Released Jan. 31, 2018, Steps Forward: First Progress Report on Within Our Reach, the Final Report of the Federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is the first assessment of progress made in implementing the recommendations of the federal Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF), and it identifies a groundswell of recent reforms in child welfare practices across the country. Steps Forward, published by the Children’s Advocacy Institute (CAI) at the University of San Diego School of Law and the Within Our Reach office at the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, found dozens of changes in policy and law directly reflecting the recommendations put forth by the Commission in a comprehensive March 2016 report presented to Congress.
This report has three goals:
- To increase visibility and emphasize the continued urgency of the issue of child abuse and neglect fatalities, the findings and recommendations of CECANF, and the need for community, state and federal action to save lives
- To recognize and report on results of local, state and national efforts to implement the recommendations of CECANF
- To build on the groundswell of implementation activities represented here to spur the next phase of fatality prevention efforts among all stakeholders, knowing that the prevention of fatalities will require public will, peer learning and collective action
To attain Goal 2, CAI and the Within Our Reach office at the Alliance conducted research and surveyed the states to identify comprehensive information about child maltreatment fatality prevention efforts occurring between March 2016 and May 2017 throughout the U.S. that are consistent with the commission's recommendations. Where possible, the report identifies which CECANF recommendation each activity implements or is in harmony with. In some cases, efforts can be matched directly with one specific recommendation made by the commission; others span several recommendations. In a few cases, activities described are consistent with the spirit of the Commission’s national strategy, rather than a specific recommendation. Fatality prevention implementation activities are organized within the four categories the commission used:
- Leadership and Accountability
- Decisions Grounded in Better Data and Research
- Multidisciplinary Support for Families
- Populations in Need of Special Attention
This report attempts to be as inclusive of fatality prevention activities as possible for two reasons. First, there are limited examples of evidence-based interventions shown to prevent child maltreatment fatalities; being overly exclusive could inadvertently filter out promising interventions. Second, by outlining national, state and local efforts, we aim to promote sharing of knowledge and action across jurisdictions.
The Commission’s recommendations created no binding obligations and have no legal force. Implementation of the recommendations at both the federal and state level is entirely voluntary. Thus, it is heartening to take stock of how much work has been done or is under way since last year. Preventing child maltreatment fatalities is not easy, but with continued action, shared knowledge, sustained interest and a thoughtful strategy, it is possible to save children’s lives. It is the aim of this report to foster continued discussion, attention and action at all levels on this important issue.