Report is a First Step - We Need to Continue
Dec 5th, 14
There is nothing about the death or near death of a child, at the hands of their caretaker, which can be viewed positively. Despite this sad and stark reality, we at Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky (PCAK) are encouraged by the release of the second annual report from the Child Fatality and Near Fatality External Review Panel. This report reflects the work of a dedicated and voluntary multi-disciplinary group of professionals (including a PCAK representative). The Panel's commitment to data driven, solution focused recommendations are readily apparent in this report.
PCAK has long advocated for the establishment of the Panel. We strongly support the need to conduct in-depth reviews of every child maltreatment fatality and near fatality. This review must be conducted with two goals in mind - system improvement and prevention. We are equally committed to the belief this review must be conducted in an atmosphere of transparency and accountability. While certainly not a final step, the recently released report does represent a significant step in the right direction. It should also be acknowledged this hopeful progress is largely due to a commitment made by the current administration, the legislature and many advocates across the state.
While this report is encouraging, it is truly just an initial step. If we are going to address this tragic issue, we must commit to ongoing work, dialogue, and perseverance in the face of challenges. As clearly indicated in the report, change must occur within multiple systems and at all levels governmental leadership. The panel must increase its capacity to gather data, engage in critical analysis and develop specific recommendations. The mental health system, law enforcement, courts, and social services must each commit to shepherding change throughout all of its programs. The General Assembly must continue its bipartisan support of the Panel; and hold itself accountable to provide the statutory framework and fiscal resources necessary to implement Panel recommendations. The administration must continue to support the Panel, while assuring the level of autonomy and transparency necessary for the Panel to earn public trust.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, every citizen of the Commonwealth must make a commitment to child abuse prevention. This will involve each of us becoming more aware of the risks facing children today. We all have a responsibility for a two-pronged approach to prevention. We must each commit to advocating for the systems change. We must also display an equal commitment to supporting the families and children around us. This commitment is perhaps the most critical; as we are ultimately responsible for the health and safety of the children in our community.
Jill Seyfred is Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, a statewide child abuse prevention organization. Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky may be contacted at 1-800-CHILDREN, (859)225-8879 or log on to www.pcaky.org . The “Commit to Prevent” campaign needs you!