FIVE YEAR REPORT ON CHILD FATALITIES 2011-2015
(FOR FULL REPORT LINK- CLICK HERE)
The Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) and the state Child Fatality Review Panel (CFRP) are releasing a five year report regarding all unexpected intentional and unintentional child fatalities.
The OCA and CFRP are charged with examining and investigating all unexplained and unexpected child fatalities. The OCA is a permanent member and current co-chair of the state Child Fatality Review Panel (CFRP), which meets monthly to review the deaths of children that come to the attention of our Office the Chief Medical Examiner. In Connecticut, state law governs the child fatality review process and directs the CFRP—comprised of legislative appointees and state agency designees-- to “review the circumstances of the death of a child placed in out-of-home care or whose death was due to unexpected or unexplained causes to facilitate the development of prevention strategies to address identified trends and patterns of risk and improve coordination of services for children and families in the state” (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-13).
This report outlines aggregate data and provides analysis of child death trends from 2011-2015. The report also provides a series of recommendations to support and enhance child death prevention efforts in our state.
Key Findings in Report
From 2011-2015, 367 children died from unintentional and intentional injuries in Connecticut. The vast majority of these children were under the age of 1. Infants younger than 12 months of age have the highest risk for premature death, more so than at any other time during childhood and adolescence.
• Accidents/Unintentional child fatalities
150 children died during the review period from unintentional injuries that were classified by the Medical Examiner as accidental. While the number of accidental child deaths has appreciably declined in Connecticut—compared to previous 5 year reviews, too many children are still dying in ways that are preventable, and accidental deaths still account for the highest proportion of preventable child deaths. Though new laws have contributed to a reduction in teen-driver fatalities, motor vehicle related deaths still account for over 45% of accidental deaths in children.
• Undetermined child fatalities
90 children died during the review period from a manner of death categorized as “Undetermined”. The Medical Examiner categorizes a death as Undermined when there is no finding regarding a medical, environmental, or physical cause of a child’s death. 84 out of the 90 children were infants. The vast majority of these infants were found in unsafe sleep environments. Their deaths are referred to as sudden infant death. Unsafe sleep conditions for infants are environmental factors that increase the risk of sudden infant death. Such factors include, but are not limited to, co-sleeping in an adult bed with an adult/s or other children; sleeping with blankets or pillows or other items in the infant’s sleep space; sleeping on a couch or other location other than a safe infant sleep environment; sleeping with a caregiver who is impaired by alcohol, drugs, medications or untreated mental illness. Infants should be put to sleep in their own crib/bassinet, with nothing but a sheet on the mattress, and nothing else placed inside the crib. Pediatricians recommend that infants share their parents’ room, but not their beds.
Infants are the most vulnerable and dependent of any age group of children. Over this 5 year period, 113 infants died. For all age groups of children, infants are at the greatest risk for death from intentional or unintentional injuries.
• Homicide Deaths
Homicide victims are most often infants and toddlers, or teenagers. Infants and toddlers accounted for 27/78 homicides during this 5 year period (13 infants & 14 toddlers) and teens accounted for 28/78 homicide deaths. In Connecticut, children ages 4-12 are not typically victims of homicide. However, in this 5 year reporting period, 20 children from Sandy Hook ages 6 & 7 were victims of homicide. Young homicide victims generally die as a result of abusive head trauma and other forms of inflicted child abuse. Teens most often die from weapon related injuries, primarily guns, followed by stab wounds. Comparing data from five year reviews (over the last 15 years), there has not been a statistically significant difference in the number of children who have died by homicide.
• Suicide Deaths
During the past 5 years, 49 youth died by suicide. Of these youth, 39 died from asphyxia or hanging, and 10 died from injuries from gunshot wounds. There were 26 boys and 23 girls who died by suicide. Over the past two years, girls in Connecticut have surpassed boys in dying by suicide. Of the youth that died by suicide 41 (83%) were White. Compared to previous 5 year review, there has been no statistically significant change in the number of children who have died by suicide.
Critical to suicide prevention initiatives is the restriction of lethal means. For Connecticut youth, restriction to lethal means is not only access to firearms, but an increased awareness that most household items can be used to cause asphyxia or can be fashioned into a ligature. Youth may also be at increased risk for overdose by taking both prescribed and un-prescribed medication. Parents, health care professionals, educators, and others need to understand both warning signs and youth risk for suicide ideation and suicide behavior.
Please see attachment for full report.