January 18, 2005
Child abuse protocol changes
January 13, 2005 [Ledger Inquirer]
By Harry Franklin
15-year-old guidelines updated to close loopholes
A more comprehensive Muscogee County Child Abuse Protocol was signed and implemented Wednesday.
The measure is designed to improve coordination between agencies involved in identifying, reporting and evaluating child fatalities to determine whether they were accidental, intentional or natural deaths and to see whether they could have been prevented.
Georgia law requires that each county have a protocol in place. Muscogee's had been in effect about 15 years. Work by a group of local agencies began to update the plan in March. The completed document is 61 pages, nearly three times as large as the previous plan.
"It's a lot more detailed on the actions that will be taken and what occurs when a child has been abused," said District Attorney Gray Conger during the morning signing at the Government Center.
The Child Abuse Protocol Team worked to develop an accurate identification and reporting process so that the evaluation of circumstances in child fatality investigations is monitored and implemented in Columbus.
Joanne Cavis, a member of the Muscogee County Child Fatality Subcommittee, said reviewing child fatalities involves much more than child abuse. It includes looking into the deaths of infants when the cause of death is labeled as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or Sudden Undetermined Infant Death.
For a death to be labeled a SIDS death, three things must take place, according to Lori Davis, a field program specialist for Region VIII, Georgia Department of Human Resources, who is in special investigations. A death scene investigation, an autopsy and a clinical/medical history of the infant must be done. If any one of those are lacking, the death of an infant that cannot be explained is listed as SUID.
"Probably the most important message you can send is that infants need to be on their back in a bed by themselves," said Cavis, with the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service. "The biggest problem we have with baby deaths is infants in bed with adults and other children... . If you want to feel close to a baby, put it in a bassinet next to your bed."
Infants 2-4 months old are at greatest risk, she said. After nine months, the risk drops significantly.
Statistics from the Muscogee County Child Fatality Review show that accidental deaths and homicides of children have declined over a four-year period. But five deaths were attributed to SIDS and three to SUID in 2002. In 2003, five deaths were listed as SIDS deaths and one infant death was unexplained, among 18 child deaths reported and evaluated. Two child deaths were attributed to homicide by the review committee in 2003 and two in 2002.
Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday he will push for 500 more case workers for the state's Division of Family and Children Services, because agency case workers are overloaded, to boost morale and reduce turnover.
"Every county, every municipality, including Columbus is going to get some additional case workers," said DFACS spokesman Bryan Toussaint. "Is there an exact number? No one's going to know, at least right now."
For more information on how to protect infants from sudden death, call the Extension Service at 653-4200
Posted by Nancy at January 18, 2005 08:58 AM