By Senator John Kerry
It's something many people focus on almost in isolation when a tragic story shows up on the morning shows, but it's almost too easy to miss the fuller, devastating, horrifying picture: each year, more than three million children in the United States are reported as victims of child abuse and neglect. More than 70,000 of those cases are from Massachusetts alone.
And even more tragically, at least 1,700 of those forgotten children lose their lives each year in our country -- most before they even turn four years old.
It would shock most Americans to hear the awful truth that the United States ranks highest in child abuse fatalities of any industrialized nation.
But as March turns to April and we approach National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we would do well to look at this disturbing picture nationally, and recommit ourselves to ending this vicious cycle and fighting for every child too young to speak for themselves.
Today, the United States -- literally -- has absolutely no comprehensive strategy to address child abuse fatalities.
We also have tolerated dismal standards for reporting these fatalities, leaving many horrors largely underreported.
That's why Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and I recently got together to introduce the Protect Our Kids Act, a bipartisan effort to try and fight back on behalf of the children who are the victims of these heinous crimes.
The Protect Our Kids Act would establish a Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. That commission would bring together the top experts in the field to develop a national strategy for reducing child abuse and neglect fatalities and provide comprehensive recommendations for all levels of government. It will analyze the effectiveness of existing programs designed to prevent or identify maltreatment deaths and tell us what works and what doesn't.
One place I hope the Commission will look to see "what's working" is right at home in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Children's Alliance, along with our state's strong network of Children's Advocacy Centers, serve thousands of children each year to keep them safe from abuse, maltreatment, and neglect.
The loss of even one child to abuse is one child too many. That's why I'm grateful to the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths for partnering with us in our effort to develop a national strategy to end the cycle of child abuse and deaths.
In our country, a child is abused or neglected every 36 seconds, and, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, only 40 percent of abused children receive the services they need. The Protect Our Kids Act can be the catalyst we need to begin to speak out more effectively for children who cannot speak up on their own. This April, as we mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I hope more and more of our colleagues will join me and Senator Collins in this first step to end this national abomination once and for all.