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March 23, 2016 Practice Points

"Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities"

By Cathy Krebs

The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities (Commission) has released "Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse Fatalities." The report includes recommendations focused on a "proactive approach to child safety with a more strategic response to immediate crises, we hope to make prevention of fatalities standard practice."

While overall safety for children in the U.S. is improving, child fatalities are not declining. From the report:

Child protection is perhaps the only field where some child deaths are assumed to be inevitable, no matter how hard we work to stop them. This is certainly not true in the airline industry, where safety is paramount and commercial airline crashes are never seen as inevitable.

Every day, four to eight children in the United States die from abuse or neglect at the hands of their parents or caretakers. The Commission found that more data on these deaths in necessary, though they did find that most children who die are under the age of five. Concern about these fatalities led Congress to create the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) in 2013. The president and Congress appointed a group of 12 Commissioners, with the goal of outlining a national strategy to end child maltreatment fatalities in the U.S.

After a listening tour around the U.S., the Commission put together a comprehensive list of recommendations centered around a public health approach to child safety that engages a broad spectrum of community agencies and systems. Recommendations focus on leadership and accountability, decisions grounded in better data and multidisciplinary support for families. The Commission was only able to find one evidence-based practice to reduce fatalities, NurseFamily Partnerships—home visiting programs.

Cathy Krebs is the committee manager of the Children's Rights Litigation Committee at the ABA Section of Litigation in Washington, D.C.

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