In Child Fatalities Report, Some Good News

Accidental deaths down, but homicides and "undetermined" deaths may be up

In Child Fatalities Report, Some Good News
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In Child Fatalities Report, Some Good News

The Connecticut Child Fatality Review Panel was set up in 1995, after the death of 9-month-old Emily Hernandez. She suffered rampant abuse at the hands of her parents. State Child advocate Jeanne Milstein says the new report shows the state’s taken important steps since then.

“We’re very pleased that accidental deaths have gone down about 11 percent, and I believe that it’s because of the prevention initiatives that have been implemented over the years,” she says.  

Those initiatives include an aggressive graduated driver’s license program, as well as public education campaigns around safety measures such as seat belts. But the report raises concerns about child deaths in other categories. Homicides kill about as many children in CT today as they did in 2001. The state’s child suicide rate saw an uptick as 5 children took their own lives in the past six weeks. Chief Medical Examiner Wayne Carver is also concerned at the increase in child deaths from undetermined causes. He says no one has any answers.

“There’s a lot of people looking at this problem and a lot of explanations that don’t pan out,” Carver says. “The science is looking at this very intently – intensely – and they’re not making a lot of progress.”

Children in some parts of the state appear to be at higher risk. The bulk of infant deaths and child homicides, for instance, occur in urban settings like New Haven and Bridgeport.  

“There are environments and other factors – behaviors – that put people at risk and put kids at risk for bad outcomes,” Carver says. “And once you’ve identified one of them, you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and identify the resources to deal with them.”

Carver says that may require more than the driver’s license and safety campaigns that reduce accidental child deaths. For WNPR, I’m Neena Satija.