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Protecting America's Children Home

Coalition Says National Media Can Do More to Help End Child Abuse and Neglect Related Deaths

December 14, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C. Every death is tragic, but why does the national media in the U.S. ignore the nearly 2,500 deaths each year that result from child abuse and neglect?   Why do other issues involving far fewer deaths – such as the H1N1 virus, food-borne illnesses, Toyota accelerator malfunctions and coal mining – get far more attention from major news media outlets?

These are the tough questions that were posed on December 14 by the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths (NCECAD) in calling for an end to the “de facto national media blackout” on coverage of deaths due to child abuse and neglect.    The Coalition stressed that the lack of media attention to U.S. child abuse deaths is the No. 1 impediment to the enactment of needed federal and state reforms, including a seven-step national strategy to curb child deaths due to maltreatment, $3-$5 billion in additional federal funding, and reform of state confidentiality laws.

Child abuse and neglect deaths eclipse the combined number of annual U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to NCECAD data.   The most current figures show the following annual numbers for much more widely publicized causes of death: 

•    U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan: 479.
•    H1N1 pediatric fatalities: 281.
•    Food borne illnesses: 74.
•    Toyota accelerator malfunction: 34.
•    Coal mining accidents: 33.
•    Total of above: 901.

Though U.S. government reporting tracks only about 1,800 child maltreatment deaths (which is still twice all of the other causes listed above, including combat deaths in Iraq/Afghanistan), flaws in the abuse/neglect reporting system obscure a true child death toll that is estimated at an annual average of nearly 2,500.  The flaws leading to underreporting of child abuse and neglect are, in fact, one of the issues that would be remedied under the Coalition’s recommended reforms.

Joan Levy Zlotnik, PhD, ACSW, director of the Social Work Policy Institute at NASW spoke at the December 14 news conference, and outlined the Coalition’s 7-point plan. Click here for Dr. Zlotnik’s remarks.   For a related report on the child welfare workforce from the NASW Center for Workforce Studies and Practice, click here.  Also, a new Practice Perspectives on preventing child maltreatment is now available for NASW members.

Coalition News Conference Resources:

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