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Proceedings, Debates of the U.S. Congress
January 2, 2013
112th Congress, 2nd Session
Issue: Vol. 158, No. 173 — Daily Edition
Sections in This Issue:
PROTECT OUR KIDS ACT OF 2012
(Senate - January 02, 2013)
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[Pages S8666-S8667] PROTECT OUR KIDS ACT OF 2012 Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the HELP committee be discharged from further consideration of H.R. 6655 and that it be referred to the Committee on Finance. I further ask that the Finance Committee be discharged from further consideration of H.R. 6655 and the Senate proceed to its immediate consideration. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. The clerk will report the bill by title. The bill clerk read as follows: A bill (H.R. 6655) to establish a commission to develop a national strategy and recommendations for reducing fatalities resulting from child abuse and neglect. There being no objection, the Senate proceeded to consider the bill. Mr. BAUCUS. Mr. President, Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa once said ``Safety and security don't just happen; they are the result [[Page S8667]] of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.'' Today, I am proud to join with Senators Kerry, Collins, Cardin, Shaheen, Snowe, and Conrad to introduce the Protect Our Kids Act. This legislation would establish a task force dedicated to reducing child deaths from child abuse and neglect. Child welfare professionals, law enforcement officers, and other child abuse prevention experts. Since 2002, more than 15,000 children have died due to abuse and neglect. This number is based on state-reported Child Protection Services data. But advocates predict the true number is far greater. Unfortunately, we do not have clear facts about the number of child abuse and neglect fatalities. Some children may have died from child abuse and neglect, even if they were not involved with the Child Protective Services system or their deaths were not reported as due to abuse or neglect. We know little about these deaths since there is no standard means of collecting this data across States. And not all State child protection agencies seek information considering child abuse or neglect fatalities from other agencies or offices like vital statistics, medical examiners, or law enforcement. We need to learn more about the deaths of these children, so that we can prevent the senseless murders of other children. Our children deserve to be protected from fear and terror especially when the threat to their safety and well-being comes from those that should cherish them the most. According to Child Protection Services data, in Montana we reported zero fatalities from child abuse and neglect last year. That is fantastic news. But there could be abuse or deaths not reported or not collected by Child Protection Services. So I am urging my State to lift the standard even higher. Child Protection Services needs to coordinate with other agencies for more data so that we can be sure that all Montana kids are safe. Our Nation must embrace its responsibility to protect our children. And we need to provide our children with mental health challenges the support they need to not only survive but to thrive as members of our society. We need to make sure that kids have access to physical and mental health services, so they can grow up into happy, productive adults. We need to help kids with mental illnesses by reducing the stigma surrounding mental health services and ensuring that kids know there is a support network backing them up. We have to use every resource at our disposal to prevent abuse and ensure mental health support. We should look at programs like home visiting, which currently provides professional assistance, right at home, for over 50,000 families across our nation, and see how they can be improved to do an even better job supporting vulnerable families. This legislation is a step in the right direction to protect kids. I commend my colleagues Senators Kerry and Collins for their years of work on this issue. Our colleagues in the House of Representatives have already acted on this legislation. Let us now join together and create a life free of violence and fear for our most vulnerable citizens. Let us pass the Protect Our Kids Act. Ms. COLLINS. Mr. President, I rise today to praise the passage of the ``Protect Our Kids Act,'' which will create a commission with the goal of eliminating child abuse fatalities. The effort to address child abuse transcends ideological and partisan lines. This is not a Democratic or Republican issue--this is an American issue--one that we can't wish away, but that we must face head on and work to eradicate. Senator Kerry and I originally introduced the Protect Our Kids Act last year, and I am pleased that we have moved forward with this critical, updated legislation. Senator Kerry and I also introduced a resolution recognizing April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. The passage of the Protect Our Kids Act further represents our commitment to put an end to child abuse in the United States. Child abuse fatalities are preventable; yet, approximately 1,770 children are reported as dying from child abuse each year, and many experts believe the actual number may be significantly higher. This legislation would establish a commission to develop a national strategy for reducing child abuse fatalities. The commission will include a variety of professionals with expertise in areas such as child welfare advocacy, child development, pediatrics, medical examining, social work, law enforcement and education. Through new research, hearings and the use and coordination of existing information, the commission will provide a report with its recommendations for developing a comprehensive national strategy for reducing child abuse fatalities. Increased understanding of maltreatment deaths can lead to improvement in agency systems and practices to protect children and prevent child abuse and neglect. Therefore, it is imperative that we take action to capitalize on the commission's findings. This legislation requires the commission's report to be submitted to relevant Federal agencies and Congressional committees. All agencies with recommendations that fall under their jurisdiction must then submit their reaction and plans to address such recommendations to Congress within 6 months. Approximately 6 million kids are reported to be abused or neglected each year. We know this can be prevented. This legislation is an important step that Congress and our Nation should take in order to better protect our kids. Mr. REID. I know of no further debate on this matter. The bill was ordered to a third reading and was read the third time. The PRESIDING OFFICER. If there is no further debate, the question is, Shall the bill pass. The bill (H.R. 6655) was passed. Mr. REID. I ask unanimous consent that the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table. The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered. ____________________