(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 

[[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 
  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 
  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.