The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths developed this list of recommendations at the Summit to End Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths in America. These recommendations are based on research and collaboration with 150 national experts in child welfare.
- Develop a national, multi-agency strategy for stopping maltreatment deaths. NCECAD is calling for a National Commission on Child Abuse Deaths to study and evaluate federal, state, and local public and private child welfare systems. Currently, child welfare systems operate independently from state to state, and even county to county. Variations in policy and capability among states can make the difference between whether children live or die.
- Increase current federal spending on child protection by three to five billion dollars. Current levels of federal spending are far below the level needed to protect all children at imminent risk. Increased funds would allow child protective workers and other frontline personnel to have smaller caseloads and better training to be better prepared for immediately protecting children, but so that they will consider having lifelong careers in child protection thus bringing needed maturity and experience to the system. Continuing education and training across disciplines should be mandated, focusing especially on licensure, accreditation, and support for sub-specialties. Funds are also needed to provide a wide array of public health and social services to help at-risk kids, including comprehensive in-home services for all children already in the system.
- Child welfare financing reform is crucial to make child protective services an entitlement for eligible children.
- Amend current federal and state confidentiality laws: originally intended to protect living child victims from publicity, confidentiality laws have become a hindrance to a better public understanding of child abuse and neglect fatalities. The withholding of such information, especially between jurisdictions and between agencies can be detrimental and cost children their lives. Congress should consider modifications to confidentiality laws to allow policy makers, the press, and the public to understand better what protection policies and practices need to be improved in the aftermath of a child’s death, while still protecting the rights of children and families.
- Standardize data collection about maltreatment deaths to lead to quality national statistics that will inform effective prevention strategies and require states to provide such data to the Department and within and across systems in order to receive federal funds.
- Fully fund state child death review teams that look at each child’s death and develop prevention recommendations.
- Develop a public education campaign to encourage public reporting of child abuse and neglect and to enlist communities in the protection of children. Many maltreatment deaths arise from neglect; thus the issue of child neglect should receive equal focus in a public education campaign and by child protection professionals.
- Develop a model protocol to ensure civil and criminal legal proceedings related to child abuse and neglect are closely coordinated with relevant agencies Included in this multidisciplinary approach should be law enforcement, prosecutors, child welfare workers and also medical professionals, who may be the first to come into contact with an abused child.
The Coalition’s recommendations are also available as a PDF.