Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence concluded a three-day public hearing in Miami today on the challenges of preventing children’s exposure to violence in the community. At the hearing, expert panelists on the child welfare system testified about how immigrant and at-risk youth are exposed to violence and how mayors across the country are interrupting the cycle of violence in their cities, among other issues.
The task force is a key part of Attorney General Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative to prevent and reduce children’s exposure to violence and is co-chaired by Joe Torre, chairman of the board of the Joe Torre Safe At Home Foundation, and Robert Listenbee Jr., chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia. The task force is composed of 13 leading experts, including practitioners, child and family advocates, academic experts and licensed clinicians.
During the Miami hearing, task force members heard testimony from witnesses including Roy Martin, Program Manager for the Partnership Advancing Community Together (PACT), which is part of the Boston Health Commission. Martin told the task force that “I come from a family where every male relative old enough to go to jail or prison has gone, including me.” Martin noted that he was once a member of the population he serves, which offers unique strengths in relating to the needs of the community. In addition, Mayor Dwight C. Jones of Richmond, Va., described the faith community as “an underutilized resource – a franchise with a location on every corner.” He also noted that in Richmond, the city is focusing on efforts that emphasize and strengthen healthy parent-child relationships and children’s sense of self-esteem and abilities.
“Protecting our nation’s children and youth from violence is an urgent priority for us here in Florida and across the country,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “Whether as victims or witnesses, children’s exposure to violence often leads to long-term physical, psychological and emotional harm – as well as higher risk of engaging in criminal behavior later in life. By working together to prevent, mitigate and treat exposure to violence, we can break this cycle, which is in the best interest of our children and our communities.”
“Testimony from survivors and experts stressed the urgency and seriousness of this problem for children in poor urban neighborhoods,” said task force co-chair Listenbee. “Our children deserve to feel safe and secure in their homes and in their communities. I look forward to working with my fellow task force members to highlight practical and creative solutions.”
The task force will identify promising practices, programming and community strategies to prevent and respond to children’s exposure to violence, which will inform a final report to the Attorney General in December 2012. The report will present policy recommendations and serve as a blueprint for preventing and reducing the negative effects of such violence across the United States.
A 2009 study by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention found that n early one-half of the children and adolescents surveyed were assaulted at least once in the past year, and more than one in 10 were injured in an assault. Older adolescents ages 14 to 17 were the most likely to be victims of assaults that ended in injury, gang assaults, sexual victimizations and physical and emotional abuse, and to witness violence in the community.
For more information about Attorney General Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, its task force and public hearings, please visit: www.justice.gov/defendingchildhood .
To read task force co-chair Joe Torre’s op-ed on children exposed to violence, which was published in the Miami Herald, please visit: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/1926 .