At half-time in the University of Louisville’s smashing opening game victory, Coach Charlie Strong simply wrote, “Don’t slop around” on the board and walked out. When asked about that, the Coach of those Top Ten Cards said, “If we take care of the small business, we will take care of the big business.”
Congratulations, Secretary Haynes and Commissioner James for not “slopping around” with the annual child fatality report. It may sound odd to give a shout-out to government officials for following the law, which requires the release of this report on or before September 1 each year, but the last two years represent a positive change of style – because the Cabinet met that obligation. In prior years, this report didn’t come out until months late.
Not only did Secretary Haynes and Commissioner James deliver on time, they have begun to produce a report that features consistent data points – meaning the numbers are measuring the same thing over time. That means that we are, as they say, comparing apples to apples and can gather a longitudinal look at trends in child fatalities, and that is an essential tool in protecting kids.
We have learned over the years to neither overly celebrate nor overly wring our hands over some of the numbers. As an example, many times the numbers actually increase after the report comes out because of pending cases that are resolved later. That – of course – is the real issue of substance, but we have spoken out about the late and inconsistent report in previous years so the Cabinet deserves kudos around this.
I believe that we are seeing promising commitments from the Cabinet around accountability on this front. Not only did they deliver on time – not only did they prepare a report that carries utility – the Secretary and Commissioner are working with Kosair Charities Face It Campaign to create a public dashboard which will monitor real-time data points around child abuse. That can become such a powerful lever around prevention and intervention. The Cabinet; the University of Louisville School of Medicine; and our Face It partners merit real appreciation for innovation on behalf of kids.
Let’s be clear. We have not arrived when it comes to child fatalities from abuse. As an example, we have to continue to push to have the External Fatality Review Committee to exemplify independence and transparency of panel members. It is difficult for it to carry full credibility when it is housed in the Executive Branch. Panel members also need to be public in disclosing conflicts of interest. In addition, there are a range of unique and powerful ideas percolating on protecting children and more details will be coming out about those proposals soon.
Battling child abuse is a long climb. It requires creative thinking about new protections. It requires improving current protective systems in place. But it also demands celebrating “small wins.” Secretary Haynes and Commissioner James delivered that kind of small win with the timely and thoughtful annual report they have released. Let’s pause in that long climb and celebrate!