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Blunt, Brown Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Reporting of Child Abuse Deaths, Prevent Future Fatalities

Senators’ Bill Would Provide Clearer Picture of the Number of Child Abuse Fatalities, Better Assess When and Why Child Abuse Fatalities Occur

December 11, 2019

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) introduced bipartisan legislation, the Child Abuse Deaths Disclosure Act, which would require states to report data on all child-abuse related deaths and develop recommendations to prevent child abuse deaths from occurring in the first place.

The senators’ bill would provide policymakers and public health officials with a clearer picture of the number of child abuse fatalities and allow states to collect important information to better assess when and why child abuse fatalities occur. 

“We have an obligation to do all we can to keep children safe,” said Blunt. “Having a complete and accurate understanding of the circumstances surrounding every child abuse-related death will give policymakers, law enforcement, and public health officials the information they need to prevent these heinous deaths.”  

“The only way we can prevent more of these tragic deaths is if we get an accurate picture of the problem and treat child abuse prevention like the public health issue that it is. That is why we must get an accurate picture of the problem and tailor our response to meet the needs of families in Ohio and around the country,” said Brown.

“Synergy Services is pleased to support Sen. Blunt's continued efforts to advance the protection of children,” said Gwen O’Brien, Director of Advocacy and Prevention, Synergy Services. “Strengthening the national data on child maltreatment fatalities and implementing annual reviews of this information are critical steps in informing best practices and policies to eliminate child maltreatment fatalities. It is our hope that legislation such as the Child Abuse Deaths Disclosure Act will support the initiatives already in place in Missouri to improve accurate identification and classifications, identify risk factors, assess systemic factors at or near the time of the child's death, and develop prevention strategies to eliminate child maltreatment fatalities.”

In 2017, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) estimated that approximately 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect. The federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) indicated in its final report that NCANDS data does not fully capture the entire number of child abuse fatalities and recommended significant reforms including improved data collection and interagency collaboration, increased funding to child welfare programs, and the development of a standard definition of “child maltreatment fatality.”

The Child Abuse Deaths Disclosure Act would:

• Require states to develop a multidisciplinary team to annually examine the circumstances of all child abuse related deaths and report case specific information to the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention. The taskforce would also be required to develop recommendations to prevent child abuse deaths and submit an annual report to state and federal officials to publish on a national public website.    

• Require HHS to consult with state and local officials, child welfare practitioners, pediatricians, public health officials, and law enforcement to develop a national standard definition related to child abuse deaths or child maltreatment fatalities.

• Promote training on child maltreatment fatalities for child death review teams to address disparities in treatment by officials or outcomes in child maltreatment fatalities based on race or culture and encourage best practices.

The bill is also supported by child advocacy organizations, including the National Children’s Alliance, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Within Our Reach, and the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. If you suspect or know a child is being abused or neglected, please call or text the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453, contact your local child protective services office, or a law enforcement agency.   

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