a 2-year-old boy in Los Angeles, died from internal bleeding when his 19-year-old mother beat him. Child welfare, the medical system and law enforcement all knew about previous injuries to this child, but they failed to act to save him.

Brayden was just 6 weeks old when he died from suffocation when his mother rolled over him in bed. She was on drugs at the time. Methadone had been found in Brayden’s system at birth. Despite this, the doctors did not refer Brayden to CPS when he was born because methadone is a legal drug.

Phoebe, 5 years old, was tossed 62 feet off a bridge by her father, who had a history of domestic abuse. He was the sole caregiver for Phoebe for two years until her death at his hands. A call to the child abuse hotline at the Department of Children and Families on the day of her death had been screened out.

What will take to put an end to these tragic deaths?

The challenge before us is complex. Yet history shows that Americans can tackle difficult issues when there is public will and leadership behind a national strategy for social change. Seatbelt safety, placing infants on their backs to sleep to reduce SIDS deaths – these are just two examples of how our nation has brought about rapid changes in risky behaviors through enhanced knowledge, awareness and policy changes.

Today, we have access to knowledge, data, and resources that could significantly reduce the number of children who are dying each year from abuse and neglect. And through enhanced research and data analytics that help us prioritize those most at risk, we can save even more.

For example, we know that an estimated 71 percent of child maltreatment deaths are the result of neglect. These deaths include such varied circumstances as infants sleeping with an intoxicated adult who rolls over and suffocates the baby to an unattended toddler who drowns in a bathtub or swimming pool. Imagine how many lives could be saved if we could reach these families before a tragedy happens.

Over the course of the past two years, the Commission has held listening sessions across the country with CPS officials, pediatricians, law enforcement, and other stakeholders to learn more about what is working and what isn’t. We heard from jurisdictions that take a multidisciplinary approach to reducing fatalities, and from safety-critical industries, such as the airlines, that collect and examine data from fatal accidents to prevent them from happening again.

While the Commission has learned of promising practices at work in some communities, what is lacking is a comprehensive national strategy that fosters a collective sense of responsibility at a national level for saving children’s lives; backed by strong, coordinated leadership and accountability; and decisions about practice, policy, and resource allocation that are based on the highest quality data available.

Our coordinated national strategy, which we will unveil in a report to the President and Congress by March 2016, will seek to bring these promising practices and policies to scale. It will reach beyond CPS to strengthen our ability to work in a multi-disciplinary way to close the gaps that currently exist and to reach vulnerable families at risk long before children come to harm.



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