Op-Ed: Making Alabama safer for children and families

U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, D-Alabama (Cullman Tribune file photo)

It’s been a little over a month since we learned about the death of Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney in Birmingham. That kind of violence against a beautiful child of God is just beyond comprehension. And in the weeks since, we’ve seen the tragic murders of Aniah Blanchard in Auburn and Megan Montgomery in Mountain Brook. And just this past week, a pregnant mother named Lavon McCreary and her unborn child were murdered in a grocery store in Evergreen. The list, unfortunately, goes on and on. Each one of these senseless acts of violence against women and children leaves a lasting scar in our hearts and in our communities.

As a father of three, seeing any headline about family violence or child abuse breaks my heart. And when I served as U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, cases involving children and domestic abuse were some of the hardest and most heart-breaking to confront. I am grateful to Alabama’s law enforcement community for their dedicated efforts to respond to these tragic events, which can be among the most dangerous calls they respond to.

We all have to do our part to make Alabama a safer place for children and families. We also have to invest in programs that help prevent these acts of violence before they occur.

That’s why I joined my good friend from Georgia, Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, to introduce a bill that will reauthorize the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which provides funding for states to improve their child protection efforts. Our bill also supports a wide range of community-based solutions to prevent child abuse and neglect. I also introduced another bill with Senator Isakson that would eliminate barriers to adoption and help children in need find permanent, loving families.

I’m hopeful that those bills will be voted on by the Senate soon, along with another bill we’re working on to reauthorize the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act, which provides emergency shelter and assistance to victims of domestic violence and their children and improves states’ efforts to prevent domestic and family violence. It’s also critical that Congress passes a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired earlier this year.

There’s so much more work to be done, but I believe these bills are a step in the right direction in order to ensure that Alabama is a safe place for all children and families to live.

If you or someone you know may be experiencing family or relationship violence, please know that help is available. You can call the Alabama Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-650-6522 or visit the Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence website at www.acadv.org.