U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, and U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), are urging Congress to ensure their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to address shortcomings in the Department of Defense’s (DoD) reporting of child abuse is included in the final National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The push was led in the House by Representatives Gil Cisneros (D-CA) and Brian Mast (R-FL). The End Military-Connected Child Abuse and Neglect Act will codify important GAO recommendations to protect the approximately 1.2 million school-aged military dependents around the world, including tens of thousands in Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools. In a letter sent to leadership of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Gillibrand and her colleagues pushed for language to be kept in the final NDAA that would assure U.S servicemembers and their families that the DoD would have a strong response should their child suffer from child abuse and neglect.
“Every year, there are numerous incidents of child abuse in military families, and we must do more to protect our most innocent victims,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This amendment puts us one step closer to ending the scourge of child abuse in the military. I’m proud that the bipartisan End Military-Connected Child Abuse and Neglect Act passed the Senate Armed Service Committee and we must ensure these important recommendations will be included in this year’s final NDAA. I will continue working across the aisle to ensure it is signed into law.”
Following a push by Senators Gillibrand and Rounds and Representatives Cisneros and Mast, language from the End Military-Connected Child Abuse and Neglect Act, which was introduced in both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, was included in both the House and Senate versions of the Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA.
The language, which can be found in Section 575 of S. 4049 and Section 536 of H.R. 6395, would achieve the following:
- Expands the scope of the Department’s centralized database on problematic sexual behavior in children and youth.
- Develops a process, by each Military Service, to monitor how reported incidents of child abuse are screened at installations to help ensure that all reported child abuse incidents that should be presented to an Incident Determination Committee are consistently presented and therefore tracked.
- Creates guidance for a process to receive and incorporate information into the Services’ central registries regarding child abuse allegations and determinations involving their servicemembers and dependents that were recorded by another Service’s Family Advocacy Program. Such guidance should include a mechanism to monitor that the process is occurring consistently.
- Expands the voting membership of the Incident Determination Committee to include medical personnel with the requisite knowledge and experience.
- Improves communications with victim’s families about the investigative process and services available to them.
- Ensures children who are sexually abused overseas have timely access to a certified pediatric sexual assault forensic examiner to conduct the examination.
- Improves communication between the military criminal investigative organizations and United States Attorneys for relevant cases involving child victims to help ensure that investigators are notified when prosecution is declined, including the reasons for the declination when appropriate, such as details about any investigative deficiencies.
- Develops a memorandum of understanding between each Military Service and the National Children’s Alliance that makes children’s advocacy center services available to all Service installations and thereby increase awareness of those services across the Services