By Paul R. Pace, News staff
An estimated four to eight children die from abuse and neglect every day in the U.S. Approximately half of these children are less than a year old and 75 percent are less than 3 years old.
These are some of the findings from “Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities,” the final report of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities.
NASW member Michael Petit was among the 12-member commission that included social worker Marilyn Bruguier Zimmerman, who resigned from the commission in November 2015 to join the Department of Justice as a tribal senior policy adviser.
The bipartisan Protect Our Kids Act created the commission in 2012, and commissioners held public hearings across the U.S. for two years in an effort to gain insight and recommendations for the final report.
NASW also provided input for the report, which Petit says offers a focal point of the efforts that can and should be done to reduce child-maltreatment deaths.
The report is “a deep dive into the magnitude of this problem,” said Petit, adviser and former president of Every Child Matters. “Nothing short of the federal government taking a more aggressive leadership role in this area, in my mind, is going to galvanize the resources necessary to stop this problem.”
More specifically, the report includes recommendations for actions by the executive branch, Congress, states and counties that commissioners believe will be most effective in ending these tragic deaths.
Petit urges social workers to read the report since many in the profession work in child protective services.
“The responsibility for the protection of children needs to be shared by families, communities to governmental and nongovernmental interventions,” Petit said. “If this is played out the way we hope, it will strengthen the CPS system, but also other children-welfare operations that orbit around CPS.”
He added that the report urges an increase in compensation, leave time and training for CPS workers in the field in an effort to reduce high workforce turnover rates.
Petit noted that while the nation prepares to elect its next president and Congress this year, each state should prepare a daylong forum on child maltreatment deaths to build action steps on making changes.
“Every NASW chapter should be pushing for convening in their state,” Petit said. “This is something social workers are uniquely and professionally equipped to deal with. There is both community organizing and administration components and a clinical aspect to all this.”
“I think social workers need to help lead the charge just as they did in the creation of the commission,” he said.
The commission’s report, a fact sheet and social media tool kit are available at the CECANF website: https://eliminatechildabusefatalities.sites.usa.gov.
For more NASW child welfare-related resources, please visit: socialworkers.org/practice/children/default.asp.
From the June 2016 NASW News.