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How Can Florida’s Rising Child Mortality Numbers Be Better Addressed?

The statistics concerning the number of children who died in 2015 are dire; specifically, they increased to 473 (known) children last year alone—an increase from previous years. And close to one-fourth of them were victims of abuse, homicide, or neglect. Unfortunately, these deaths occurred in spite of legislation specifically designed to save children by (supposedly) making it easier to be removed from abusive home-life conditions.

The legislation introduced specifically targeted foster families, given that there are more and more children entering Florida’s foster system each year, and thus more and more funds needed. And according to the Department of Children and Families, the department is, at some point, involved with half of the families that experience child deaths each year. This is an indication that there are warning signs before the worst happens, but something between that warning sign and the child ultimately dying is missing.

Eckerd’s Rapid Safety Feedback

A program known as Eckerd’s Rapid Safety Feedback program is used in the state of Florida early on to identify the children most at risk for fatalities by using the State Automatic Children Welfare Information System and taking a close look at potential cases to see if a caseworker could help. According to this information, the cases that tend to experience high fatality rates are those that involve parental substance abuse and especially young/small children.

Of course, once a case has been identified as high risk, it is up to the caseworker to decide what to do about it and follow through, which lends itself to human error. Although the program has made significant progress in sharing critical case information amongst mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence providers, too many children are still dying each year, either indicating that something is missing once this information is gathered, or information is not being gathered on enough children, overall.

As used in an analogy, Florida has successfully identified that a train is coming down the track; but what must be done now is to “change the track and the trajectory of the case.”

State Law

The 2015 Florida Statutes actually established a multidisciplinary, multiagency child abuse death assessment and prevention system composed of various state committees. Their job is to review the facts and circumstances surrounding the deaths of all children under the age of 18 who died in the state and were reported to the Department of Children and Families and ultimately provide direction and leadership for the review system, as well as analyze data, identify important issues, and make recommendations for statewide action. Although not a lot is known at this time about what progress the assessment and prevention system can make (or has made), child advocacy experts are hoping that the information collected will shed some light on how the state can better enact legislation and provide funding to prevent future child deaths.

A Family Attorney Working For You

Whether you are dealing with divorce, child custody disputes, or other family law issues, we can help you. Our attorneys serve the Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton areas and try to provide guidance in family disputes before something terrible happens, like a child’s neglect or death. Let us work to ensure that you are protected. Contact us at the office of Sandra Bonfiglio today.

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