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Child Fatality Legislation

NCSL Child Fatality Reviews Legislation 2007-2013

6/5/2014

Child fatality reviews have consistently drawn the attention of lawmakers.

During 2007 and 2008, state legislatures paid particular attention to addressing child fatality review. Enacted legislation focused on requirements for public disclosure, authorized local child fatality review teams to have access to information and records, changed the requirement time of an investigation and, authorized the organization of a multidisciplinary team to oversee the child fatality review process, confidentiality, training and reporting of child fatalities.

In 2009, requirements were put in place that court proceedings related to child abuse fatalities or near fatalities be open to the public. Lawmakers also added the prosecuting attorney and law enforcement to the list of those to be notified of child abuse fatalities and near fatalities. Parameters were established for the public disclosure of information on child fatalities, and near fatalities and that information in child fatality or near fatality cases are made public.

During 2010 and 2011 legislative sessions, state lawmakers enacted legislation aimed at strengthening the child fatality/near fatality review process and the child welfare system.

For the 2012 session, lawmakers enacted legislation focusing on near child fatality reviews and the creation of child fatality prevention teams to review child deaths.

In 2013, state legislatures paid particular attention to addressing child fatality review, child fatality prevention review teams and oversight committees.

Following are summaries of state legislation related to child fatalities from 2007 through 2013. 

2013 2012  |  20112010  |  2009  |  2008  |  2007 

2013 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2013 Colo. Session Laws, SB 255, Chap. 222
Requires county or district public health agencies to establish local or regional child fatality prevention review teams operating under the purview of the Department of Public Health and Environment, requires reporting of case review findings to public and private agencies that have responsibilities for children, requires entering data into the web-based data-collection system, includes violence, motor vehicle incidents, child abuse, sudden unexpected infant death and suicide.

2013 Ind. Acts, SB 125, P.L. 119
Establishes the Commission on Improving the Status of Children in Indiana to study issues concerning vulnerable youth, review legislation and cooperate with other entities, establishes a Child Services Oversight Committee to review data reports from the department of child services, make recommendations to the Commission, and submit a report, establishes a local child fatality review team in each county, establishes the statewide child fatality review committee.

2013 Ky. Acts, HB 290, Chap. 39
Establishes an external child fatality and near fatality review panel administratively attached to the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. In addition, this Section requires the Cabinet for Health and Family Services and/or any agency, organization, or entity involved with a child subject to a fatality or near fatality to confidentially provide all records of services provided related to said child within 30 days of request, establishes its membership, duties, and responsibilities, requires panel members to recuse themselves from a case review if there is a personal or private conflict of interest, amends KRS 620.050 to allow records to be provided to the panel, clarifies that original information and records used to make copies for the panel are subject to the Kentucky Open Records Act, clarifies that Open Records requests not be made to the panel, clarifies that closed session provisions of KRS 61.815 apply to the panel, and, authorizes a panel member to make a good faith report to proper authorities. All records to be destroyed by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet at the end of the review.

2013 N.D. Sess. Laws, SB 2161, Chap. 383
Relates to the child fatality review panel, authorizes the panel to review near deaths alleged to have resulted only from child abuse and neglect, requires the panel's annual report involving child abuse and neglect deaths and near deaths to include specified information.

2013 Tex. Gen. Laws, SB 66, Chap. 1145
Relates to the composition of the child fatality review team committee, relates to studying the causes of and making recommendations for reducing child fatalities, including fatalities from the abuse and neglect of children.

2012 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2012 Colo. Session Laws, SB 33, Chap. 91
Defines the terms "near fatalities" and "incidents of egregious abuse or neglect," adds the review of those events to be responsibilities of the Department of Human Services Child Fatality Review Team, requires counties to notify the department of any suspicious near fatality or incident of egregious abuse or neglect, requires the department to promulgate rules concerning confidential information for different types of incidents.

