WASHINGTON, D.C. - With overwhelming bipartisan support, the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 (H.R. 6655/S. 3705), received unanimous support in the Senate just before the 112th Congress adjourned and it passed the House of Representatives in December by a vote of 330-77. Supported by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (The Coalition), the Protect Our Kids Act creates a bipartisan, two-year Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, consisting of 12 members who will be appointed by the President and congressional leaders. The commission will work together to evaluate current programs and prevention efforts, and recommend a comprehensive national strategy to reduce and prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities nationwide.
Experts estimate that upwards of 2,000 children die from abuse and neglect each year, and nearly 82 percent of the victims are under the age of four. These preventable deaths are significantly underreported in the U.S., as there is no national standard for reporting this data.
In addition to advocacy from the Coalition, a Government Accountability Office report issued in 2011 spurred the Act. The report called on the Department of Health & Human Services to "further strengthen data quality, expand available information on child fatalities, improve information sharing, and estimate the costs and benefits of collecting national data on near fatalities" in order to help prevent child fatalities.
As Teresa Huizar, Executive Director of the National Children’s Alliance, recently testified before the House Ways & Means Subcommittee, "The overall rate of abuse has declined and the overall substantiated physical abuse appears to have declined, but what has not declined is the rate of child abuse fatalities or near fatalities that warranted emergency department treatment. The horrifying persistence of fatal child abuse despite the implementation of effective prevention and intervention measures for most other forms of abuse calls for a deeper examination of its causes and scope."
With allies such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Advocacy Institute, and First Focus, the passage of the Protect our Kids Act was a truly bipartisan effort to prevent fatal child maltreatment. Introduced by Congressman Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Senator Max Baucus of Montana, lead co-sponsors of the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 on the House side include Reps. Dave Camp (R-MI) and Erik Paulsen (R-WI) and on the Senate side Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and John Kerry (R-MA). In all, 17 Representatives and six Senators co-sponsored the bill.
Michael Petit, President of Coalition member Every Child Matters, lauds passage of the bill he has long worked towards, saying, "For the first time in decades, a Congressionally-sponsored panel will be collecting information on the conditions which create violence for so many children in their own homes. And that could help prompt our national government to make investments in children and families a budget and political priority."