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A push to help detect child abuse

Minnesota's senior senator, Amy Klobuchar, has been keeping busy following her election victory last month.

Along with others in the state's Congressional delegation, she has introduced bipartisan legislation to help train teachers and others who work with children to detect child abuse.

Across the country, an estimated 695,000 children were victims of child abuse in 2010, and yet studies indicate that many child protection professionals -- such as teachers, doctors, and prosecutors -- are not adequately trained to identify and respond to abuse.

Under the bill, the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, Minn., would become one of four regional training centers that would create new curricula to help those who are most likely to be involved in identifying abuse.

The legislation also increases coordination between federal, state and local officials in creating best practices for the training of child protection professionals.

Klobuchar authored the legislation in the Senate and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

"As a former prosecutor, I know that child abuse is a life and death issue," Klobuchar said.

"This legislation is an important step in helping teachers, doctors, and others who work with children to identify and respond to child abuse, and will allow the National Child Protection Training Center at Winona State to continue to lead the way in developing new programs to equip child protection professionals with the knowledge and skills they need to keep children safe."

U.S. Sen. Al Franken also signed on to the bill.

"As a parent, there is nothing I value more than the safety of our kids," he said.

"Hundreds of thousands of children each year are victims of child abuse, but sadly, some of the people best positioned to help aren't adequately trained. This bill will mean more kids who are in danger will get the help they need, by creating needed training centers, just like Minnesota's Winona State training center that helps educate the folks closest to our children on how to put an end to abuse."

A 2001 survey of teachers -- often the first line of defense in recognizing child abuse -- found that 74 percent received minimal training on child abuse while earning their degrees and 58 percent had minimal training on the job.

The National Child Protection Training Act directs the attorney general to coordinate with the National Child Protection Training Center to operate at least four regional training centers -- including the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona, Minn., -- to be affiliated with universities, colleges, or community colleges.

The regional training centers will be required to:

• Develop undergraduate and graduate curricula on child maltreatment.

• Disseminate curricula to colleges, law schools, medical schools, seminaries, and other institutions of higher education.

• Develop ''laboratory'' training facilities that include mock houses, medical facilities, courtrooms, and forensic interview rooms that provide a real world experience to students and professionals.

• Assist communities in developing child abuse prevention programs.

• Assist states in developing forensic interview training programs.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Senators John Boozman (R-AR), and Representative Steve Womack (R-AR).

Klobuchar served for eight years as the chief prosecutor for Hennepin County and is now the chair of the Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight of the Courts, which oversees the Department of Justice's programs.

Klobuchar has also helped secure over $2 million for the National Child Protection Training Center in Winona in recent years.

Child abuse is a big concern in Becker County, which has seen higher numbers of abuse cases since the great recession hit in 2007-08.

To help kids who are living in terrible circumstances, professionals first have to detect the abuse. Klobuchar's bill is an important first step towards making life better for those kids.