Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) today introduced legislation that would develop a national strategy for reducing child deaths resulting from abuse and neglect. The Protect Our Kids Act, which is co-sponsored by Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Ben Cardin (D-M.D.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), would create a special task force to study and evaluate federal, state and private child welfare systems and provide policy recommendations to prevent child maltreatment.
"We need to do everything in our power to protect children from abuse and neglect. The death of even one child as a result of abuse is too many," Senator Baucus said. "This task force will give us the answers we need to take this issue head on and put an end to child abuse and neglect."
The task force would be comprised of 12-15 welfare administrators, child welfare workers, law enforcement officers and other experts in the field of child abuse prevention. It will be required to report its findings to the president and Congress.
More than six million children are abused or neglected in America every year, most of whom are less than four years old, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In fiscal year 2011, 1,545 children in the United States were reported to have died from abuse and neglect, and many experts believe that the actual number may be significantly higher.
According to Child Protection Services data, Montana reported zero fatalities from child abuse and neglect last year, but gaps in data between agencies and in the reporting mean the number is likely higher.
"Too many children are suffering in silence. Only by working together at every level can we make sure kids in Montana and across the nation are safe," Senator Baucus said. "Child Protection Services needs to coordinate with other agencies. They need to share data so we can have a clear picture of the full scope of the problem."