The Union Recorder

Local News

May 6, 2013

Report looks at numbers of child deaths in Georgia

MACON —

A state agency has issued its first-ever yearly report on deaths of children involved in the child protection system. It found unusually high numbers of deaths in some parts of Georgia.

The report by the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services analyzed the causes of the deaths and identified ways the agency could improve both its prevention and responses to deaths.

Agency spokeswoman Susan Boatwright called the number of deaths in the central Georgia and southwest Georgia regions "unusually high" relative to their populations.

Officials are looking at the numbers in those parts of the state and questioning what is behind them, Boatwright told The Telegraph (http://bit.ly/15jWaXP ).

"We are certainly looking at those numbers and saying, 'Hmm. I wonder what's going on,' " she said. "We're looking very carefully to see if this is an anomaly or this is a trend."

The report covers the death of every child who received some kind of service from the Division of Family and Children Services -- even if only assistance with food or day care -- during the previous five years.

The agency identified 152 of these deaths in 2012, although only 48 of those children had open DFCS cases at the time. Thirteen were in foster care, and 84 had been the subject of a prior investigation for abuse or neglect.

The report analyzed the causes of the deaths -- including many unrelated to abuse or neglect -- and sought to identify ways that DFCS could improve both its prevention and responses to deaths.

Children who died in foster care mostly died before leaving the hospital, or they died of medical problems caused by maltreatment before entering the foster system, according to the report. Only one case involved suspected maltreatment at the time of death.

Statewide, 33 percent of the deaths were deemed natural, mostly caused by a pre-existing medical condition or disease. Accidents, such as fires and drownings, accounted for 23 percent of the deaths. Murders caused 18 deaths, or 12 percent of the total. Six deaths were suicides.

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