A federal commission that spent the past two years reviewing issues related to child abuse and neglect fatalities is calling for a “public health approach to child safety” that puts a stronger emphasis on prevention.
The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) issued a report on March 17 that makes a series of recommendations, including:
- Calling on states to undertake a five-year retrospective review of child abuse and neglect fatalities to identify family and systemic circumstances that led to fatalities.
- Having states review their policies on screening reports of abuse and neglect to ensure children most at risk for fatality - those under age 3 - receive the appropriate response and their families are prioritized for services.
- Holding programs such as Medicaid and home visiting accountable for ensuring their services are focused on reducing abuse and neglect fatalities.
- Enactment of federal legislation that sets a minimum standard designating which professionals should be mandatory reporters of abuse or neglect.
Dr. David Sanders, the executive vice president of Casey Family Programs and the chair of the commission, said the current network of child abuse services and supports “does not adequately ensure safety for children because much of it is reactionary after a death has occurred.”
“Over the long term,” he said, “we need to dramatically redesign our approach to ensure children and families in crisis receive the supports and interventions they need to address the complex issues impacting families and prevent harm before it occurs. Based on what we learned as a commission, I am convinced that we have the knowledge to reduce the number of children who will die today, tomorrow and in the future.”
The full report is available on the commission’s website.
As we head into April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we hope Pennsylvania officials will use the commission’s report to consider ways the commonwealth can improve its child welfare system and further strengthen our proactive approach to ending child abuse and neglect.
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