04.03.19

Baldwin, Cassidy, Schrier, Stivers Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Measure to Help Prevent Infant Abuse

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and U.S. Representatives Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA08) and Steve Stivers (R-OH15) introduced bipartisan legislation to improve early detection of infant abuse to protect children from further injury and prevent fatalities. 

The Early Detection to Stop Infant Abuse and Prevent Fatalities Act amends the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) to develop new and expanded trainings and best practices to support medical and child welfare professionals in identifying and responding to signs of potential abuse in infants.

“We must do everything we can to help prevent child abuse and protect the most vulnerable in our country,” said Senator Baldwin. “This commonsense proposal will make sure that medical providers and child welfare professionals have the tools they need to recognize early warning signs of abuse in infants, so they can step in and save lives.”

“Harming a child is unacceptable,” said Dr. Cassidy. “This legislation works with doctors to identify the signs of abuse early on and implement best practices to prevent future harm.”

“Early detection of abuse can prevent more harm or even death in a young child. As a pediatrician, I am trained to look for these signs and know what a typical accidental injury looks like at a certain age,” said Representative Schrier. “Many child care providers and caretakers want to help but they aren’t necessarily trained. This legislation will help providers and caretakers learn from and build on what medical professionals already know so we can all prevent child abuse. It’s commonsense.”

“Children who are entrusted to our care deserve our complete attention and protection, and yet, too often, the system fails them with inefficient responses to clear signs of neglect and abuse,” said Representative Stivers. “This bipartisan legislation, along with a coordinated response from organizations across the country, will help end this negligence and protect our infants.”

“As pediatricians, our number one priority is to keep children healthy and safe. There is clear evidence that certain injuries can be signs of potential child abuse, and require a thorough evaluation. When these injuries go unrecognized, it can lead to tragic consequences for children who are victims of abuse. The Early Detection to Stop Infant Abuse and Prevent Fatalities Act supports evidence-based approaches to improve our ability to identify these injuries and protect children from harm. The AAP applauds Senator Baldwin, Senator Cassidy, Representative Schrier, and Representative Stivers for their bipartisan leadership in sponsoring this important legislation, and we urge Congress to advance this policy without delay,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP.

“Keeping kids healthy and safe needs to be our aim, not treating injuries after they happen or mourning the loss of a life taken too soon. This bill would help us do that.  This legislation could significantly improve early recognition and intervention efforts to protect vulnerable infants and will help prevent many cases of abuse and related fatalities. Unfortunately, after decades of evaluating abused infants, I have found there were reports of minor suspicious injuries before more serious harm was done. We have used this information in Wisconsin to help prevent further tragedies and applaud Senator Baldwin’s leadership to expand these efforts,” said Dr. Lynn Sheets, medical director of child advocacy and protective services, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.  

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, an estimated 1,720 children died from abuse or neglect in the United States in fiscal year 2017. Seventy-two percent of child fatalities involved children younger than three, and 50 percent involved infants younger than a year old. Multiple studies have found that relatively minor, visible injuries in young infants, including bruising and intraoral injuries, are often indicators of abuse. Such injuries in infants are commonly overlooked by medical providers, caregivers and child welfare professionals because they seem trivial. Without early intervention, physical abuse can escalate, resulting in severe injuries or even fatalities.

The bipartisan legislation requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a demonstration program to award grants to eligible entities to support efforts to:

  • Develop, implement or expand training and best practices to assist medical professionals in identifying, assessing, and responding to injuries indicative of potential abuse in infants;
  • Develop protocols and policies that improve communication and coordination between mandatory reporters and child protective services; and
  • Raise awareness regarding the significance and identification of such injuries among health professionals, professionals caring for children, child protective services staff and the public.

More information about the Early Detection to Stop Infant Abuse and Prevent Fatalities Act is available here.