Hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on
Keeping America's Children Safe: Preventing Childhood Injury
(As Prepared for Delivery)
Our hearing today is on protecting American children more effectively from unintentional childhood injury and death. I'd like to begin by congratulating the organization Safe Kids USA on its 20th anniversary and on its 20 years of dedication and achievement on this important issue.
I've been fortunate enough to work with you since the beginning, and you deserve great credit for the progress that's been made in protecting children from accidental injury. On average, the fatality rate from such injuries has dropped 45% over those two decades and that achievement is due in large part to the dedication of all the organizations we have here today.
You've researched the best ways to prevent these injuries and you've been effective in getting that information to parents and caregivers. We're also here today to talk about what still needs to be done. Despite the reduction I mentioned, an average of 430 children are dying each month from accidental injury. It's still the number one killer of children under 14. In Massachusetts alone, 42,982 children under the age of 4 visited the emergency room for non-fatal injuries.
I remember a time when there were no seat belts and no car seats for very young children. It was OK to smoke around your children. We've become far more sophisticated in how we protect our children, but we still have a ways to go, so I'm pleased to have you all here today to discuss that with our committee.
Families and caregivers bear the burden of preventing childhood injuries, and they have so much to worry about. Parents need to be concerned about dangers in the home, at day care, at the homes of family and friends, and other times when their children are out of their sight. This constant concern takes an emotional toll on parents, and the financial toll of keeping a child safe can be high as well. Today, parents and caregivers need to have car seats, helmets, smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, temperature-sensing faucets, and many other protections. We need to see that families of all income levels have access to the best technology to keep their children safe.
Our hearing today focuses on unintentional childhood injury, but I also want to take this opportunity to highlight an important related program up for reauthorization this yearThe Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. It was originally enacted in 1974 to identify and address the issues of child abuse and neglect, and to support effective methods of prevention and treatment. It provides grants to states to offer child protective services, funds for research and demonstration projects, assistance to states to investigate and prosecute cases of child maltreatment, and grants for community-based support services. I look forward to working with my colleagues to reauthorize this important program as well.
Today, we have with us representatives from the Centers for Disease Control, Safe Kids USA, the Home Safety Council, and the State and Territorial Injury Prevention Directors Association. All of them have been effective in reducing child injuries over the years. We also have with us a young man, Justin Bruns, who has a personal story about how he avoided permanent injury because of safety precautions. His story emphasizes why it's so important for caregivers to take their responsibility seriously.
I look forward to their testimony, but first we'll hear from my friend and colleague, Senator Enzi.