Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Road Ahead: Comprehensive and Innovative Approaches for Improving Safety and Preventing Child Maltreatment Fatalities

Academic journal article Child Welfare

The Road Ahead: Comprehensive and Innovative Approaches for Improving Safety and Preventing Child Maltreatment Fatalities

Article excerpt

This article presents a high-level overview of the complex issues, opportunities, and challenges involved in improving child safety and preventing child maltreatment fatalities. It emphasizes that improving measurement and classification is critical to understanding and preventing child maltreatment fatalities. It also stresses the need to reframe child maltreatment interventions from a public health perspective. The article draws on the lessons learned from state-of-the-art safety engineering innovations, research, and other expert recommendations presented in this special issue that can inform future policy and practice direction in this important area.

Child Protection Service (CPS) agencies receive an estimated 3.3 to 3.4 million child abuse and neglect referrals, involving approximately 6.2 million children, each year (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [DHHS], 2009, 2010, 2011). Recent research by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated the total lifetime financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment at $124 billion, comparable to the societal costs of other major public health problems such as Type 2 diabetes (Fang, Florence, 6c Mercy, 2012).

The National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCANDS) estimated that 1,560 children died from abuse and neglect in fiscal year 2010 compared with 1,750 for fiscal year 2009 (DHHS, 2011). The 4th National Incidence Study (NIS-4), using a different methodology of nationally representative samplings from 122 counties and multiple sources of information, estimated 2,400 child deaths from maltreatment (Sedlak et al., 2010). A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report in 2011 concluded that more children have likely died from maltreatment than are counted in NCANDS.These conflicting figures are understandable as states face multiple difficulties when it comes to determining whether a child's death is caused by maltreatment as well as collecting and reporting consistent data (GAO, 2011). However, many researchers and practitioners agree that child fatalities due to abuse and neglect are underreported. Therefore, the true prevalence of fatal maltreatment is unknown (Schnitzer, Covington, Wirtz, Verhoek-Oftedahl, 6c Palus ci, 2008; GAO, 2011).

In an effort to influence and mobilize national efforts to improve safety and prevent child maltreatment-related fatalities, Casey Family Programs, a national foundation dedicated to improving child welfare outcomes in this country through its 2020 strategy, launched a series of forums in the fall of 2011. The Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) and the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the CDC joined Casey in hosting these events, which were attended by experts, policymakers, advocates, researchers, practitioners, and child welfare leaders as well as public health experts. These forums provided an opportunity to explore the issue of child fatalities from different perspectives.

The articles in this special issue journal are based on presentations and lessons learned from these forums. Drawing on those forums as well as other articles in this special issue, this article presents a summary of the issues so as to inform future policy and practice innovations in this important area, including reframing child maltreatment fatalities from a public health perspective.

Comprehensive Measurement and Classification of Child Fatalities

Identifying and investigating child maltreatment fatalities presents serious challenges that together lead to the well-documented undercounting of child abuse and neglect-related deaths (GAO, 2011). Improving measurement and classification is critical to understanding and preventing child maltreatment fatalities. Consistency in identifying and counting child maltreatment fatalities at the state, local, and national level is also essential in determining whether efforts to reduce and prevent maltreatment fatalities are effective. …

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