Commission to Eliminate Child Maltreatment Fatalities Holds First Meeting

Feb 26, 2014

The 12 member Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF), created by the Protect our Kids Act (Pub.L. 112-275), held its first meeting on February 24 in Washington, DC. The goal of the commission’s work over the next two years is to develop recommendations, to be presented to the President and to Congress, regarding how to reduce fatalities from child abuse and neglect for federal, state, and local agencies, and private sector and nonprofit organizations, including recommendations to implement a comprehensive national strategy; and to develop guidelines identifying what information should be tracked to improve interventions to prevent fatalities from child abuse and neglect.

Kurt Heisler small

Kurt Heisler, Research Analyst at HHS, informs the Commission
about the national child abuse and neglect data set (NCANDS)
that is reported annually by HHS.

NASW is one of the five organizations that make up the membership of the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (NCECAD) which advocated for the creation of the commission and NASW successfully nominated several social work and child abuse and neglect experts who were selected as commissioners.   The commissioners were chosen by President Obama (6), the House of Representatives (3), and the Senate (3), and among its members are social workers Michael Petit of Every Child Matters and Marilyn Zimmerman of the National Native Children’s Trauma Center. The interdisciplinary group also includes Theresa Covington of the National Center for Child Death Review Policy and Practice and David Sanders of Casey Family Programs is chairing the Commission. Commissioner Susan Dreyfus of the Alliance for Children and Families was among several commissioners that stated, “This is not a partisan issue.” She added that, “…it will be essential to think of this issue beyond just what happens in the child protective service agency, noting that many systems interface with families and there are often cues before a fatality occurs.” All of the commissioners stressed the need for improved communications and collaboration among service sectors and asserted that it will be essential for this commission to make actionable and targeted recommendations that can be implemented to change the status quo.

Michael Petit stated, “Child abuse fatalities need to be a national concern, not just a state concern” adding that children should not have less protection as an accident of geography. Marilyn Zimmerman stressed the importance of examining what happens in Native American communities where, “Tribes do not have the same access to funds to do child protective services, and review teams often focus more on jurisdictional issues about which agency was responsible for a case rather than how to best support families.”

Congressman Lloyd Doggett, NASW’s Public Official of the Year, and sponsor of the Protect our Kids Act, addressed the Commission to review its broad charge, stating, “ The Commission is about the lives of children, not just about death,” and “The Commission should create an accessible blueprint for better child abuse and neglect strategies.”

For more information about preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities, read the chapter on this topic by commissioners Petit and Covington, in the NASW Press book The Children’s Bureau: Shaping a Century of Child Welfare Practices, Programs, and Policies, edited by Katharine Briar-Lawson, Mary McCarthy, and Nancy Dickinson.

Information on submitting comments to the Commission can be found at: Future meetings, which will take place around the country over the next several years, will be announced in the Federal Register. NASW will continue to monitor the work of the commission, as prevention of child abuse and neglect fatalities can impact every setting where social workers practice.