2012 Ind. Acts, SB 286, P.L. 48
Provides for the creation of regional-based fatality review teams. Requires the DCS to annually prepare a report of all child fatalities in Indiana that are the result of child abuse or neglect.

2011 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2011 Ark. Acts, SB 625, Act 591
Requires the Department of Human Services to place a notice on the department’s Web page within 72 hours of receipt of a report of a fatality or near fatality from the Child Abuse Hotline. The notice of a reported fatality or near fatality of a child shall state the age, race and gender of the child; the date of the child’s death or incident; allegations or preliminary cause of death or the incident; services offered or provided by the department now and in the past; and the name of the child.

2011 Colo. Session Laws, HB 1181, Chap. 120
Establishes the State Department of Human Services Child Fatality Review Team to assess records of each case in which a suspicious child fatality occurred. The law determines the need for a multidisciplinary team to conduct case reviews after a child fatality that involves a suspicion of abuse and where the child or family has had previous involvement with a county Department of Human Services within two years prior to the fatality. The review team also is to identify any gaps or deficiencies that may exist in the delivery of services to children and their families by public agencies to mitigate future child abuse, neglect or death. The team is charged with making recommendations for changes to laws, rules and policies that will support the safe, healthy development of the state’s children.

2011 Mich. Pub. Acts, HB 4385, Act 67
Provides that, if a child who is a ward of the court dies, notification shall be provided to the court, the state senator and state representative who represent the district in which that court is located, and the children’s ombudsman. The ombudsman shall be notified within one business day when a child dies during a child protective services investigation or an open child protective services case, when a child dies who was the subject of a child protective services complaint, or if a child’s death may have resulted from abuse or neglect.

2011 Mich. Pub. Acts, HB 4387, Act 68
Requires child fatality review teams to include a representative of a local court. The law further requires the review of each child fatality that involves allegations of child abuse or neglect for each child who, at the time of death or within the 12 months preceding the death, was under the court’s jurisdiction.

2011 Mich. Pub. Acts, SB 226, Act 69
Requires the Department of Human Services to establish and maintain a central registry of statistical information regarding children’s deaths that is accessible to the public. The registry cannot disclose any identifying information and can include only information covering the following: the number of children who died while under court jurisdiction for child abuse or neglect, regardless of placement setting; the total number of children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect after a parent had one or more child protective services complaints within the two years preceding the child’s death; the dispositions by category of those complaints; the total number of children who died under the above conditions in the preceding year; and the child protective services disposition of each child fatality.

2011 Mich. Pub. Acts, SB 228, Act 70
Expands the availability of child maltreatment-related written reports, documents or photographs filed with the Department of Human Services. The law makes this information confidential and available only to certain government agencies, law enforcement officials and other specified entities. It also makes the information available to a court that has jurisdiction over a child whose death is due to suspected abuse or neglect.

2011 Ohio Laws, H. 153
Sec. 309.50.10: Requires that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), in accordance with the evaluation of the Ohio Alternative Response Pilot Program, plan the statewide expansion of the pilot program on a county-by-county basis, through a schedule that ODJFS is to determine. The program, to be known as the Differential Response Approach, refers to an approach that a Public Children’s Services Agency (PCSA) may use to respond to accepted reports of child abuse or neglect with either an alternative assessment response or a traditional response.

Sec. 2151.011: Stipulates that “traditional response” means a PCSA response to a report of child abuse or neglect that encourages engagement of the family in a comprehensive evaluation of the child’s current and future safety needs, a fact-finding process to determine whether child abuse or neglect occurred, and the circumstances surrounding the alleged harm or risk of harm. The ODJFS director must adopt rules setting forth the procedures and criteria for the PCSAs to assign and reassign response pathways.

