District Attorney Press Release

 

WESTCHESTER COUNTY Child Fatality Review Team RELEASES

 FIFTH independent CHILD FATALITY REVIEW REPORT

 

To read past CFRT reports click here, here, here and here.

 

Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore and County Executive Andrew Spano announced that Westchester County’s Child Fatality Review Team (CFRT) has completed its fifth independent Child Fatality Review Report.

 

The Westchester County CFRT reviews the death of any child who was provided services by the Westchester County Department of Social Services and/or agencies under contract with Westchester County or whose death was the result of suspicious circumstances.

 

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

 

Westchester’s Team is the first team in the State to successfully write its own state mandated child fatality reports.  Westchester County remains the only county in the State to examine child deaths beyond the scope of matters required by state law for the purpose of preparing independent reports that proactively address issues related to these child deaths. 

 

New York State Social Services Law requires the death of a child to be reviewed with regard to the services provided by the Westchester County Department of Social Services and agencies under contract with Westchester County.  The Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team (“CFRT”) undertook and completed the required review with regard to an infant child who died in Westchester County

 

The Team’s findings are reflected in a Fatality Review Report prepared pursuant to New York State Social Services Law (“SSL”) §§ 20(5) and 422-b.  In recognition of the goal of preventing future child fatalities, the CFRT has pledged to review each child fatality and make all appropriate recommendations beyond that which is required by state statute.  

 

As such, and based upon its protocols, the Westchester County Child Fatality Review Team makes the following findings and recommendations arising from the death of a 2 ½ month old infant who had been co-sleeping with a parent in a full size bed.

 

This was the third infant in Westchester County in 2006 whose death the Medical Examiner attributed to co-sleeping.

 

Unlike the two prior deaths that involved infants who had shared beds with multiple people, this infant died while sleeping alone with a parent. 

 

Subsequent to the fatality, the parent admitted to investigative agencies to having worked many hours and feeling excessively tired before co-sleeping with the child. 

 

Based upon chemical analysis of the parent’s blood, the use of alcohol or drugs by the caregiver was specifically excluded as factors in this death.

 

The Team finds that the excessive fatigue of the adult caregiver was a factor in the overlay death of this infant.

 

The Team agrees with the recommendations of The New York State Office of Children and Family Services (“OCFS”) and the New York State Department of Health at http://www.ocfs.state.ny.us/main/prevention/infant_sleeping.asp warning parents and caretakers to avoid co-sleeping with an infant if they are excessively tired. 

 

Given the literature on the issue, the Team recognizes that there are both proponents and opponents of co-sleeping and that cultural practices regarding co-sleeping vary.

 

Additionally, there is some support for the proposition that a parent and child co-sleeping in controlled environments may be advantageous in encouraging nursing of infants. 

 

Nevertheless, given that this death represented the third infant fatality attributable to co-sleeping in 2006 and as these infant deaths are preventable, the Team finds it necessary to publish the facts of this fatality in our Independent Report to raise the awareness of the community to the risks of co-sleeping. 

 

The Team fully supports a comprehensive public health study that will assist the public in fully appreciating the potential risks of co-sleeping and urges parents to follow the recommendations on safe sleeping practices promoted by their pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), OCFS, and other public health agencies referenced in its prior reports.  

 

Specifically, the Team recommends that parents and caregivers seek support and services to minimize stress and fatigue and use the following best practices for putting a baby to sleep:

 

  • Place the baby on his or her back   .

 

  • Don’t allow the baby to sleep in a bed with multiple persons or pets.

 

  • Provide a sleep surface that is flat and firm and free of pillows, blankets, toys and stuffed animals.

 

  • Use cribs, cradles or bassinets designed to accommodate sleeping babies. Other surfaces such as couches and adult beds can create a risk that the baby will roll off or become entrapped.

           

  • Keep the baby’s room a comfortable temperature.

 

  • Avoid clothing that over heats the baby.

 

  • Have a caretaker within earshot of the sleeping baby who is free of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. If a caretaker is excessively tired or impaired by drugs or alcohol they should not co-sleep with a baby.

 

Additionally, the District Attorney and County Executive will be making available a Public Service Announcement (PSA) and informational brochure to institutions and individuals outlining the dangers of co-sleeping.

 

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.