By Annette Wallace, Community RN
“Oh my gosh! How can you do that all day?!?” That’s a question I get a lot when I tell people that I am part of the Northern Kentucky Child Fatality Review (CFR) Team. “Are there really that many unexpected deaths?” Sadly, yes there are; and by the way, how many is too many to you? One is too many for me.
Infant mortality has been an official public health concern since 1912 when the Federal Children’s Bureau made their first initiative to focus on infant mortality. The health and well-being of children and families across the globe has been measured by infant mortality rates for decades. What affects the general population most certainly will affect the most vulnerable members of society, too.
Through a comprehensive and multidisciplinary review of child deaths, a better understanding of how and why children die is revealed. That information is then used to inform prevention efforts locally and across the state. The multidisciplinary team consists of local coroners, deputy coroners, a state medical examiner, pediatricians, nurses, local health department representative, representatives from child protective services, and law enforcement. Others are also invited to attend on a case by case basis. Those professionals can include educators, firefighters, district attorneys, EMS personnel and other prevention partners as required and appropriate on case-specific basis.
The purpose of the review team is not punitive, but instead prevention focused. Data obtained from previous year’s fatalities has birthed the current KY Safe Sleep Campaign. Many community partners have also begun implementing the Period of Purple Crying program. Similar teams are located throughout the country. Nationally, CFR teams have worked to improve dangerous roadways, used drowning data to reinstate lifeguards at beaches, supported fire safety programs, suggested product recalls and product changes, organized prescription drug round ups, and helped encourage improvement and implementation of better car seats for children.
While my mind is set to find prevention efforts, as the coordinator and a team member for the Northern Kentucky Child Fatality Review Team, my position also helps me connect the community to resources to assist them at the darkest hours of their lives. I have the privilege of reaching out to each family and sending a personalized condolence letter and grief related materials. Sometimes it’s about a group that meets for support in the area, or sometimes my packets have articles about getting through the holidays. Always, I try to be relevant and include information pertinent to the type of death and the age of the child; sending suicide packets when needed, and SUID packets at other times. An unknown hand reaching out to say; you matter to us, your child is not forgotten, and the state of Kentucky is forever changed by the loss of this dear child. And that’s how I do what I do every day.