WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A government commission co-led by former New York Yankees manager Joe Torre said on Wednesday that the U.S. federal and local governments are not doing enough to identify and treat child victims of abuse and violence.
At a meeting with representatives from major federal departments, the commission of academics, law enforcement officials and others, issued 56 recommendations to help child victims, including expanded training for social workers.
Torre, whose own childhood with an abusive father led him to start a charitable foundation focusing on the issue of child abuse, said many social workers and law-enforcement officials simply did not know how to spot signs of domestic abuse.
“I don’t think society knows how to react, even if they think something’s going on,” said Torre, who won four World Series championships with the Yankees and is now an executive in Major League Baseball.
The failure of Penn State University to report former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky for child abuse – charges Sandusky was convicted of this year – was one example, Torre said.
The commission, set up by the Justice Department and known as the Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence, has held hearings for the past year. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has made the issue a priority.
Banging his fist on a table for emphasis, Holder told the commission its ideas would not sit on a shelf gathering dust, and that he would push the White House for support.
“The Justice Department is a big organization with a lot of tentacles in a lot of places, and my hope is to use the time I have as attorney general to continue the effort,” Holder said at a news conference after the meeting.
President Barack Obama has not said whether he wants Holder to serve into a second term, though Holder is expected to stay on as the chief U.S. law enforcement official at least into early 2013.
Holder said there was a moral imperative for the U.S. government to support child victims – whether they have witnessed violence at home, in gangs or elsewhere – and a financial incentive to do so if those children are kept off a path to crime.
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Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by David Brunnstrom