On Monday and Tuesday of last week the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities brought their hearings to Denver, Colorado. Part of the session, as was the case in previous hearing sites, was to examine their host state’s challenges and strategies. The Commission heard from the Colorado Department of Human Services, and Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment  and researchers from Kempe Center, University of Colorado. In addition Commissioners received testimony from Dr. David Olds, regarding the work and research on the effectiveness of the Nurse Family Partnership. NFP is one of the models recognized by the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program that has garnered much support in Washington DC as an important prevention initiative. Other panelists discussed the role of substance abuse, and domestic violence.

Much of the early focus and discussion of the Commission has been on data issues. States vary in the way they both track and define child deaths due to abuse and neglect. An example of where this may become more challenging is in  drowning deaths. Some states may include a drowning in a swimming pool while another may not.   Part of the charge of the Commission is to examine the issue of data sources and definitions along with developing prevention strategies. Two of the congressional sponsors of the legislation that created the commission, Congressmen David Camp (R-MI) and Sander Levin (D-MI) highlighted this challenge in a recent ROLL CALL article that said in part, “Even when all the data are available, experts in many states may not agree on whether a given death is the result of abuse or neglect. For example, if a 2-year-old dies in a swimming pool, is it neglect if the child was left alone for 2 minutes? 10 minutes? An hour? Does it matter if Child Protective Services had been previously involved with the family? What if the parents had a few drinks the afternoon of the death? Where do we draw the line between an accident and neglect?”

Camp and Levin also testified before the Commission last month while hearings were conducted in Michigan. The next hearing is scheduled for Burlington, Vermont on October 23 and October 24 at a location to be determined. The public is invited to participate either in person or by registering beforehand and then calling in at the time of the event. Look here for future details on how to sign in or go to Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.