Sadly, we know child deaths due to abuse are far too common. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System estimated that 1,840 children died from abuse and neglect in 2019, and we know those numbers probably don’t even tell the full story.
Right now, the lack of a clear definition for “child maltreatment fatality” lets too many kids slip through the cracks. We can’t solve the problem if we don’t even have accurate data on how bad it is.
That’s why I joined my Republican colleague, Senator Roy Blunt, to reintroduce our bipartisan Child Abuse Death Disclosure Act, to provide policymakers and public health officials with a clearer picture on exactly how many children we are losing each year.
Our bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services 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
Without a standard, national definition, we are never going to be able to accurately track this problem and advance potential solutions.
The bill would also require states to report case specific information to the National Center for Fatality Review and Prevention to better understand the circumstances around a child’s death. This would include requiring states to look into whether the family had access to housing, mental health services, or drug treatment services.
In addition, the bill would provide resources to improve culturally competent training for pediatricians and medical professionals, to better identify and respond to injuries in infants that could be signs of abuse
Our bill has the support multiple child advocacy organizations, including the National Children’s Alliance and the National Child Abuse Coalition.
The fight to end child abuse and neglect deaths starts with community awareness and responding to at-risk families before they are in crisis. It includes better training medical professional, and creating national standards.
We need to treat child abuse prevention like the public health crisis that it is.
I’m hopeful that we can make real bipartisan progress on this commonsense plan to save children’s lives.
Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) represents the state in the U.S. Senate.