District Attorney Press Release

 

WESTCHESTER COUNTY Child Fatality Review Team RELEASES SECOND CHILD FATALITY REVIEW REPORT  

 

To see the previous CFRT report, click here.

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and County Executive Andrew Spano announced 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 second Child Fatality Review Report.  

New York State law requires the Westchester County CFRT 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 and to prepare a report concerning that death. 

Westchester County was the fourth county in New York State to have an approved CFRT. 

The Westchester County CFRT has assumed the responsibility of preparing the report mandated by state law and is currently the only county in the state writing the report required by SSL Section 20(5)(a). Pursuant to Social Services Law (SSL) § 20(5)(c), this report may only be disclosed to the public by the New York State Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).   

The Westchester County CFRT also prepares an independent report in addition to the state required report. This report, created by the Westchester County CFRT, is unique because it is the only independent report written in New York State. The purpose of the independent report is to proactively address matters beyond the scope of those matters required to be examined by state statute, SSL § 20(5)(a).  This additional report concluded that the public would benefit from more information concerning the Abandoned Infant Protection Act, commonly referred to as the Safe Haven Law that allows a mother to leave a baby, up to five days old, with a responsible person, such as a police officer or hospital official.

The Westchester County CFRT’s independent report addresses the death of a newborn baby girl who was abandoned in Westchester County in April 2006.  The body of the newborn baby was discovered at a municipal public works department by a public works employee. 

The independent report findings and recommendations are as follows:

The legislature, in order to permit the anonymous and safe surrender of a newborn in a suitable environment, enacted the Abandoned Infant Protection Act or what is commonly referred to as the Safe Haven Law. 

 

This law, found in New York State Penal Law (PL) §§ 260.03 and 260.15 and New York State SSL § 372-g, provides an affirmative defense to any criminal prosecution of the E felony of Abandonment of a Child (PL § 260.00) or the Class A misdemeanor of Endangering the Welfare of a Child (PL § 260.15) when the child is not more than five days old. 

 

Criminal charges for the abandonment of a child not more than five days old, are not justified when the defendant can prove that he or she specifically intended that the child would be safe from physical injury and cared for in an appropriate manner.   The defendant must also be able to prove that he or she left the child with an appropriate person or in a suitable location whereupon an appropriate person was promptly notified of the child’s location.

 

Pursuant to SSL § 372-g, the New York State Office of Children and Family Services conducts statewide education concerning the Safe Haven Law.  The CFRT has concluded that the residents of Westchester County would benefit from an additional public awareness campaign.  To this extent, the Westchester County District Attorney and the Westchester County Executive are jointly sponsoring a public service campaign to educate Westchester’s residents about the Safe Haven Law.   This campaign will include a public service announcement as well as the dissemination of written materials.   These materials will inform the public of hospitals in Westchester County available as safe havens for newborn infants and other resources including counseling. The CFRT’s goal in sponsoring this campaign is to protect infants from injuries and fatalities caused by the abandonment of newborn babies.

All materials created in conjunction with the Safe Haven Law public education campaign will be available in both Spanish and English and will be widely distributed throughout the county. 

The Westchester County CFRT 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 or who at the time of death was residing in a foster care placement through the Westchester County Department of Social Services.  The team has elected to prepare the SSL § 20(5)(a) State Report which is then approved and issued by OCFS.

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 CFRT 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, members of the police department(s) who handled the investigation of a specific case and emergency medical services. 

Our local CFRT also includes representatives of the Westchester County Mental Health Department and Victims Assistance Services.

To see the previous CFRT report, click here.