July | August 2012

Defending Childhood Task Force Briefs Congress on Children's Exposure to Violence

Defending Childhood Protect Heal Thrive logo.On July 25, 2012, the co-chairs of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence—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—briefed Congress on the task force's work since it was launched in October 2011 by Attorney General Eric H. Holder. The task force¬†is a key part of the Attorney General's Defending Childhood Initiative.

The task force held public hearings in four cities over the past year—Baltimore, MD; Albuquerque, NM; Miami, FL; and Detroit, MI—to assess the nature and extent of children's exposure to violence and to develop strategies to address the problem.

Task Force co-chairs Robert Listenbee, Jr. and Joe Torre, and Melodee Hanes, Acting Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Seated (at left and center) are the co-chairs of the Attorney General's National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence—Robert Listenbee, Jr., and Joe Torre. OJJDP's Acting Administrator, Melodee Hanes, is on the right.

Sixty-five individuals from 27 states and the District of Columbia provided personal testimony at the hearings. They included survivors of violence, young people, social service providers, medical personnel, researchers, practitioners, advocates, tribal and local officials, private foundation representatives, and community residents.

The task force is incorporating what it has learned into a report containing policy and practice recommendations that will be submitted to the Attorney General later this year. The report will serve as a blueprint for addressing children's exposure to violence across the United States.

At the briefing, Joe Torre described the impact of witnessing abuse as a child. "It took decades before I finally started to talk about the violence in my childhood," Torre said. "And as the task force has heard from one person after another, things haven't changed enough. Every child deserves a safe home, a safe school, and a safe community."

Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs (OJP), brought greetings from the Attorney General; Melodee Hanes, OJJDP Acting Administrator, introduced Ms. Leary.

"With the momentum we've generated through our Defending Childhood Initiative, the information and insights we've gained through the task force, and the tremendous support and leadership shown by everyone here, I know we'll find a way to make America safer for our children," said Leary.

The task force is composed of 13 leading experts, including practitioners, child and family advocates, academicians, and licensed clinicians.

Resources:

To read a blog about the congressional hearing by Mary Lou Leary, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OJP, visit the DOJ Web site. Also available on the site is more information about Attorney General Holder's Defending Childhood Initiative, its task force, and public hearings.