CONGRESSWOMAN ELISE STEFANIK
On Wednesday, December 19, 2012, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 6655 under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. The bill was introduced by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) on December 13, 2012, and referred to the Committee on Ways and Means.
H.R. 6655 would establish the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. The Committee would be composed of twelve members: six would be appointed by the President, two would be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, two would be appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives, two would be appointed by the majority leader of the Senate and one would be appointed by the minority leader of the Senate. The bill would require members to have experience in one or more of the following areas: child welfare administration, child welfare research, child development, legislation (including legislation involving child welfare matters), trauma and crisis intervention, pediatrics, psychology and mental health, emergency medicine, forensic pathology or medical investigation of injury and fatality, social work with field experience, academia at an institution of higher education, law enforcement (with experience handling child abuse and neglect matters), civil law (with experience handling child abuse and neglect matters), and criminal law (with experience handling child abuse and neglect matters), substance abuse treatment, education at an elementary school or secondary school, epidemiology, and computer science or software engineering with a background in interoperability standards. The bill would require members to be appointed no later than 90 days after the date of enactment. The bill would also set requirements for the period of appointment and vacancies. The bill would require an initial meeting of the Commission no later than 60 days after which a majority of the members have been appointed.
The bill would direct the Commission to conduct a thorough study on the use of child protective services and child welfare services funded under title IV and subtitle A of title XX of the Social Security Act to reduce fatalities from child and abuse and neglect. The bill would direct the Commission to develop recommendations to reduce fatalities and neglect for federal, state and local agencies, and private sector and nonprofit organizations, including recommendations to implement a comprehensive national strategy for such purpose. Additionally, the bill would direct the Commission to develop guidelines for the type of information that should be tracked to improve interventions to prevent fatalities from child abuse or neglect.
The bill would require the Commission to submit a report to Congress on its findings and recommendations no later than two years after a majority of the members of the Committee have been appointed. The bill would require the Commission to make the report available to the public online.
The bill would direct the Commission to hold hearings in order to carry out the requirements of this bill. The bill would also set requirements for the Commission’s personnel matters.
The Commission would terminate on the earlier of the 30th day after the date on which the Commission submits its report, or three years after the initial meeting. The bill would direct any federal agency that is affected by a recommendation in the Committee’s report to Congress to submit its own report to Congress containing the federal agency’s response to the recommendation and its plans to address the recommendation, no later than six months after the Committee’s submission.
The bill would authorize $612 million for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Contingency Fund each year for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014. The bill would reserve $2 million each year for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014 from the Fund for the purpose of the Commission established by this bill.
According to the bill’s findings, “deaths from child abuse and neglect are preventable, deaths from child abuse and neglect are significantly underreported and there is no national standard for reporting such deaths. According to the Child Maltreatment Report of 2011, in fiscal year 2011, 1,545 in the United States are reported to have died from child abuse and neglect, and many experts believe that the actual number may be significantly more.”
The findings continue, “increased understanding of deaths from child abuse and neglect can lead to improvement in agency systems and practices to protect children and prevent child abuse and neglect. Congress, in recent years, has taken a number of steps to reduce child fatalities from abuse and neglect, such as providing states with flexibility through the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011, to operate child welfare demonstration projects to test services focused on preventing abuse and neglect and ensuring that children remain safely in their own homes; providing funding through the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 for services and activities to enhance the safety of children who are at risk of being placed in foster care as a result of a parent’s substance abuse; providing funding through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 for grants to facilitate activities such as family group decision-making meetings and residential family treatment programs to support parents in caring for their children; and requiring States through the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act of 2011 to describe how they will improve the quality of data collected on fatalities from child abuse and neglect.”
A CBO score of H.R. 6655 was not available as of press time.