To address this serious issue, Attorney General Eric Holder in 2010 launched the Defending Childhood Initiative, which leverages existing resources across the U.S. Department of Justice to focus on preventing, addressing, reducing, and more fully understanding childhood exposure to violence.
In 2011, Attorney General Holder appointed a national task force to raise public awareness about the issue of children's exposure to violence and recommend policies for preventing, responding to, and mitigating the effects of exposure to violence.
The task force is composed of 13 leading experts from diverse fields and perspectives, including practitioners, child and family advocates, academic experts, and licensed clinicians. The group is co-chaired by Robert Listenbee, J.D., chief of the Juvenile Unit of the Defender Association of Philadelphia; and Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's executive vice president for Baseball Operations and chairman of the board of the Joe Torre Safe at Home Foundation, an organization that educates students, parents, and teachers about the effects of domestic violence, and provides safe places at school for students exposed to domestic violence.
The report includes 56 recommendations and highlights the importance of identifying children who are victims or witnesses of violence and providing support and services to help them heal. It focuses on developing programs to help children access supportive and nonviolent relationships with trusted adults in their homes and communities. The task force also calls for all children who enter the juvenile justice system to be screened for exposure to violence.
"The 56 recommendations included in this report will not be shelved," Attorney General Holder promised at the conclusion of the meeting. "They will not be set aside. They will be taken into careful consideration and, wherever possible, used as the basis for actionand as a blueprint for strengthening our robust anti-youth violence work that's already underway."
The meeting also included a presentation by Vincent Felitti, M.D., co-principal investigator of the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, now in its 16th year. Dr. Felitti said the study documents that traumatic experiences during childhood and adolescence can have a profound effect on adult health, well-being, and mortality a half-century later.
The task force's final report and recommendations are available on the U.S. Department of Justice Web site. An archived Webcast of the meeting of the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, as well as the Attorney General's remarks at the introduction and conclusion of the task force presentation, may be accessed online. To learn more about children's exposure to violence, read OJJDP's NatSCEV publication series. For more information about the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, visit its Web site.