Strategies Underway To Keep Children Safe In Connecticut Are Reflected In A New National Report On Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

This article was published on: 03/21/16 12:51 PM by Mike Minarsky

DCFHARTFORD – A report issued this week by the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities, which was established through the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012 to devise a national strategy to prevent such tragedies, highlights a number of activities already underway in Connecticut. In Connecticut, many of the recommendations in the Commission’s report have been a part of the multi-year transformation efforts being implemented by the Department of Children and Families and its many partners. Safety is a top priority of the Department as reflected in its mission statement and goals for the agency. Department Commissioner Joette Katz said the national report makes important recommendations for preventing tragedies that affect Connecticut and every other state in the country. “By focusing on the most vulnerable – our very youngest children age three and below and particularly those under the age of one – by collaborating with others in the community and by using data effectively, we can prevent tragic deaths,” Commissioner Katz said. “Ahead of this report, Connecticut already has begun to educate the public about safe sleep and concentrate efforts on infants and toddlers in ways that will make a real difference. This national report confirms we are on the right track.” The report estimates that nationally between 1,500 and 3,000 children will die from maltreatment each year and that infants and toddlers are far more likely to die than older children. A study released 14 months ago by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) found that of the children who died during a ten year period ending May 31, 2014 nearly two-thirds (65 percent) were six months old or younger. The national report made a number of recommendations that have been already implemented or are in the process of implementation here in Connecticut including:  Using data to identify children and families most at risk of a maltreatment fatality. Connecticut conducted and publicly released its 10 year study in January 2015 that showed that the age of the child, the child’s sleep environment, frequency of social worker visits, parental mental health, and assessments of parental needs were the most important variables for determining risk of fatalities. Policies, practices and education to ensure safe sleep arrangements and an “early childhood practice guide” have been developed to address these risks in Connecticut. The Department’s Office of Research and Evaluation, which conducted this study, also has and continues to produce a multitude of data reports to improve child protection work and has published much of this data on a Department webpage called “DCF Data Connect” available here:  A range of service providers – including the child welfare agency — should work together. The Department is organizing and participating in a multi-agency, public private partnership that involves the Office of Early Childhood, the Department of Public Health, the Office of the Child Advocate, private hospitals and medical professionals and others to conduct a public health campaign to educate parents, caregivers and the public on preventing child fatalities. The first stage of the campaign has been launched to ensure that babies do not die as a result of an unsafe sleep environment. The next phase will focus on preventing abusive head trauma, which is another leading cause of maltreatment deaths. Subsequent public health campaign topics are expected to include messaging to men who care for babies and messaging to women on the need to carefully select caregivers for their babies.  Using data in real time to improve decision making needed to protect children: The Department is nearing completion of an agreement with Eckerd, a national social services agency, to utilize specific data, demographics and other information regarding families to assess safety and risk. Data analysis will trigger effective interventions with children whose families have characteristics that pose the greatest dangers of a child fatality or significant injury. This “Rapid Safety Feedback” system has proven effective in other jurisdictions.  Using a public health approach to preventing child fatalities: As noted above, the Department has teamed with a number of state and private partners to conduct a public health education campaign on safe sleep, abusive head trauma and other causes of child deaths that the data shows are leading contributors to fatalities. In April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Department will highlight these and other prevention efforts underway, including the implementation of a new plan called the “Early Childhood Practice Guide” to improve our work with families whose children are younger than three years old. The full report of the Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities can be accessed here: A press release on the report can be accessed here:

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