Defending Childhood Task Force Recommendations: A closer look

DCI report header

Attorney General Eric Holder affirms that children’s exposure to violence is nothing less than a national crisis. With this public health issue comes serious ramifications for the future of our country and the young men and women who will soon be called upon to build that future.

The horrific mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 elementary school children and six adults last December served as a shocking reminder of how much is at stake in the ongoing fight to protect the most vulnerable citizens: children.   Nearly every day the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School is compounded by individual tragedies that take place on the streets of big cities and small towns across the country that too often pass unnoticed.

The most comprehensive study of children’s experience with exposure to violence is the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV), first conducted 2008-2009. Results indicate that 60 percent of children surveyed had experienced at least one form of violence or abuse over the past year, nearly half experienced at least two forms of victimization, and 8 percent experienced seven or more different types of victimization.  An update released earlier this year confirms that this data remained fairly stable in the study done in 2011.

Defending Childhood Initiative

In response to these troubling statistics and others, Attorney General Eric Holder launched the Defending Childhood initiative on September 23, 2010. The Attorney General has been personally and professionally committed to this issue for many years, dating back to early in his career when he served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and through his tenure as Deputy Attorney General. Building on lessons learned from previously funded research and programs that Attorney General Holder spearheaded, such as Safe Start, the Child Development-Community Policing Program, and the Greenbook Initiative, Defending Childhood leverages existing resources across the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to focus on preventing, addressing, reducing, and more fully understanding childhood exposure to violence.

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DOJ moving forward with CEV recommendations

In an April 12 meeting with the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Attorney General Eric Holder described work to move forward with plans to prevent and reduce instances of childhood exposure to violence.

Defending Childhood Task Force at December report release.

The Defending Childhood Task Force released their report and 56 recommendations in December.

In December, Holder’s Defending Childhood Task Force issued a report and 56 recommendations to address this public health issue. Since then, Holder said he has enlisted officials from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention to get the ball rolling.

“Over the past several months, OJJDP’s leadership and staff members have begun to engage with a range of federal partners about how we might be responsive to the Task Force recommendations,” Holder said.

“At my request, Department leaders have developed near-and long-term strategies for how we can collaborate with our colleagues and counterparts in order to make a positive difference in four primary areas of activity:   raising public awareness, strengthening professional education and training, building knowledge through ongoing research, and increasing DOJ and federal coordination and capacity.

Over the next year, I am charging my DOJ colleagues to plan for the implementation of these recommendations.”

(Read Holder’s entire speech here.)

Currently, there are grantees working around the country on evidence-based programs and practices to address childhood exposure to violence under the Defending Childhood and Safe Start initiatives.

Last week, Holder also announced a new task force to address childhood exposure to violence in tribal communities, a response to the Defending Childhood Task Force recommendations.

The American Indian/Alaska Native Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence will be headed by Acting Associate Attorney General Tony West and will focus on:

  • Improving the identification and treatment of American Indian and Alaska Native children exposed to violence;
  • Supporting American Indian and Alaska Native communities and tribes as they define their own responses to this problem; and
  • Involving American Indian and Alaska Native youth in developing solutions.

“This is nothing less than a national crisis – with serious ramifications for the future of our country, and for the young men and women who will soon be called upon to build that future,” Holder told the Council.

“The cost of failure and inaction – both human and moral – is simply too high to contemplate.  The responsibility for turning back the tide of violence rests with each of the leaders – in this room and far beyond it – who has made a commitment to fighting back.  And that’s why, as long as we work together, support one another, and remain steadfast in our determination to make the difference our children need – I believe there’s no limit to what we’ll be able to achieve.”

Click here to read the Defending Childhood Task Force’s full report.

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