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What Does John Kerry Say?

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High Profile of Abuse Cases Can Lead to Action

THE ISSUE: Sex-abuse cases at colleges; OUR OPINION:Add your voice to those supporting action

It’s hard to imagine a good side to the stories that have surfaced out of universities and colleges pertaining to child sex abuse. Penn State, Syracuse and The Citadel in South Carolina are embroiled in major stories pertaining to alleged sexual abuse of children. The cases have raised the level of public awareness about the issue of child sex abuse. That can result in focus on the larger problem – and action.

A coalition of national experts is applauding legislation by U.S. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Susan Collins, R-Maine, and U.S. Reps. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, and Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., that could make a significant impact in reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect, and make improvements throughout the child-welfare system.More than seven children die from abuse and neglect every day in America – some 2,500 a year – reflecting the estimated 50 percent undercounting in the officially estimated figure of 1,560.

A child is abused or neglected every 36 seconds in the United States, yet only 40 percent of abused children with substantiated cases receive services, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.Representatives of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths expressed concern the current national media attention being paid to child-abuse allegations would not create the needed additional pressure on Congress to deal with wider child death and abuse problems. Such focused attention on specific abuse cases often obscures the need for wider attention to the problem, NCECAD experts said.NCECAD members applauded the recently introduced Protect Our Kids Act, which would establish a commission to study and evaluate federal, state, and local public and private child-welfare systems. Protect Our Kids would also develop a national strategy and recommendations for preventing child abuse and reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect.

Kimberly Day, spokesperson for the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, said: “It is important that the media is covering the most recent high-profile and horrific child sexual abuse cases, but it is also important that the public understand that what they are hearing is only part of a larger problem of child abuse and neglect in the United States. The proposed bill will provide a national strategy for improving our child-protection system by recommending practices that protect children and prevent abuse and neglect.”

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Coalition Responds to BBC Report on Child Abuse Deaths: US Senate Taking Action!

The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths commends the BBC on completing a comprehensive story on a topic that has yet to get much attention in our national media. Today the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) began airing its investigative news report on the scope of the problem of child abuse fatalities in the United States. The story highlights the 2,500 child abuse deaths every year in the U.S., the highest number of such deaths of any industrialized country. The BBC presented many of the complex challenges of reducing child abuse deaths and highlighted the need for a greater focus on prevention; however, the story was not intended to provide the prescription for this complex problem.

Now, it appears that the federal government may be closer to establishing a national strategy to reduce these deaths. Massachusetts US Senator John Kerry (D) stated today, “We know that over six million kids are abused or neglected in our country every year, and almost two thousand of them die. The word tragedy doesn’t do justice to this reality. We need to do more to stop this. I’m working on what will be bi-partisan legislation to help in the struggle against child abuse, and I’m confident we can push it across party lines with a real sense of urgency to get it passed and signed into law.”

This is an enormous step forward.  Raising this issue in the media as a national problem can help educate the public and lawmakers about the scope of this tragic problem and ways that child abuse deaths can be prevented.

The BBC story, “America’s Child Death Shame,” is expected to air all week on BBC World News affiliates, including PBS and NPR stations in most American cities.  The entire 22-minute program is currently available in 5-minute segments and can be viewed at the BBC website. To find a PBS affliate in your area visit the PBS station finder.

Coalition Responds to PBS Frontline Story

The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths appreciates the work of PBS Frontline, ProPublica and NPR in opening a small window into the very large and complex topic of child abuse deaths. The work of determining the cause of a child’s death requires competent, well qualified staff at all levels, including medical examiners. Although your story focused on only a very small number of cases, many of which had already been proven false, it did illustrate the need for national standards. What was missing from your story and from the national media in general, is the story of the estimated 2,500 tragic child abuse deaths that occur every year in the United States, many of which go unreported and the perpetrators are not prosecuted, in large part due to the lack of standards. The issue of child abuse deaths deserves national attention and a thorough investigation into the problem.

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