(CINCINNATI, Ohio)—At a press conference in Cincinnati on Oct. 27, Attorney General Mike DeWine, outraged at the recent death of two-year old DeMarcus Jackson, warned that any time decisions are made about putting a child back in his home, the safety of that child must always be the number one priority. An advocate for children his entire career, DeWine cautioned everyone to follow the law, which makes clear that in issues of family reunification, the safety of the child comes first. It was a law DeWine wrote when he was in the U.S. Senate in 1997.
The following are the Attorney General's remarks as prepared:
"The DeMarcus Jackson case is, as you know, a horrible, horrible human tragedy. But, I'm not here today to talk about the specifics of that case. Rather, I am here today to talk about what the law is in the State of Ohio and what the law is across this entire country.
"Any time -- and I stress, any time -- decisions are being made on issues of family reunification, the safety of the child is always -- always -- the number one consideration. That's the law in Ohio. And, that's the law in every other state in America. How do I know this? I know this because I wrote that law in 1997 when I was in the U.S. Senate.
"While reunification is the goal and we should try to reunite families, the safety of the child is more important than putting that family back together again. The safety of the child is always paramount.
"Let me share with you some very disturbing statistics and to put this recent tragedy in the context of a national problem. Back in November 1997, when we changed the law, about 1,200 children were dying each year -- three children every day -- at the hands of their parents or caretakers. Here's where the numbers are now. Today, abuse and neglect claim the lives of nearly 1,780 children each year. That's five children every single day -- one child every five hours. Furthermore, 81% of these children are just three years old or younger and 50% of them are under the age of one!
"Clearly, something is wrong in this country. More children are dying, and there is a moral imperative to do something about it.
"My job as Attorney General is to remind everyone in this State who deals with children -- people who are making life and death decisions every single day -- what the law is and to remind them to follow that law. As the statute, itself, reads:
'In determining reasonable efforts [including those related to family reunification] . . . and in making such reasonable efforts, the child's health and safety shall be the paramount concern.'
"This is the policy of the Attorney General. This is the policy of the State of Ohio. And this is the policy of the entire country.
"But, this is not just a legal obligation. We also have a moral obligation to protect these children. And I intend to do everything in my power to do just that."
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Lisa Hackley: 614-466-3840
Mark Moretti: 614-466-3840