Sec. 2151.429: Requires the PCSA to use the traditional response for the following types of accepted reports: 1) physical abuse resulting in serious injury or that creates a serious and immediate risk to a child’s health and safety, 2) sexual abuse, 3) child fatality, 4) reports requiring a specialized assessment as identified by a rule adopted by ODJFS, and 5) reports requiring a third-party investigative procedure as identified by a rule adopted by ODJFS.

Sec. 2151.412: Requires each PCSA to prepare and maintain a case plan or a family service plan for any child receiving in-home services from the agency pursuant to an alternative response.

2011 Okla. Sess. Laws, HB 2136, Chap. 244
Allows the Oklahoma Commission on Children and Youth to disclose to the public any previous child welfare encounters or investigations in cases involving a child who has died or nearly died and in which the person responsible for the child has been charged.

2011 Utah Laws, HB 215, Chap. 343
Requires a child fatality review committee to provide an unredacted copy of a fatality review report to a Division of Child and Family Services director and a regional director or a designee. The law provides that an executive summary of fatality reviews is not admissible as evidence in civil, judicial or administrative proceedings and clarifies that the executive summary is a public document. It further requires that the Division of Child and Family Services allow public disclosure of the findings or information related to a case of child abuse or neglect that results in a child fatality or near fatality.

2011 Wash. Laws, HB 1105, Chap. 61
Requires the Department of Social and Health Services to conduct a child fatality review in cases of suspected child abuse or neglect. The department must consult with the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman to determine whether a review should be conducted if it is not clear whether a child’s death was the result of child abuse or neglect. The department must ensure that those assigned to a child fatality review team have no previous involvement in the child’s case and that the review team includes members who have professional expertise pertinent to the dynamics of the case under review.

The law specifies that the child fatality review report is subject to public disclosure and must be posted on the public website of the Department of Social and Health Services. In the event of a child fatality or near fatality in which the child was placed with or received services from a supervising agency affiliated with the Department of Social and Health Services, the department must promptly notify the Office of the Family and Children’s Ombudsman. It gives the Department of Social and Health Services and the child fatality review team access to all records and files from a supervising agency that provided services to the child while under contract with the department. The law also specifies that a child fatality or near fatality review is subject to discovery in a civil or administrative proceeding.

2010 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2010 D.C. Stat., B 1027, Chap. 582
Allows confidential child abuse or neglect information to be released or divulged to representatives of the Child Fatality Review Committee for purposes of investigation or review of child fatalities.

2010 Md. Laws, SB 948, Chap. 637
Requires a director of a local department of social services or the secretary of the Department of Human Resources to disclose information, on request and under certain specified circumstances, concerning child abuse and neglect that resulted in a child suffering a fatality or a near fatality. The information is limited to actions or omissions of the child welfare agency.

2010 Tenn. Pub. Acts, HB 852, Chap. 1031
Requires the commissioner of Children’s Services to provide a report on the fatality or near fatality of any child in the custody of the department within 10 business days of the fatality or near fatality. The law requires the report to be provided to the members of the Senate and House of Representatives who are serving on the Select Committee on Children and Youth and represent the jurisdiction in which the child resides.

2009 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2009 Ariz. Sess. Laws, SB 1246, Chap. 154
Stipulates that court proceedings related to child abuse, abandonment or neglect that have resulted in a fatality or near fatality are open to the public, unless closed for good cause shown by the court. Lawmakers also added the prosecuting attorney and law enforcement to the list of those to be notified of child abuse fatalities and near fatalities.

2009 Ark. Laws, SB 493, Act 674
Clarifies the procedure for public disclosure of information related to child fatalities or near fatalities and the reporting requirements of the Division of Children and Family Services of the Department of Human Services.

2009 Ark. Laws, SB 494, Act 675
Establishes the parameters of the public disclosure of information on fatalities and near fatalities in child maltreatment matters.

2009 Ark. Laws, HB 1489, Act 1286
Adds the prosecuting attorney and either the county sheriff or the chief of police of the municipality to the list of persons who must be notified when a death occurs under specified circumstances, including the death of a minor child that appears to indicate child abuse prior to death.

