Children under the age of 5 in Washington, DC, are at the center of a new debate about what happens when their bodies are discovered in the woods and buried.
The issue is part of a broader debate over child safety, where parents, guardians, and the public alike have been pushing for an independent inquiry into what happened to their children during the past two decades.
A few months ago, a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that “there is currently no scientific consensus” about how children die when they are buried.
Yet the AP’s report came as the Department of Justice released a report on child abuse and neglect in Washington state, where a woman’s son died of a suspected suicide after being buried in a forest.
The report also found that the deaths of two young boys and two girls were ruled accidental and that there was “no evidence” of criminal activity.
In the wake of the Washington state report, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Washington State Center for Children and Families (WSCF) released separate reports in the last week.
Both of these reports have drawn support from parents and others concerned about the effects of child neglect on children.
But the NCMEC report has the most support from experts in the field.
The National Center’s Dr. James A. Stewart said that his group has been studying the issue for decades.
“There’s an overwhelming consensus that the safest place for a child to be is in a home with a parent,” he told Newsweek.
“The problem is that parents who are involved in child neglect are more likely to be involved in other types of neglect, such as neglect that’s caused by the child, or abuse or neglect of a sibling.”
While Stewart is a member of the AAP, he’s not a scientist or expert in the area.
He believes the best way to answer the question is to look at the history of the children.
“We can’t simply start from an assumption that there’s a simple correlation between an accident and a child being buried, because there are so many variables, and that can make it hard to identify an individual case,” he said.
“But we can look at a range of factors, and we can see if the circumstances were the same or different, and if that would explain the cause.”
The WSCF report, which also focused on Washington state’s death rates, found that parents are often the main people at fault in children’s deaths.
“Most of the deaths are caused by neglect and abuse, but a minority of deaths are due to accidents, including suicides,” the WSCFs report states.
“A large majority of deaths were caused by physical or sexual abuse.”
Stewart says the report “shows a huge gap in research and the lack of scientific consensus in the child death issue.”
He says that the lack on evidence is particularly alarming because the children in Washington’s cases were “not just buried and buried.”
Stewart believes there is “a real lack of understanding” of the causes of child deaths, and says it’s time for the government to “start to pay attention to this.”
The AP’s Stewart has been a child advocate for decades and is known for being a tireless advocate for child safety.
He says he believes that a proper investigation would show that the children died of natural causes and not because of neglect.
“If we don’t look at child deaths in Washington,” Stewart said, “we’re not going to have an accurate picture of what’s happening.”
Stewart said the government needs to focus on “how much is really happening, how much is being covered up, and how much has been covered up by other jurisdictions, by people in the media, and by the public.”
In recent years, the Department, in a report published in 2016, called for the establishment of an independent child abuse investigation board that would include experts in child safety and child abuse.
The task force would also have the authority to review the death certificates of children and adults who died of “unnatural causes” and would have the power to hold parents and guardians responsible for their children’s safety.
“When we look at these children and families, we have to understand what’s really happening,” Stewart told Newsweek in March.
“I’m not saying this to be a negative thing, but we have a responsibility to understand these things.”
Stewart argues that while parents are responsible for the care of their children, the state should also be responsible for providing oversight.
“They are the ones that are actually making the decisions about what is appropriate for them, not the other way around,” he added.
“And the way that’s done in Washington is that we have this unaccountable board, and it’s very clear that it’s not an independent entity.”
This is not the first time the issue of child abuse has arisen in Washington.
In 2013, the WACS filed a federal lawsuit in federal court in Seattle against the state for failing to investigate child abuse in the state