As a member of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) and former Deputy Director of the Child Welfare League of America, I feel I must weigh in to correct some misconceptions presented in Commissioner Patricia Martin’s most recent commentary on the Commission’s final recommendations.
Martin states that our recommended review of cases (incorrectly characterized as a “surge”) would focus only on children aged 0-5. In fact, our Commission recommends a retrospective review of all child maltreatment deaths in the past five years. We believe that a comprehensive review of recent cases is essential in determining which risk factors are most likely to cause a fatality so that agencies can proactively direct resources to children and families who need them most.
Second, the government reorganization Martin mentions would simply return the Children’s Bureau to its original position as a direct report to the Department of Health and Human Services — an essential change that would improve cross-agency information sharing and enable agencies to act fast before a fatality occurs. Commissioner Martin mischaracterizes the need for funding reform as a “down payment.” The Commission put forward four alternatives for funding these recommendations, and we urge Congress to act quickly and make this issue a priority. A recent study from the CDC found that the total lifetime cost for just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment is approximately $124 billion. This lifetime cost far exceeds the investment it would take to develop and support innovative state fatality prevention plans.
Despite these small differences in opinion, I wholeheartedly agree with Commissioner Martin’s conclusion — that Congress should begin this important work at the many areas where our recommendations intersect.
Michael R. Petit served on the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities and previously served as Deputy Director of the Child Welfare League of America.