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The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School this past week has put child safety at the forefront of the American consciousness. There has never been a more violent or dangerous period for children in the U.S. since the Civil War and many children find themselves under attack nearly every day. This tragedy exposed just how vulnerable our children really are.
Suffice it to say that action must be taken to prevent and curtail violence against children at school, in their neighborhoods and even in their own homes. We must look at gun violence and why irresponsible and dangerous people have such easy access to them. We must look at gang violence and ask why gangs flourish from generation to generation despite every effort to curtail them. We must also look to examine domestic violence, why it persists and how to stop it cold.
Indeed there is no greater threat to children today than an abusive parent. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that between 1,200 and 1,500 children die each year from child abuse and neglect. Sadly, Health and Human Services also reports that they believe that number could be double because local law enforcement and child protection agencies across the nation report the cause of death as something other than abuse. To put those numbers in perspective, more children have died from child abuse in the U.S. since 2001 than have American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The status quo on child safety is no longer acceptable.
So what can we do to stop the madness? Who can we call to assist us? How can we keep our kids safe? It is true that in the coming weeks and months, our legislative leaders will offer solutions that we all hope will end the insanity or at least reduce it dramatically. And there will be much debate as to what the source of the dangers are and how best to preempt it. But one piece of legislation worthy of our consideration is House Resolution 3653, the Protect our Kids Act of 2011. The Protect Our Kids Act would create a national commission whose expressed purpose would be to identify the means to prevent fatalities due to child abuse and neglect. Some of the areas of interest to the commission include identifying the factors that contribute to or encourage child abuse as well as getting rid of the bureaucracy that prevents law enforcement and child welfare professionals from identifying parents who pose a danger to their children. The bill also requires that the nation's most effective child abuse prevention programs and policies be identified so that states and counties can replicate them nationally.
Legislation like the Protect Our Kids Act has already proven it can work. A recent study indicated that the number of child abuse deaths in some states was significantly reduced as a result of simply updating their reporting practices and data systems. The commission will dissect exactly what these successful states did and show law enforcement and others how they can replicate this success locally.
If we are truly serious about protecting children, we must not wait for another tragedy to take action. We must push our leaders, our neighbors and even ourselves to declare that no other child will suffer at the hands of a belligerent adult, not if we can help it. Let not another mother cry at the loss of her child. Let us, all of us, stand up for children. Let us act today!
Jarad Sanchez is a Downey resident and 2005 Reebok International Human Rights Award nominee. He is a Master's of Social Work candidate (2013) at the University of Southern California.
Published: December 20, 2012 - Volume 11 - Issue 36