Login NowClose 
Sign In to chronicle-tribune.com           
Forgot Password
Close

Child deaths deemed preventable

BY Sara Barker - sbarker@chronicle-tribune.com

Four child deaths in Grant County last year were deemed preventable by a Child Fatality Review Team in a recent report.

A team of prosecutors, Department of Child Services directors, coroners and medical professionals from Delaware, Grant, Jay, Blackford and Randolph Counties teamed up to review cases of preventable child deaths.

Not every child death was reviewed in the Regional Child Fatality Review Team’s annual report -- those that were sudden, unexpected, investigated by DCS for alleged abuse or neglect, had an undetermined cause of death or were caused by homicide, suicide or an accident were reviewed.

The goal, Team Chair Delaware County Prosecutor Eric Hoffman said, was to find deaths that were preventable and look into how the counties can stop them from happening in the future.

The four Grant County child deaths the team reviewed involved a six-year-old boy, a 20-month-old girl, a two-month old boy and a two-month-old girl. All were deemed preventable.

Both of the two-month-old children died because of unsafe sleep. The 20-month-old girl died of asphyxia due to chest compression, and the six-year-old boy died from parainfluenza type 1.

The two-month-old girl was found lying on a couch and was pronounced dead at the scene. The family had prior DCS involvement, where DCS gave instructions on how to help a child sleep safely, according to the report.

The other two-month-old’s mother had also received instructions for safe sleep, according to the report. Grant County Prosecutor Jim Luttrull, who worked on the team, said she had been provided with safe sleep crib materials and DCS had visited the home multiple times.

The child was found unresponsive after the mother and her boyfriend slept on the same air mattress as the child at the boyfriend’s house.

The 20-month-old was accidentally crushed by folding car seats. According to the report, the child was not in a car seat.

The child’s family was helping another family move, and the third row of car seats were folded down with the child in them. The parent who pressed the button to fold the seats didn’t know the child was asleep in the seats.

Tables and other furniture were loaded on top of the seats, trapping the child and suffocating her. The father who folded the seats tested positive for THC and cocaine.

The six-year-old boy had a history of breathing problems, according to the report. In this instance, the child was sick, but instead of taking him to the hospital, the boy’s mother gave him an old prescription.

The boy died that night, and the mother tested positive for meth. The team said this death was preventable in the report.

In total, two of the child deaths were caused by unsafe sleep and two had risk factors of drug use by parents.

As far as child deaths go, Hoffman said these factors are not uncommon.

“Unsafe sleep is the number one preventable child fatality,” he said.

Preventability in these cases is not black-and-white, though. Luttrull said the case of the child being crushed was a “very unfortunate series of accidents” and was “not as preventable as other cases.”

These annual reports are sent back to the Indiana State Department of Health for entry into their existing data. Right now, Grant County officials on the team are still thinking of ways they could best use the data, Luttrull said.

The diversity of professionals on the team working toward a common goal is a big strength of this report, Luttrull said, and may be one of the best ways to try to keep Grant County kids safe.

“Hopefully we can raise the awareness that this is a parent’s nightmare, a grandparent’s nightmare, and hopefully people can take precautions and be more careful,” he said.