Homicide is the leading cause of child deaths in Baltimore, according to a new city analysis of the unusual and unexpected deaths of 208 minors over the past five years.
The report, written by the Child Fatality Review team and published on Friday, said new policies and additional resources in the child welfare, education, public health and criminal justice systems are needed to bolster efforts. prevention and intervention. About 60% of the families of the deceased children did not come to the attention of the Baltimore child welfare system before the deaths.
Deaths were broken down by age, race, class and gender: infants, toddlers and older youth accounted for most deaths and boys were twice as likely to die as girls. About 88% of deaths were among children from low-income families; 85% of deaths were among black children.
“We cannot lift our black and brown communities out of poverty and overcome systematic divestment without specifically prioritizing the safety of our young people,” Mayor Brandon Scott said Friday at a press conference outside the Center for Hope in Park Heights.
From 2016 to 2020, 24 children from birth to seven years old were killed by a parent or caregiver who engaged in abuse, neglect, poor supervision, or putting children at risk. These adults were found to have mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as their own histories of domestic violence, abuse, neglect and poverty.
Most older miners were killed by non-family members. The report found that 45 youths between the ages of seven and 17 died at the hands of people unrelated to them; 93% died from gunshot wounds. Nearly 70% had been charged through the juvenile justice system before their death.
Minors also struggled massively within Baltimore City public schools: 89% were chronically absent, 62% had experienced at least two unexpected school transfers, 51% had repeated a grade, and 40% had been suspended at least twice. Almost two-thirds had received mental health treatment at some point.
The 208 deaths represent a quarter of all child deaths in the state over the past five years. This rate has decreased since his last study; from 2011 to 2015, 236 city children died from unusual and unexpected deaths, a label used by the Baltimore City Child Fatality Review team. Researchers used data such as autopsy reports and records from health, law enforcement, school and social services to compile the report.
The second leading cause of death was related to sleep; 60 infants died from factors such as sleeping outside a crib or sleeping with babysitters.
“Child deaths are what we call sentinel events. They represent the worst possible outcome and should spur a community to action,” said Health Commissioner Dr Letitia Dzirasa.
The report says Baltimore should strengthen systems for preventing child abuse, such as increasing support for parents, especially those with substance abuse issues or who are involved in the drug trade, as well as increasing long-term outreach to families identified as most at risk of domestic violence.
Immediate actions may include creating a two-generation intervention program for families involved in the drug trade, providing culturally appropriate individual and family therapy, and strengthening an existing program infant sleep safety campaign which offers free education and crèches.
The report says the city should also require all primary prenatal care providers to use the Health Department’s Prenatal Risk Assessment, which screens pregnant women for psychosocial risks such as substance use disorders. . Additionally, hospitals with delivery services should require families to complete the Postpartum Infant & Maternal Referral (PIMR), a similar screening for psychosocial risks. About 85% of mothers of children who died between birth and age seven did not receive PIMR screening.
Another recommendation is to strengthen response systems to investigate suspected abuse.
“When systems for patient education, screening, referral and care coordination work effectively, they can help prevent child deaths; however, when these systems are not working properly or are not adequately resourced, children and families fall through the cracks,” the report states.
Immediate recommendations include strengthening comprehensive services for young victims of non-fatal gunshots and stabbings, as well as creating a standard information-sharing policy for city agencies investigating abuse and suspicious deaths.
The report also contained long-term recommendations, which would require more funding, staff and collaboration between agencies. Implementing these strategies over the next three to five years can help reduce the number of child deaths, the report says.
Suggestions include connecting students in low-attendance elementary schools with support teams, implementing community education on how to contact CPS when children are
suspected of being at risk and passing state legislation requiring all birthing hospitals to provide and document postpartum safe sleep training to parents before their child is discharged.
The report also noted that clusters of youth homicides by non-family members have occurred in neighborhoods without community-based violence response programs, such as Safe Streets. The researchers suggested extending these programs to these regions.
Scott said he would use some of the $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding set aside for public efforts to expand the program’s reach.