Petit: Martin’s CECANF Dissent Gets It Wrong

As a member of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) and former Deputy Director of the Child Welfare League of America, I feel I must weigh in to correct some misconceptions presented in Commissioner Patricia Martin’s most recent commentary on the Commission’s final recommendations. 

Martin states that our recommended review of cases (incorrectly characterized as a “surge”) would focus only on children aged 0-5. In fact, our Commission recommends a retrospective review of all child maltreatment deaths in the past five years. We believe that a comprehensive review of recent cases is essential in determining which risk factors are most likely to cause a fatality so that agencies can proactively direct resources to children and families who need them most.

Second, the government reorganization Martin mentions would simply return the Children’s Bureau to its original position as a direct report to the Department of Health and Human Services — an essential change that would improve cross-agency information sharing and enable agencies to act fast before a fatality occurs. Commissioner Martin mischaracterizes the need for funding reform as a “down payment.” The Commission put forward four alternatives for funding these recommendations, and we urge Congress to act quickly and make this issue a priority. A recent study from the CDC found that the total lifetime cost for just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment is approximately $124 billion. This lifetime cost far exceeds the investment it would take to develop and support innovative state fatality prevention plans. 

Despite these small differences in opinion, I wholeheartedly agree with Commissioner Martin’s conclusion — that Congress should begin this important work at the many areas where our recommendations intersect.

Michael R. Petit served on the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities and previously served as Deputy Director of the Child Welfare League of America. 

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1 Comment

  1. Oh come now, Michael. The transcript of the January 16 Commission conference call – just that one meeting ( ) – refers to the surge as a “surge” at least 45 times. Many commissioners used the term – including you. The only reason the final report doesn’t use the term “surge” is because staff were instructed to find a more palatable euphemism.

    During that same meeting, you referred to the one of the four recommended funding options – the one setting a specific price tag of $1 billion — as a “down payment” (see page 15).

    But as a matter of public policy, a surge by any other name is still a dreadful idea. And the downpayment would be $1 billion down the drain. Here’s why:

    –Richard Wexler
    National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

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