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

Our Work Begins: Finding the Right Questions

Filed in Commissioner’s Blog By on June 26, 2014

By David Sanders, Chairman

June 26, 2014

Dr. David Sanders

On June 2–3, the Commission held its first state public meeting in San Antonio, Texas, at the invitation of Congressman Lloyd Doggett, author of the 2012 Protect Our Kids Act. The meeting was a major achievement in our efforts to launch and promote a national dialogue about identifying, preventing, and eliminating child abuse and neglect fatalities.

Hosted by the University of Texas at San Antonio, the meeting was the first opportunity for Commission members to visit a state to hear the insights of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, both nationally and from Texas. A diverse group of more than 30 representatives of policy, legislative, advocacy, law enforcement, judicial, health, and academic organizations offered testimony about federal and state policy, research, and practice, including practice issues specific to Texas and Bexar County. In addition, more than 200 members of the public observed the proceedings, in person or via teleconference.

We can all agree that even one child fatality from abuse or neglect is too many. Thanks to our distinguished speakers in Texas, we are starting to develop a clearer picture of the current challenges and opportunities facing those working to eliminate these tragedies. We learned about the complexities of tracking child abuse and neglect deaths—because understanding where and how these deaths occur, and how often, is critical to improving the effectiveness of our prevention efforts. We also heard about the ways in which current funding streams support prevention work, as well as how certain restrictions on federal funding may impede further progress. We listened to thoughtful arguments about balancing the rights to confidentiality for victims and families with the benefits of public transparency.

We are far from having all the answers, but with each opportunity to hear from well-informed stakeholders like those we met in San Antonio, we will grow closer to identifying the right questions. I am confident that these questions will lead us to recommendations that will have a real impact on children’s lives.

A few of the questions that my fellow Commissioners and I will be considering during the next several months include the following:

  • Are recent declines in child fatalities in Bexar County (and other localities) the result of more effective prevention strategies or changes in how deaths due to abuse and neglect are reported and counted?
  • What existing programs and strategies are most successful in preventing fatalities from child abuse and neglect?
  • What improvements in pediatric care and emergency treatment are most effective in preventing severe cases of child abuse or neglect from resulting in a child’s death? What is the role of specialization in promoting more effective care?
  • What specific changes to funding and regulations would better support federal, state, local, and private efforts to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities?

Exploration of these questions—and many more—will continue during our next two public meetings: in Tampa, Florida, on July 10 and Detroit, Michigan, on August 28.

In these and additional meetings planned through the fall, we will continue to engage with state, tribal, and local stakeholders, to learn from what is working and to hear what is not. In this way, we will move closer toward our ultimate goal of shaping more effective federal policy and a brighter future for all children.

CECANF Reception

Commissioners (l-r) Hon. Patricia M. Martin, Dr. Wade Horn, Amy Ayoub, Jennifer Rodriguez, and Dr. David Rubin listen to remarks by Rep. Lloyd Doggett
at the San Antonio public meeting, June 2, 2014.

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