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Max B.
Former Democrat MT
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    Protect Our Kids Act of 2012

    by Former Senator Max Baucus

    Posted on 2013-01-02

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    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.

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