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Blunt, Brown Push Bipartisan Effort to Help Improve Reporting of Child Abuse Deaths, Prevent Future Fatalities

Senators’ Bill Follows Tragic Child Abuse Deaths Across Country

May 20, 2021

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.) and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) introduced bipartisan legislation to 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 need to do everything we can to keep children safe from abuse and neglect,” said Blunt. “Tragically, many experts fear that the number of child abuse-related deaths increased during the pandemic. Having a better understanding of the circumstances of every child abuse-related death will provide policymakers, law enforcement, and public health officials with important information to help prevent these awful crimes.”
“Right now, too many Ohio kids are slipping through the cracks. To prevent more of these tragic deaths, we must have complete and accurate data. It’s time to treat child abuse prevention as the public health issue that it is, and tailor our response to meet the needs of families in Ohio and around the country,” said Brown.
“Missouri KidsFirst is proud to support the Child Abuse Death Disclosure Act and thanks Senator Blunt for continuing to champion legislation to protect children,” said Jessica Seitz, Director of Public Policy, Missouri KidsFirst, the state’s chapter of Child Advocacy Centers. “Child abuse and neglect is a multi-factorial problem and child abuse and neglect fatalities are best addressed using multi-factorial solutions. This legislation is informed by best practices to prevent child maltreatment fatalities. By strengthening the national data on child maltreatment fatalities and implementing ongoing multi-disciplinary case reviews, the Child Abuse Death Disclosure Act complements and enhances work being done in Missouri to identify risk factors, assess systemic and community factors at or near the time of a child’s death, and develop policies to prevent fatalities from occurring.”
“Synergy Services is pleased to support Sen. Blunt and Sen. Brown's continued efforts to advance the protection of children,” said Gwen O'Brien, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Director of Advocacy and Prevention, Synergy Services. “Strengthening the national data on child maltreatment fatalities and implementing annual multidisciplinary 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 Death 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 2019, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) estimated that approximately 1,840 children died from abuse and neglect. That’s up from the estimated 1,720 in 2017. The federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities indicated in its 2017 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 Death 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. States may also fund training for pediatricians and medical providers.

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