Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine was in Cincinnati Thursday to express his outrage over the death of 2-year-old DeMarcus Jackson.
Jackson died on Oct. 21. His biological father, Antrone Smith, 29, is charged with killing him.
Jackson had been living with a foster family, but in August, it was determined that his biological parents had earned back custody of their children.
Investigators have determined that DeMarcus died of blunt force trauma to his abdomen.
As a U.S. Senator, DeWine wrote the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 that makes the child's health and safety the paramount concern when reuniting foster kids with their birth families.
DeWine said Thursday 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.
The following are AG Dewine's prepared remarks:
"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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