Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who was accused of first degree murder among other charges, was found not guilty in the killing of her two-year-old daughter Caylee Marie. Many continue to believe Ms. Anthony at least neglected Caylee, given the evidence submitted during the trial period and it looks like the federal government may have something to say about cases similar to the Casey Anthony story a week from now on July 12.
However, according to an e-mail statement from a Ways and Means spokesman, the timing of the announcement of the hearing today and the verdict of the Casey Anthony trial is purely coincidental:
“The timing of our advisory today and the decision in the Anthony case is coincidental. But the two issues do overlap, in the sense that whether a child’s death is included in seemingly ‘official’ annual national data about child deaths due to maltreatment depends in large part on where the child died, and how and what that State reports in terms of child deaths.”
The hearing will feature a GAO report (that Chairman Camp requested last year) about child deaths due to maltreatment, which notes significant gaps in what information is reported in terms of child deaths.
During the trial, Ms. Anthony was portrayed as an irresponsible mother who was more concerned about partying than about the welfare of her daughter. The FLorida mother could have faced 25 years in prison or the death penalty if she was convicted of murder.
According to a posted advisory, Congressman Geoff Davis, Kentucky Republican and Chairman of the Subcommittee on Human Resources of the Committee on Ways and Means, announced on Tuesday that the Subcommittee will hold a hearing on child deaths due to maltreatment.
Members of the Subcommittee will hear expert testimony on child abuse and neglect as well as witnesses from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) who will give lawmakers a better understanding concerning the circumstances of child deaths and near deaths due to maltreatment. The advisory goes further:
According to State reports, over 1,700 children died nationally in FY 2009 due to maltreatment. However, research has shown that these reports may substantially understate the number of child victims each year. To gain a clearer understanding of this issue, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has reviewed what is known about the circumstances of child deaths and near deaths due to maltreatment, State approaches to gathering and reporting this information, and what the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is doing to support the collection and accurate reporting of this information. GAO will testify about the findings of their review at the hearing.
There are currently several sources of data about child deaths due to maltreatment. First, since the 1970s, States have participated in a voluntary national data collection system reporting data on investigations of maltreatment and information on abused children. This system, called the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), is used by HHS to prepare annual reports on child maltreatment. Second, the nongovernmental National Center for Child Death Review (NCCDR) acts as a resource center for state and local teams that review cases of child deaths. These teams collect and report information on child fatalities from all causes, and 37 States currently report data to the national database. The NCCDR uses this data to focus attention on child fatality risks and to develop strategies to prevent fatalities in the future. Third, States also have data on child fatalities from sources such as law enforcement reports, death certificates, or medical records.
In announcing the hearing, Chairman Davis stated, “Any child’s death is tragic, but the death of a child from abuse and neglect is especially troubling. Current data on the number of child deaths from maltreatment appear incomplete, and the difficulty in even compiling complete information undermines States’ ability to develop effective strategies to prevent these tragedies from repeating. I look forward to hearing from GAO on the findings of their report as well as other experts on how we can improve our understanding of both how many children die from maltreatment and more importantly how we can use this information to do a better job preventing such tragedies in the future.”