Congress Passes Protect Our Kids Act

In a break from the bitterness of the "fiscal cliff" debates, Congress came together on a bipartisan basis to pass the Protect our Kids Act, H. R. 6655. The law creates a national commission to examine child fatalities, which the findings state are both preventable and significantly underreported, while the states lack a national standard for reporting. In previous hearings, members of Congress heard testimony about the significant gaps in reporting that prevent effective policies and practices from being implemented.

The commission must be appointed within 90 days and must include individuals from a variety of backgrounds:

  • Child welfare administration
  • Child welfare research
  • Child development
  • Legislation, including legislation involving child welfare matters
  • Trauma and crisis intervention
  • Pediatrics
  • Psychology and mental health
  • Emergency medicine
  • Forensic pathology or medical investigation of injury and fatality
  • Social work with field experience
  • Academia at an institution of higher education
  • Law enforcement, with experience handling child abuse and neglect matters
  • Civil law, with experience handling child abuse and neglect matters
  • Criminal law, with experience handling child abuse and neglect matters
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Education at an elementary school or secondary school
  • Epidemiology
  • Computer science or software engineering with a background in interoperability

The matters that must be studied by the commission include:

  • The effectiveness of the services ... and best practices in preventing child and youth fatalities that are intentionally caused or that occur due to negligence, neglect, or a failure to exercise proper care
  • The effectiveness of federal, state, and local policies and systems within such services aimed at collecting accurate, uniform data on child fatalities in a coordinated fashion, including the identification of the most and least effective policies and systems in practice
  • The current (as of the date of the study) barriers to preventing fatalities from child abuse and neglect, and how to improve efficiency to improve child welfare outcomes
  • Trends in demographic and other risk factors that are predictive of or correlated with child maltreatment, such as age of the child, child behavior, family structure, parental stress, and poverty
  • Methods of prioritizing child abuse and neglect prevention within such services for families with the highest need
  • Methods of improving data collection and utilization, such as increasing interoperability among State and local and other data systems

The commission must issue a report with guidelines and recommendations within two years of appointment.

The President is expected to sign the bill upon his return to Washington.

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