U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and Representatives Tim Walz and Betty McCollum today introduced bipartisan legislation to help train child protection professionals to detect and prevent child abuse. The bill would create regional training centers - including the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, MN - that would create new curricula for undergraduates and graduates in fields where they will most likely be involved in identifying and reporting cases of abuse. The legislation also increases coordination between federal, state and local officials in creating best practices for the training of child protection professionals. Senator Klobuchar authored the legislation in the Senate and Representative Walz introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
"As a former prosecutor, I know that child abuse is a life and death issue," Klobuchar said. "This legislation is an important step in helping teachers, doctors, and others who work with children to identify and respond to child abuse, and will allow the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State to continue to lead the way in developing new programs to equip child protection professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to keep children safe."
"As a parent, there is nothing I value more than the safety of our kids," said Sen. Franken. "Hundreds of thousands of children each year are victims of child abuse, but sadly, some of the people best positioned to help aren't adequately trained. This bill will mean more kids who are in danger will get the help they need, by creating needed training centers, just like Minnesota's Winona State training center that helps educate the folks closest to our children on how to put an end to abuse."
"As a parent and a teacher, protecting our children is a top priority for me. The work of the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State is essential to ending child abuse and I am proud to represent this outstanding organization. This legislation will help the NCPTC further their work to significantly reduce and end child abuse across the country," Walz said.
"Strengthening programs that investigate child abuse and offer assistance to victims is essential to protecting children and families. This legislation will address the need for better coordination between law enforcement, educators, and doctors in combating child abuse nationwide," McCollum said.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, an estimated 695,000 children were victims of child abuse in 2010. Yet studies indicate that those in the best position to identify and respond to child abuse - such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors - are often not adequately trained to do so. For example, a 2001 survey of teachers found that 74% received minimal training on child abuse while earning their degrees and 58% had minimal training on the job.
The National Child Protection Training Act directs the Attorney General to coordinate with the National Child Protection Training Center to operate at least four regional training centers - including the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, MN - to be affiliated with universities, colleges, or community colleges. The regional training centers will be required to:
Develop undergraduate and graduate curricula on child maltreatment;
Disseminate curricula to colleges, law schools, medical schools, seminaries, and other institutions of higher education;
Develop ""laboratory'' training facilities that include mock houses, medical facilities, courtrooms, and forensic interview rooms that provide a real world experience to students and professionals;
Assist communities in developing child abuse prevention programs; and
Assist states in developing forensic interview training programs.
In addition to Senators Klobuchar and Franken and Representatives Walz and McCollum, the legislation is co-sponsored by Senators Mark Pryor (D-AR), John Boozman (R-AR), and Representative Steve Womack (R-AR).
Klobuchar served for eight years as the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County, serving more than one million residents in Minneapolis and 45 suburban communities. Her responsibilities included prosecuting child abuse cases, and she also sponsored an initiative to improve the response to child abuse by strengthening the working relationships among police, prosecutors, child protection workers, educators and health care providers. Klobuchar is the Chair of the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight of the Courts, which oversees the Department of Justice's programs. Klobuchar has also helped secure over $2 million for the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona in recent years.