2009 Me. Laws, H.P. 1421–L.D. 162, Chap. 38
Establishes that the findings in situations where child abuse or neglect results in a child fatality or near fatality shall be made public except in cases in which disclosure of child protective information would jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding.

2009 Tenn. Laws, HB 0326, Chap. 86
Clarifies that near fatality, for purposes of allowing public disclosure of confidential children’s services information, means that the child has a serious or critical medical condition resulting from child abuse as reported by a physician who has examined the child subsequent to such abuse.

2009 Texas, SB 1050, Chap. 779
Requires the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), not later than the fifth day after receiving a request for information about a child fatality with respect to which the DFPS is conducting an investigation of alleged abuse or neglect, to release information on the age and sex of the child, the date of death, whether the state was the managing conservator of the child at the time of the child’s death, and whether the child resided with certain persons.

Requires the DFPS, if it is determined that a child’s death was caused by abuse or neglect, to promptly release certain information on request, including a summary of previous reports of abuse or neglect, the services provided to the child or child’s family by the DFPS, and the results of the assessment completed by the DFPS on determination that a child’s death was caused by abuse or neglect.

Requires the DFPS to redact from the records any information that would identify any individual other than the deceased child or an alleged perpetrator of the abuse or neglect, jeopardize an ongoing criminal investigation or prosecution, endanger the life or safety of any individual, or violate another state or federal law.

2009 Utah, HB 223, Chap. 280
Amends the criminal statute of limitations related to child abuse homicide to provide that prosecution for first-degree felony child abuse homicide or second-degree felony child abuse homicide may be commenced at any time.

2009 Vt. SB 13, Act 1
Requires the Department of Child and Family Services to release information to the public about near fatalities.

2008 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2008 Cal. Stats., AB 2904, Chap. 255
Permitted a county Board of Supervisors to receive and review any information in the custody of the juvenile court or any other involved county agencies related to a child who has died and who has previously come to the attention of, or was in the protective custody of, the county child welfare agency.

Vol. 76 Del. Laws, HB 472, Chap. 373
Mandated the Child Death, Near Death, and Stillbirth Commission to create a regional panel to review all maternal deaths. Required the commission to release summary information and findings resulting from reviews of child abuse and neglect deaths and near-deaths.

2008 Me. Laws, SB 794, Chap. 586
Authorized the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate suspicious child deaths in the same manner as it does suspected child abuse or neglect. Required the same mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect to report any suspicious child deaths. Stated that the department may not interfere with the authority and responsibility of the Attorney General in their investigation.

2008 Md. Laws, HB 394, Chap. 69
Requires the medical examiner to notify the chairperson of the local child fatality review team for the appropriate county if a case involves the unexpected death of a child. Requires the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to orally report findings and deliver a copy of the child’s final autopsy report to the local Department of Social Services and law enforcement in cases involving the death of a child believed to be caused by abuse or neglect.

2008 Okla. Sess. Laws, HB 2568, Chap. 324
Allows the Child Death Review Board and the Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board to enter into agreements with other entities to conduct joint reviews of child abuse deaths and near-deaths.

2008 Pa. Laws, SB 684, Act. 2008-87
Creates a Public Health Child Death Review Program to facilitate the work of state and local multi-agency, multidisciplinary teams in examining the circumstances surrounding deaths in the state, for the purpose of promoting safety and reducing child fatalities. Sets responsibilities, confidentiality and immunity.

2007 Child Welfare Legislation related to Child Fatality Reviews

2007 Cal. Stats., SB 39, Chap. 468
Required juvenile case files pertaining to a child who died as the result of abuse or neglect to be released to the public, with specific limitations. Required the custodian of records within a county welfare agency or department to disclose specified records of child abuse or neglect that result in the death of a child. Required county welfare agencies to notify the Department of Social Services of child deaths within their jurisdiction that were a result of child abuse or neglect and to establish a procedure for providing notification and reporting of such child fatalities.

