Dissent Is Not Consensus: Why I Didn’t Sign the Child Fatality Commission Report

Earlier this month, I issued the Dissenting Report of Judge Patricia Martin to the final report of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF). The dissenting report was constructed to give the President and Congress a valid perspective of CECANF’s work.

However, after an article that appeared last week, it appears that there is a need to give further clarity about my dissent.

Let it be known that I do not agree with the process imposed by commission leadership, nor do I agree with the overall context of the final report. I respect my fellow commissioners’ commitment to the children and families in need of support. Thus, in response to public statements and writings, I offer this clarity to ensure the purpose of my dissent is accomplished.

No one should be under the illusion that the key recommendations presented in the final report will save lives of children immediately. In fact, the final report clearly states that they “don’t know nearly enough about what works to reduce fatalities.”

Due to this lack of knowledge, what is offered as THE answer by the final report is simply another review of cases.  A review of cases that focuses only on children between the ages of 0-5 and completely ignores the safety needs of 30 percent of our nation’s children, requires the reorganization of the federal government, and a one billion dollar down payment.

A close look at the testimony received by the commission supports recommendations to eliminate some teen deaths, supports recommendations that do not rest on the removal of children as the answer, which supports strengthening the protective factors within the vast majority of families all without a $1 billion start-up payment.

Contrary to what the final report states, the commission heard testimony about what does work to prevent child abuse and neglect fatalities. The dissenting report highlights that testimony and those recommendations.

Chairman Sanders suggests that the recommendations that form the basis of the dissenting report were agreed to by the full commission. Contrary to statements, writings and publications since the launch of the final report, my dissenting report is far from a consensus with the final report.

The majority of recommendations in the dissenting report were incorporated within the broader proposals of the final report or relegated to an obscure appendix. Those recommendations were placed in an appendix and identified as made by “stakeholders” in an effort to diminish their profound importance.

The dissenting report completely refutes the notion of a “surge” and the need for a $1 billion dollar down payment on the surge that is principally designed to have a multidisciplinary team of retired social workers, doctors, police officers, etc., determine when to make home visits and remove children.

The dissenting report recognizes that there are recommendations for the President and Congress to consider in eliminating this nation’s teen deaths.

The dissenting report demonstrates that the reorganization of the federal government is not necessary to eliminate child abuse and neglect fatalities in our nation.

Notwithstanding the above, there are intersections within the final report and the dissenting report, and those points of intersection are a good starting point for Congress. In this commissioner’s mind, the points of intersection are the strongest and most actionable basis for an effective national strategy for the elimination of child abuse and neglect fatalities.

I took my presidential appointment to the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities very seriously. The testimonies of the experts, former foster care youth, child welfare experts, policy experts, academicians, researchers, adoptive and bio family members, provided a wealth of knowledge. They taught a great deal, and provided roadmaps for recommendations to the President and Congress.

Unfortunately, the final report fails to capture those solutions presented by the experts. Instead, it appears that many of my fellow commissioners, indeed experts in their own right, came to this process with firmly seeded plans of what they wanted to recommend, despite what was offered by the testimony. The dissenting report is an effort to highlight the effective solutions presented.

Now, let’s use the points of intersection and get busy building a national strategy that works!

Patricia Martin is the presiding judge for the child protection division in Cook County, Illinois.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1204 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at jkelly@chronicleofsocialchange.org.

1 Comment

  1. I do know this much. My county took a normal kid in my family and SEVERELY damaged her mental health by placing her in residential treatment centers. She has basically been a political prisoner because of our corrupt Juvenile judge and political needs, and the crony attorneys who vie for his appointments and who help each other with little regard for human lives. Reform the third branch! That has to be a part of reforming these systems. Break up the cult of our legal system at every level, state, federal and local. And, change County governments across the nation to bodies with Separation of Powers like our other government bodies! Those changes will help. And, break the secrecy of the juvenile process. Stop hiding inept performances behind a curtain! Sure, throw more money. That is NOT the answer when corruption and poor fact finding is built in. Also, in Ohio we have Rule 48 of the Supreme Court for GALs which is very specific. Make it a check list system instead of a political one. I know of 2 GALs who did not follow the rules but when they were complained about formally the Judge rubber stamped their NOT following the rule. Take the politics out of caring for kids! Start listening to people who have been victimized by the system instead of relying mostly on people who profit from the pain of others! You know, when people profit from continuing dysfunction in our society there is the human tendency to keep one’s own bread buttered and stop pretending we don’t all fall into those temptations! Any questions, you can find me on facebook and message me. Robin D. Neff

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