The Process Background

*The Need for Child Death Review Teams *
* Legislation *

The Need for Child Death Review Teams

Michigan’s first review teams were established in June 1995 through a one-year pilot project overseen and funded by the Governor’s Task Force on Children’s Justice (GTFCJ) through a Children’s Justice Act Grant Project a federal grant project administered by the Michigan Department of Human Services (currently Michigan Department of Human Services.) In 1994, the GTFCJ formed a statewide committee of experts in child protection, health and safety to examine the child fatality response system in Michigan and make program and policy recommendations. Concurrently, the Michigan Department of Community Health convened a statewide Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) Task Force in part to examine our death investigation and reporting system as it relates to SIDS. Lieutenant Governor Binsfeld’s Children’s Commission was also convened to identify ways to improve the investigation and reporting of child abuse and neglect.

All three initiatives found that we do have statistics on how many children die in Michigan and from what causes, but we know very little at state or local levels about the circumstances leading to child deaths. Often, we do not know what risk factors led to a child’s death or what could have been done to prevent the death. In some cases, we are not sure if a death was an accident or a homicide, particularly in cases of child abuse or neglect. Although the number of children who die from SIDS has decreased, we are not sure how accurately SIDS is reported. In some cases, we simply are not sure why a child has died.  

Statistics do not reveal how a community has responded to a child death. How was the child’s death investigated?  What services were provided to the family and to community members?  Did state and local agencies review their policies, programs and actions as they related to the death or take any action to prevent other similar deaths?  Michigan’s system for identifying and responding to child deaths was discovered to have been limited in the following respects: 

Legislation

Public Act 167 of 1997 amends Section 7 of the Child Protection Law, to support the establishment and operation of local review teams.  It defines local teams as having a team membership of at least the county medical examiner, a representative from local law enforcement, an DHS and local public health representative, and the prosecuting attorney or his/her designee.  PA 167 also establishes a State Child Death Review Advisory Team to provide guidance to local child death review teams and to make recommendations to the Governor and Michigan legislature based on local findings. 

Public Act 220 of 1995 also amends Section 7 of the Child Protection Law, allowing DHS team members to share information in the Child Protective Services Central Registry.