Team seeks to prevent tragedyTeam approach could help prevent child deaths.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
When a child dies, it’s tragic.
Knowing what caused the death could prevent more tragedies.
Prevention is the goal behind a newly formed team that includes law enforcement agencies in Superior and Douglas County, and the county’s Health and Human Services Department, Medical Examiner’s Office and District Attorney’s Office. Agents of the various departments began meeting last year to discuss creating a Child Death Review Team.
That team is now gelling.
The original idea behind creating the teams nationwide was to prevent child deaths from abuse and neglect; Wisconsin took a broader approach, said Health and Human Services Director Pat Schanen.
Child death review is a process that works to understand child deaths in order to prevent harm to other children. The collaborative process brings professionals from multiple disciplines to share and discuss information on the circumstances leading to the death to determine if there are steps that could be taken to prevent similar deaths.
The Children’s Health Alliance of Wisconsin, which oversees and trains the county-level death review teams in the state, is working to develop teams in all 72 counties. According to the organization’s Web site: Thousands of children are injured each year in Wisconsin and injuries are the leading cause of death in Wisconsin residents younger than 45.
The organization is providing a $5,000 grant to help with training, educational materials and community outreach.
Anytime there is a child death not that isn’t health-related, the team comes together to examine the circumstances surrounding the death to determine if it’s a fluke or if there is a way agencies can work toward education or preventative programs to keep similar deaths from occurring in the future, said Superior Police Capt. Chad La Lor.
Over the last few months, La Lor said there have been child deaths in Superior in which children suffocated while sleeping in a swing or with a parent and one who rolled out of bed and became trapped between the bed and a wall. In cases like those, educating parents on the dangers could prevent future deaths, he said.
“The focus is really not from a criminal standpoint, but when the deaths happen, EMS gets called and law enforcement is there to handle the scene,” La Lor said. “We’re probably the best equipped and trained to document the scene.”
Schanen said while the national effort to form death review teams was to prevent the under-reporting of maltreatment-related deaths, the team will promote understanding of preventable deaths. She said the approach in reviewing preventable deaths could help identify trends and pockets of information that is lacking in public education.
“A good deal of what we do in public health is education,” she said. “We’re working with young mothers – sometimes older mothers. A good deal of what we do … is educating the community.”