2007 Ill. Laws, HB 616, PA. 95-405
Amends the Child Death Review Team Act. Provides guidelines for the initial response, ongoing reporting and implementation activities of the director of the Department of Children and Family Services, and monitoring of these activities by the Executive Council, with respect to each recommendation made by a Child Death Review Team. Expands the departmental report on a death of a child to include “serious life-threatening injury” of a child, and provides specific information regarding reporting and public disclosure requirements.

2007 Ill. Laws, HB 617, P.A. 95-527
Makes information included in the reports from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Children and Family Services subject to public disclosure requirements. Emphasizes the independent functioning of the OIG and requires the implementation of Error Reduction Plans to remedy patterns of errors or problematic practices that compromise or threaten the safety of children, as identified in OIG death or serious injury investigations and Child Death Review Team recommendations. Requires the creation of Error Reduction Safety Teams to implement the plans. The teams are to consist of Quality Assurance and Division of Training staff who will work in the offices of the department and/or contracted agencies. Requires the preparation of annual public reports on the plans and recommendations for additional training, changes to rules and procedures or other systemic reforms. Requires Quality Assurance staff to work with affected front-line staff to implement the provisions of the plans related to staff functioning and performance. Requires the implementation of training and reform protocols through hands-on assistance, supervision and management to ensure that the agencies, offices or regions with whom the teams work develop the skills and systems necessary to incorporate changes on a permanent basis. Requires training staff to work with the OIG and with the child death review teams to develop a curriculum to address errors identified that compromise the safety of children. Following the training roll-out, the teams will work onsite in identified offices. The teams will review and supervise all work relevant to the Error Reduction Plans.

Instructs the director to fill any vacancy in a Child Death Review Team within 60 days, ensure representation from the State Police and fund the teams under a separate line item in the annual budget. Expands the scope of review by Child Death Review Teams to include cases of serious or fatal injuries to a child identified under the Child Advocacy Center Act. Expands team access to information and allows the Department Director to select an Executive Director for the Illinois Child Death Review Teams Executive Council.

Allows the Child Death Review Team Executive Council to establish a three-year pilot program in the Southern Region of the State, under which a special Child Death Investigation Task Force will be created to develop and implement a plan for the investigation of sudden, unexpected or unexplained deaths of children younger than age 18 occurring within that region.

2007 Md. HB 1071, Chap. 264
Authorizes local child fatality review teams to have access to information and records. Provides for confidentiality.

2007 Mo. Laws, SB 25
Sec. 210.183. Changes the requirement that the Children’s Division must complete an investigation within 30 days when the child involved in the pending case dies during the investigation. Requires that if a child involved in a pending child abuse investigation dies, the investigation will remain open until the investigation surrounding the death is completed.

2007 Nev. Stats, AB 261, Chap. 70
Allows more transparency regarding public disclosure of child fatalities and near fatalities. Requires that the Legislative Auditor receive and review information concerning certain children who suffer a fatality or near fatality.

2007 Nev. Stats, AB 263, Chap. 330
Sec. 4. Authorizes the organization of a multidisciplinary team to oversee the child fatality review process.

Sec. 5. Imposes civil penalties upon members of teams and committees involved in the child fatality review process who disclose any confidential information concerning the death of the child.

Sec. 10. Requires that persons believing that a child has died because of abuse or neglect must immediately report that to an agency that provides child welfare services or a law enforcement agency. Requires that the child welfare service agency notify a medical examiner or coroner.

2007 Wash. Laws, HB 1333, Chap. 2007-410
Requires each county to revise and expand its existing child sexual abuse investigation protocol to address investigations of child fatality, child physical abuse and criminal child neglect cases and to incorporate the statewide guidelines for first responders to child fatalities developed by the Criminal Justice Training Commission.

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