On March 17, the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) released its final report, Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.”   Of key emphasis the commission report highlights:

  • Infants and toddlers are at high risk of an abuse or neglect fatality compared to other age groups. They require special attention.
  • A call to a child protection hotline, regardless of the disposition, is the best predictor of a later child abuse or neglect fatality. This points to the importance of the initial decision to “screen out” certain calls. Screening out leaves children unseen who may be at a high risk for later fatality.
  • Involvement of health care and public health agencies and professionals is vital to safety for children. Well-coordinated interagency efforts are essential.
  • The importance of child protection workers’ access to real-time information about families cannot be overestimated.
  • It is critical to have an accurate national count of child protection fatalities. Better data allow us to begin to understand what works and what doesn’t.
  • The Nurse-Family Partnership program has been demonstrated to save lives.

CWLA will be using the Commission report to engage members in further dialogue through calls and most immediately at the opening session of the April National Advocacy Summit on Monday April 18.

The report highlighted the difficulty within the introduction when Commission head David Sanders told readers:

“Unfortunately, although we found that we know a lot about what puts children at risk, there are relatively few promising or evidence-based solutions. In fact, we were able to identify only one practice with research evidence showing a reduction in fatalities—Nurse- Family Partnership. Likewise, we found only a handful of communities that identified reduction of child abuse and neglect fatalities as a goal, implemented efforts to achieve that goal, and demonstrated progress. Despite evidence that overall safety for children is improving, these fatalities are not declining. My conclusion is that achieving a reduction in child abuse and neglect fatalities requires a different set of approaches altogether from those that are being successfully used to improve overall safety.”

In regard to funding, the Commission split in four ways, with Commissioner Michael Petit, former head of Every Child Matters, and former Administration for Children and Families Commissioner Wade Horn in support of a $1 billion investment in to carry out the recommendations.  There was not unanimity on this point.  Congress has been reluctant to place a high funding priority on child protection issues.  The last time that the CAPTA state grants increased at the federal level was in 2005 when Commissioner Horn was in office.  Other commissioners reflected some of that reluctance with some members feeling it was not the role of the commission to address funding, or that there should be a redesign of current funding or Congress should make the call.

There were also two dissenting views with Commissioner Cassie Bevan issuing a minority report (page 139) and Judge Patricia Martin issuing a separate report ( Judge Martin’s Dissenting Views)

In wrapping up their findings the Commission concluded:

“Nothing is definitive when it comes to preventing child fatalities from abuse or neglect. In the Commission’s two years of hearings, deliberations, and meetings with stakeholder groups, we found little in the way of evidence-based programs to end child maltreatment deaths. We found no state that had developed a sufficiently comprehensive plan to address the problem. But we found hope and urgency for building the steps to a 21st century child welfare system that can prevent deaths of the 3,000 children who will die from abuse or neglect next year if the status quo remains in place.

The Commission was created by law with a mission to develop a comprehensive national strategy to eliminate child maltreatment fatalities.  They conducted research, held a series of public hearings, and talked with experts from across the country to gather data and input. They also heard from the child welfare workforce at all levels, from pediatricians, law enforcement, members of the judiciary, researchers, advocates, policymakers, parents, and many others. Here is a Commission Factsheet.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION AT: the April National Advocacy Summit on Monday April 18.