Taking Stock: The Plan to End Child Abuse Deaths, Five Years On, with Amy Harfeld, Caitlin Andrews, and Lia Russell

Season 3Episode 12August 31, 2021

Five years ago, a federal commission came up with 114 recommendations to reduce child abuse fatalities, and now we’re taking stock to see what’s changed—or hasn’t changed—since then.

Nearly a decade ago, a coalition of national organizations including National Children’s Alliance began strategizing about what could be done to reduce and eliminate child abuse fatalities in the U.S. Eventually we were successful in getting a bill passed—one that would establish a national congressional commission to end child abuse fatalities.

The commission issued their report five years ago. Now, we’re looking back at what have been the successes and challenges of that work. We wanted to see what’s changed, and sadly not changed in some cases, amid our national efforts to reduce child abuse fatalities. And we wanted to examine how efforts to reform have played out at the state level. We have two interviews in this episode. First with Amy Harfeld, who coordinates the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths. And then we speak with two investigative reporters, Lia Russell and Caitlin Andrews of the Bangor Daily News.

Topics in this episode:

  • 2016-2021: Trying to end fatalities (1:45)
  • Maine—are reforms working? (11:58)
  • Good examples of transparency (18:05)
  • Public policy (23:56)
  • Advice for CACs (28:00)
  • Maine fatalities and reform (32:15)
  • A cluster of child fatality cases (34:42)
  • Were Maine reforms effective? (39:40)
  • Will there be another wave of reform? (48:09)
  • Next episode: Dr. Stephen Cozza (51:58)


Amy C. Harfeld, JD, is national policy advocate and senior staff attorney for the Children’s Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego and coordinates the National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths

Caitlin Andrews and Lia Russell are investigative reporters at the Bangor Daily News

Within Our Reach: A National Strategy to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, final report from the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, March 17, 2016

State- and local-level implementation of the commission’s recommendations

Reauthorization of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (S. 1927)

Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act

Family First Prevention Services Act

Warmlines are peer-run listening services staffed by people themselves in mental health recovery

Maine Child Welfare Services Ombudsman

Los Angeles’ ESCARS (Electronic Suspected Child Abuse Report System)

After a series of deaths, scrutiny starts again for Maine’s child welfare system,” by Lia Russell, Bangor Daily News, June 26, 2021, includes links to more information about the cases and the state reforms mentioned in this interview. The newspaper offers limited access to non-subscribers.

Legislative watchdog to probe issues raised by Maine child welfare ombudsman,” by Caitlin Andrews, Bangor Daily News, August 11, 2021

Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services

Casey Family Programs has data about state approaches, children in care, and how money is invested in foster care vs. preventive and permanency services

Office of Child and Family Services

Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability (OPEGA)

American Rescue Plan includes temporary changes to the Earned-Income Tax Credit (EITC)

For more information about National Children’s Alliance and the work of Children’s Advocacy Centers, visit our website at NationalChildrensAlliance.org

Transcript to come.