National Task Force Calls Childhood Exposure to Violence a National Crisis
Calling for a massive overhaul of the nation's approach to exposure to violence, the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence has issued what United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. describes as "a wake-up call and warning bell for all of us."
The Task Force held four public hearings (Baltimore, Albuquerque, Miami, and Detroit) and three "listening sessions" (Anchorage, Oakland, and Joint Base Lewis-McChord outside Tacoma, Washington) during which members heard personal testimony from survivors of violence, young people, social service providers, medical personnel, researchers, and advocates, among others.
The Task Force's report, "Defending Childhood: Protect, Health, Thrive," finds that exposure to violence is a national crisis that affects approximately two out of every three children in the U.S. The task force, co-chaired by Robert Listenbee, Jr., Chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and Joe Torre, Chairman of the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation and Major League Baseball's Executive Vice President for Baseball Operation, makes 56 recommendations divided into six areas: ending the epidemic of children exposed to violence, identifying children exposed to violence, treatment and healing of exposure to violence, creating safe and nurturing homes, community involvement, and "rethinking our juvenile justice system."
The Task Force notes that by the time children come into contact with the juvenile justice system, they have almost always been exposed to several types of traumatic violence over a period of many years. For example, the Task Force cites a study conducted at a juvenile detention center in Cook County, Illinois, where 90 percent of the youth reported past exposure to traumatic violence. This included being threatened with weapons (58 percent) and being physically assaulted (35 percent). According to an article last year by Julian D. Ford, John Chapman, Daniel F. Connor and Keith R. Cruise, “Complex Trauma and Aggression in Secure Juvenile Justice settings,” youth in detention were three times as likely as those in a national sample to have been exposed to multiple types of violence and traumatic events.
Sign up for CFCC’s e-newsletters or check back on CFCC’s website to view the entire article. Other articles in this issue report on advances made by CFCC's Truancy Court Program; a look into CFCC's recent Urban Child Symposium, "A Holistic Approach to the Urban Child's Trauma: From the Eyes of the Beholder;" and a landmark report by the Maryland Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) Access to Justice Commission, which finds that civil legal services significantly boost the state's economy.