Senator John Kerry’s (D-MA) office hosted a Congressional briefing and press conference sponsored by the Children’s Advocacy Institute and First Star on Tuesday to release the second edition of a national report on the deaths of children as a result of child abuse. The briefing included panelists Robert Fellmeth with the Children’s Advocacy Institute, Amy Harfeld, Children’s Policy Consultant, Betty Krupa with Senator Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) office, Danielle Jennings at Blessed Haven, Inc. in Maryland, Elissa Garr with First Star, and Kimberly Day with the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths. Two of the panelists shared heartbreaking stories of their experience of child abuse. Their stories revealed the potential for success after life-threatening tragedy, but also the critical importance of effective system responses and ideally prevention in the first place.
First Star originally released the report of child abuse fatalities in 2008. Both editions include state-wide evaluations of child welfare practices that attribute letter grades based on their public disclosure of child abuse or neglect deaths and near deaths. A major concern raised by the second edition of the report is that many states still do not meet many federal requirements. At the same time, the report also reveals that eleven states have improved public disclosure since 2008. First Star and the Children’s Advocacy Institute encourage disclosure of unmet standards within the foster system in order to improve the system and prevent child abuse deaths at a more effective rate. In looking to federal responses, Kim Day with the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths described the proposed Protect Our Kids Act. The Act would establish a national commission to develop a national strategy to improve maltreatment responses and prevent child fatalities.