CENTRALIA, Wash. - A high-profile murder case in Lewis County has a 25-year-old man in custody for the horrific death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter just before Memorial Day. It gives new urgency to pending federal legislation focused on preventing child abuse and neglect.
The tragic death last week of the Centralia girl is raising new concerns about whether more could be done to keep children safer. In the five years from 2006 to 2010, a total of 104 children in Washington died from abuse and neglect, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
For the nonprofit group Every Child Matters
, it is additional proof of the need for legislation that so far has received little attention in Congress. The group's president, Michael Petit, says the bill (S 1984/HR 3653) would convene an expert panel to find ways to curb deaths that he says are preventable and significantly under-reported.
"The panel would look at our nation's system of child protection, at our social safety net as it exists for children, and make recommendations on how to build a child protection system that allows children to thrive, instead of one that fails to protect children."
The number of deaths from child abuse and neglect in the United States is higher than the number of casualties in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since those conflicts began. More than 80 percent of the victims are children under age 4.
Washington's 7th District Congressman Jim McDermott is a co-sponsor of the House bill.
Children are being ignored in the presidential race as well, adds Petit. Since kids aren't voters or big campaign donors, he says it's easy to overlook their needs and focus instead on the issues raised in multimillion-dollar attack ads. He hopes that situation changes before November.
"What we would hope is that the two candidates would listen to the needs of their smallest citizens, understand that they will never be able to adequately represent themselves, and that they need powerful friends in high places - a President of the United States who covers their back and looks out for their interests, every day."
Petit notes that it was U.S. presidents who championed child labor laws, school lunch programs, maternal and child health programs, and other actions to assist children. He acknowledges that the economy, unemployment and health care costs are affecting parents and kids, but says there has been no discussion by the candidates of poverty and related concerns, such as inadequate child care, substance abuse and child abuse.