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Child Deaths Analyzed

County Report Links Most Fatalities to Medical Problems


Santa Barbara County’s Child Death Review Team (CDRT) released their first public report last week—an aggregation of data concerning the deaths of children, age 17 and under and spanning the years 2007 to 2009. The Santa Barbara County Vital Statistics Office and the Sheriff-Coroner’s Office provided the data in the CDRT’s report, summarized as follows:

For the fiscal year of July 2007-June 2008, 52 deaths were reported in the county — 77 percent (or 40 deaths) of which were due to medical conditions or unpreventable disease. The report also accounted for accidents (6), suicides (2), homicides (2), and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (1).

In 2008-2009, 45 deaths were counted, with 64 percent due to medical conditions. The number of homicides increased from two deaths to seven. The report noted that the increase was “likely due to increasing gang violence.”

The numbers demonstrated that children have the highest probability of death in the first 12 months of their life: of the combined years’ 97 deaths, 55 were under the age of one. Twenty-one deaths occurred in adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17—this age group proved to be most prone to homicide and suicide.

Of the 97 deaths, 10 cases were selected for review. The review resulted in 10 recommendations and actions, including warnings about the fatal effects of “the choking game” (self-strangulation to induce euphoria) and co-sleeping (parents and newborns sleeping in the same bed).

The Child Death Review Team is a countywide taskforce that reviews and evaluates child deaths in order prevent future occurrences, said a spokesperson for the group .

According to the California Penal Code 11174.32, the first local CDRT began in Los Angeles County in 1978 and was later adopted as a statewide mandate for all California counties. Due to state budget cuts, the state mandate was dissolved in 2008. Currently, Child Death Review Teams (CDRT) though formally authorized, are now largely volunteer-driven.

Santa Barbara County’s CDRT has 18 members, representing a host of multidisciplinary agencies: the Public Health Department Maternal Child & Adolescent Heath (MCAH), the Sheriff Coroner Office, Law Enforcement, Child Welfare Services, Hospital Social Services, District Attorney, and Child Abuse Listening & Meditation (CALM).

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