The death of any child is a tragedy – for the family and for the community. Almost 20 years ago, an idea was created to systematically review all child deaths in order to find ways to prevent similar deaths going forward. In past years this focus has raised the awareness about child drowning or the importance of putting babies to sleep on their backs or making sure all children are always secured in car seats.
The Arizona Child Fatality Review Program was created in 1993 (A.R.S. § 36-342, 36-3501-4). The statute created an independent State Child Fatality Review Team. The types of members of the team are set in legislation; representatives from the Academy of Pediatrics and from the ADES Divisions of Developmental Disabilities and Children and Family Services, as well as from law enforcement and a medical examiner make up the team.
The team’s role is to produce an annual report to the Governor and legislature that summarizes the findings, and make recommendations based on promising and proven strategies regarding the prevention of child deaths. The team is also charged to study the adequacy of statutes, ordinances, rules, training and services to determine what changes are needed to decrease the incidence of preventable child fatalities and (as appropriate) take steps to implement these changes. These recommendations have been used to educate communities, initiate legislative action, and develop prevention programs.
Our role is to provide the needed professional and administrative support to the state and local teams and analyze data from all death reviews. Reviews of child deaths are completed by 12 local child fatality teams located throughout Arizona. The State Child Fatality Review Team operates independently of the ADHS and the annual report doesn’t always reflect the viewpoints of state leadership, but it does always reflect what the team of experts believes is in the best interest in preventing children’s deaths. The next report is due out in mid-November. You will be able to find historical reports and this year’s report (when it’s out) on our Child Fatality Review website.