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Child Welfare: Increased Guidance and Collaboration Needed to Improve DOD's Tracking and Response to Child Abuse

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With more than 1.2 million school-age military dependents worldwide, per DOD, the departments organizations work to prevent, respond to, and resolve incidents of child abuse. Incidents of child abuse, including child-on-child abuse, can cause a range of emotional and physical trauma for military families, ultimately affecting servicemember performance. GAO was asked to review how DOD addresses incidents of child abuse and child-on-child abuse occurring on a military installation or involving military dependents. This report examines, among other things, the extent to which DOD has (1) visibility over such reported incidents, and (2) developed and implemented policies and procedures to respond to and resolve these incidents. GAO reviewed relevant policies and guidance; interviewed officials at a nongeneralizable sample of seven military installations; analyzed program data; interviewed parents of children affected by abuse; and interviewed DOD, service, and civilian officials, including at childrens advocacy centers. What GAO Recommends GAO is making 23 recommendations, including that the military services develop a process to monitor how reported incidents are screened at installations, that DOD expand the membership of the IDC to include medical personnel, and that DOD establish processes that help ensure timely access to certified pediatric examiners overseas. DOD concurred with 16, partially concurred with six, and did not concur with one of GAO's recommendations, which GAO continues to believe are valid, as discussed in the report.



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