KEEPING CHILDREN AND FAMILIES SAFE ACT OF 2003CONFERENCE REPORT
Mr. KENNEDY. Mr. President, the bipartisan legislation before the Senate today will continue our Federal commitment to see that the Nation's most vulnerable children are protected and safe.
Child abuse and child neglect continue to be serious problems. Each year, thousands of children suffer. On any given day, 2,400 children are discovered to be victims of child abuse or neglect. Tragically, 3 of those children die each day as a result.
Abuse and neglect harm children from all backgrounds and all walks of life. Too many children are in situations in which their basic needs are not provided for. Too many children are subject to physical harm or emotional trauma. Too many children are victims of sexual abuse. We can do better and we must do better.
For nearly 30 years, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act has supported States in their efforts to respond to the immediate needs of children subjected to abuse and neglect, and helped them and their families take the road to recovery.
We all know it's a huge challenge. Each week, child protective service agencies in local communities respond to more than 50,000 suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. Despite their hard work, nearly half of all children in substantiated cases of abuse receive no follow-up services or support.
This legislation is an important step toward responding to the needs of every neglected and abused child in every community in our country. It is an important step toward seeing that children in desperate circumstances have the support they need to stop the abuse and deal with the harmful effects.
This legislation will renew our federal commitment to help states improve their own response to child abuse and neglect. More will be done to promote better planning at the Federal, State, and local levels, facilitate more effective referrals to the available services, and broaden the scope of the response.
More will be done to see that those responsible for investigating or working with abused children and their families have the necessary training and skills to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. States will be encouraged to provide new safety training to child abuse caseworkers. New cross-training will help caseworkers identify signs of domestic violence and substance abuse that often signal child abuse.
More will be done to strengthen community efforts. Our bill will ensure that local citizens oversee, review, and improve the practices of child protective services. It will promote partnerships between public agencies and community-based organizations to share the responsibility of reducing child abuse and neglect in their communities.
More will be done to end geographic barriers to adoption and provide permanent homes for abused children.
More will be done to combat the destructive effects of family violence and provide immediate help to its victims. A new electronic network will link victims to organizations available to help them, 24-hours-a-day, 365 days-a-year.
More will also be done to reduce the social and emotional impact of domestic violence on children. A new demonstration program will support direct services, referrals, and appropriate interventions for the 10 million children who witness domestic violence each year.
Our colleague, Senator Wellstone, was one of the greatest champions for abused children. I commend the conferees for their work to include this important program that he cared about so deeply.
As our communities across the nation continue their efforts to respond more effectively to every incident of child abuse and neglect, they must do so with resources already stretched thin. This bipartisan legislation increases the authorization for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act to $200 million in order to deliver the support that local communities need to do this important work.
I commend Senator Gregg and all of the conferees for their work and their leadership on this legislation. It's a major step toward guaranteeing help for children and families to overcome the devastating effects of abuse, neglect, and violence in their lives.