A Call to End 'The National Media Blackout on Child Abuse'

Every day in America, there are an estimated seven children who die from abuse or neglect -- some 2,500 per year (expert estimate of actual deaths). In 2010, the number of reported child maltreatment deaths (1,740) was far higher than the number of reported child deaths resulting from the H1N1 virus (281), other food-borne illnesses (74), Toyota accelerator malfunctions (34), and coal mining accidents (33); yet the national media neglected to call the same amount of attention to child maltreatment deaths and what must be done to prevent these avoidable fatalities.

As a leader in the field of child abuse intervention and prevention, I struggle every day wondering why this national media blackout is occurring. With nearly 20 years of experience working in the Children's Advocacy Center movement, I have watched as the issue of child abuse and neglect has gone from an often ignored social issue, to a highly recognized problem among all socioeconomic and cultural demographics in our country.

The time has come for the national media to help us call attention to this issue. It is widely known that the power of the press to sway political attention and, oftentimes, legislative decisions is strong. Which is why I, along with many of my colleagues in the child protective services field, implore the national media to not just casually list the gruesome details of child maltreatment deaths and point a finger of blame, but to call attention to what must be done to prevent these avoidable deaths from happening in the first place.

What will it take to end child abuse fatalities in the United States?

Even with broad public support for safeguarding every child at risk for abuse, the reality is our nation's current commitment of resources, laws, and policies for protecting children is inadequate, and must be addressed.

For the last few years, National Children's Alliance has been a member of The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (NCECAD). Formed in 2009, NCECAD is comprised of five national organizations sharing a collective concern about the escalating number of child maltreatment deaths across the country. The five organizations include: National Children's Alliance, the National Association of Social Workers, the National District Attorneys Association, the National Center for Child Death Review, and Every Child Matters Education Fund.

Since its creation, NCECAD has worked hard to raise the issue of child maltreatment deaths to the forefront of public and legislative discussion. In October of 2009, NCECAD brought together child welfare experts from across the country at the Summit to End Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths in Washington, D.C. This three-day Summit resulted in a list of recommendations for the child welfare system and the agencies with which the systems interacts.

Included in NCECAD's recommendations were: expanded services for needy families; a national strategy for better coordination of law enforcement and child protective services; changes to the current confidentiality laws associated with child abuse and neglect deaths; and increased funding for child protective services on a national level.

As a dedicated member of this coalition, I, on behalf of National Children's Alliance, encourage not just the national media but the general public as well, to become more educated on what must be done to help end the ongoing national tragedy of child maltreatment deaths in our country.

To learn more about the problem and what the public can do to assist the movement, visit the NCECAD website at www.endchildabusedeaths.org and sign a petition asking Congress to hold hearings on how to decrease child abuse and neglect deaths - and save our children from avoidable deaths.

For more information on statistics shared in this blog post, view the chart on "America's Most Under-Covered Social Crisis" at www.endchildabusedeaths.org.