WESTCHESTER COUNTY’S CHILD FATALITY REVIEW TEAM
RELEASES ITS FIRST CHILD FATALITY REVIEW REPORT
Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and County Executive Andy Spano announced today that Westchester County’s Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) has completed, with the approval of the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, its first Child Fatality Review Report.
The report addresses the death of a child, in Westchester County, who fell down a flight of stairs while using a mobile baby walker.
New York State law requires CFRTs to review the death of a child with regard to the services provided by the Westchester County Department of Social Services and agencies under contract with Westchester County. With the aim of preventing future child fatalities, the Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team has pledged to conduct reviews that go beyond the statutory requirements and make recommendations for change regarding all aspects of a fatality investigation.
The Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team’s findings and recommendations are based on the death of a child while using a mobile baby walker:
The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advises against the use of mobile baby walkers based upon the dangers they pose to child safety and because it has been determined that mobile baby walkers do not aid child development. A section dedicated to baby walkers on the Academy’s website, which can be accessed at www.aap.org, states: “[W]alkers do not help children walk sooner. Walkers can delay normal muscle control and mental development.” This section of the website closes with the following directive: “Keep your baby safe . . . throw away your baby walker”. According to the website, the Academy has been joined by the National Association for Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI) in calling for a ban on the manufacture and sale of baby walkers with wheels.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”) has also recognized that young children can be seriously injured or killed if a walker they are in falls down the stairs. In a letter dated December 13, 2005 sent to Manufacturers, Importers and Retailers of Baby Walkers, the CPSC warned that children can be seriously injured or killed as a result of falls down stairs in walkers. The letter cited applicable regulations that require that all mobile baby walkers manufactured, distributed or sold in the United States be either: (1) too wide to fit through a standard doorway or (2) have features, such as a gripping mechanism, to stop the walker at the edge of a step. (Code of Federal Regulations, 16 CFR §§ 1500.18 and 1500.86(a)(4)).
Despite the efforts of the Academy and the CPSC, the CFRT has concluded that consumers may not be sufficiently informed about the dangers posed by mobile baby walkers.
Therefore, County Executive Andy Spano and District Attorney Janet DiFiore will spearhead a public education campaign to reach parents and prospective parents on this issue.
It was revealed during the course of the review that upon discovery of the injured child, a call to 911 for medical assistance was made using a cell phone. The call went to Nassau County, but due to a perceived delay in identifying the local jurisdiction, the caller drove the child to the hospital. Many people are unaware that a call made within Westchester County to 911 from a cellular phone is not received by the local police department. Instead, these calls are usually routed to the State Police in Hawthorne who then contact local police or, if applicable, Westchester County’s 60 Control . However, depending on the location of the nearest cell tower, the call may be picked up by a neighboring county.
In another recommendation, the CFRT has concluded that the community could benefit from an awareness campaign that informs the public that when calling 911 from a cell phone, it is important that they give the operator their exact location, including the county.
Toward this end, the CFRT has contacted the Westchester County Association of Chiefs of Police, of which the Chief or the Chief Executive Officer of every police department in Westchester County as well as the District Attorney is a member, to enlist its assistance in educating Westchester County’s citizens about the proper use of cell phones to call 911.
The Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team was formed by the District Attorney and County Executive to thoroughly examine the fatality of any child less than 18 years old who was the subject of a report to the State Central Register of Abuse and Maltreatment (SCR) or who at the time of death was residing in a foster care placement through the Westchester County Department of Social Services.
Although it did not apply in the subject case, effective December 14, 2006, the CFRT must now also examine the fatality of any child who dies while the Department of Social Services has an open child protective services or preventive services case involving the child or the child’s family. Additionally the Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team also considers the death of any child that is unexplained, undetermined or due to suspicious circumstances.
By law the CFRT includes representatives from the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office, the Westchester County Department of Social Services (Child Protective Services), the Westchester County Office of Medical Examiner, the Westchester County Attorney’s Office, the Westchester County Department of Health, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, a forensic pediatrician, a representative of the police department(s) involved in investigating the fatality and emergency medical services. Our local CFRT also includes representatives of the Westchester County Mental Health Department, and Victims Assistance Services.
Westchester County was the fourth county in New York State to have an approved Child Fatality Review Team and is the only CFRT in New York State that writes an independent fatality report.