- Associated Press - Sunday, May 3, 2015

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) - A federal commission is looking for new methods that could be used to help stop deadly child abuse.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press (https://bit.ly/1GwwnZg) reports the panel of presidential and congressional appointees met last week in Memphis to discuss ideas that might add more protections for vulnerable children.

“It’s time we start looking for visionary ideas to protect these children,” said Chris Newlin, executive director of the National Children’s Advocacy Center.

Newlin said one new idea would be to pull the addresses of newborns and see if police have responded to domestic violence or animal control calls at those locations.

“It gives us an idea of whether this child is going into an environment — at a very, very young age of one day, two days — where there may have been issues with impulse control and criminal activity,” Newlin said.

He said a multidisciplinary team could review cases that raise red flags and begin to work to prevent abuse before it happens.

The newspaper reports that idea might have helped 3-year-old Dakota Arndt of Soddy-Daisy, who was allegedly beaten to death by his mother’s boyfriend.

State records show at least 20 children died last year in Tennessee due to abuse or neglect. Another 109 cases are under investigation.

Nancy Young, director of the nonprofit Children and Family Futures, told the panel that other warning signs like substance abuse are also missed. She said the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends testing for dozens of medical conditions, but not prenatal substance exposure.

“With guidelines that babies are tested for 57 conditions, is it just stigma that prevents us from identifying babies that have been prenatally exposed to alcohol or drugs?” she asked commissioners. “Or is it our conflicted societal values that suggest this population of mothers should be treated punitively rather than utilizing a public health response to ensure the family’s safety and well-being?”

Several others also offered ideas to the commission, which is trying to develop a strategy to reduce child abuse deaths across the nation. It is supposed to report findings by the end of this year.

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Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, https://www.timesfreepress.com

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