Proclamation on National Child Abuse
Prevention Month, 2020
Issued on: March 31, 2020
Childhood should be filled with joy, hope, unconditional love, and acceptance. Tragically, however, far too many of our Nation’s young people spend this foundational time of their lives in fear, pain, and uncertainty, enduring abuse and neglect that threatens their health and well-being. During National Child Abuse Prevention Month, we condemn this horrific depravity and reaffirm our unwavering commitment to protecting our children and strengthening our families.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of children across our country suffer from abuse and neglect, a fact that is both sobering and heart-wrenching. In January, I signed an Executive Order to coordinate the Federal Government’s efforts to prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children online, protect and support victims of child exploitation, and provide prevention education to raise awareness and help lower the incidence of child exploitation. I also signed into law legislation to enhance our child welfare systems by supporting at-risk families through mental health and substance abuse treatment and programs to develop parenting skills.
With our international partners in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, the United States developed the Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. The Voluntary Principles establish a baseline framework for companies that provide online services to deter use of the internet as a tool for sexually exploiting and abusing children. Several major technology companies have publicly adopted the principles and more will follow in the coming months. These companies have a responsibility to prevent their platforms from becoming a haven for child predators and to also ensure law enforcement is able to investigate and prosecute offenders when children have been victimized.
Child abuse causes the loss of innocence and hope. Loving, devoted, and caring families can serve as a bulwark against our children suffering from neglect and abuse. Child Welfare Information Gateway, the information service of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Children’s Bureau, offers several resources on preventing child abuse and promoting healthy families through its National Child Abuse Prevention Month website. Familiarizing yourself with the information provided by the Department of Health and Human Services can help you learn more about what you and your community can do to support children and families during this month and throughout the year.
To eradicate this blight on our society, compassionate and concerned Americans must work to effect change and impact young lives. Child welfare agencies, clergy members, educators, medical and law enforcement professionals, neighbors, friends, and extended family members all contribute to protecting and nurturing our Nation’s youth. Foster, kinship, and adoptive parents open their hearts and their homes to children in crisis and empower them to find happiness and achieve their dreams. Working together, these forces for good can ensure the welfare of children who have experienced the traumas of abuse or neglect and give them a promising future.
The success of our Nation is reflected in our economic and cultural prosperity and military might, but our character is revealed by how we cherish and protect the weak, innocent, and vulnerable. All children are uniquely created in the image of God and gifted with both purpose and unlimited potential. We can and must relentlessly protect our children, homes, and communities from the scourge of these shameful tragedies and support families and communities to ensure that all children have the opportunity to reach their potential.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 2020 as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. I call upon all Americans to invest in the lives of our Nation’s children, to be aware of their safety and well-being, and to support efforts that promote their psychological, physical, and emotional development.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirty-first day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fourth.
It may seem odd to baby-proof your home when your infant can’t even roll over yet, but you may be surprised at how soon he’ll be getting around and getting into things. So it’s never too soon. Take the time to baby-proof when your little one is still brand new or even before he arrives.
Tie It Down
Time to secure your TVs and furniture — just in case. Use furniture straps to hold TVs, bookshelves, dressers, and other heavy furniture in place in any rooms where your child might be left alone, even for a minute. Don’t put a TV on top of a dresser — the drawers can be used for climbing. Put corner or edge bumpers on any furniture with sharp edges.
You might not see your toilet as a hazard, but the water in it, and the toilet lid, can be a danger for a curious child. So prevent any problems: Remember to always keep toilet lids down and secured with a lid lock.
Control Your Cords
Use cord holders to keep longer cords fastened against walls. That way, your little one can’t tug on a tangle of computer cords and other electrical wiring. That could keep your baby safe from electrical hazards or heavy equipment that falls after a couple of tiny tugs.
Give Baby a Safe Night’s Sleep
Make sure your baby’s crib has fixed rails. Or if you must use an older crib, don’t use the drop-side rail, or get an immobilizer for it. (Cribs with drop-side rails are banned.) Test the crib to make sure your baby can’t fit his head between the slats. If you can slide a soda can between the slats, they’re too wide. Always keep soft items like blankets, pillows, stuffed toys, and bumpers out of your baby’s sleep space.
Manage Your Medication
Store all medicines in a high, locked cabinet. Never take medicine out of its original childproof container. Try not to take medicine in front of your child or he may want to imitate you. Never call medicine “candy.” And don’t flush old pills down the toilet. Get rid of them through your local drug take-back program, or put them in a sealed bag with something your child won’t want to eat — like kitty litter or coffee grounds — and throw it in the trash.
Tie all blind cords high out of reach, or cut the ends and attach breakaway safety tassels. Never put a crib or child’s bed near window blinds or drapes. Those dangling cords can be a choking risk.
Put outlet covers on all exposed electrical sockets to keep your little one from getting an electric shock. Some small outlet covers can be a choking hazard if a baby or toddler pries them out of the wall. Look for “childproof” covers that require two hands to remove or cover plates that screw on. For double protection, place large furniture in front of outlets.
When It’s Time for a Change
You’ll probably be surprised at how fast your baby learns to roll over — and the changing table becomes a falling hazard. Be sure your changing table has safety straps and always buckle up when diapering your child. Don’t ever leave baby alone on the table. Plan ahead and have all the items you need — diapers, wipes, baby cream, nail clippers, and a small toy — handy before you start to change the baby.
Lock It Up
Protect curious kids from household cleaners and other chemicals by storing those items in locked cabinets or installing safety latches that lock when you close the cabinet door. Do the same for any low cupboards that contain risky items like small appliances. For added safety, store hazardous items up high and far away from small fingers.
Safety in the Car
Keep your baby safe in your car, too — in a rear-facing car seat until he’s 2. Don’t use a car seat if you don’t know its history. It may have been involved in a car crash or it may be past its expiration date. Avoid a used car seat that looks damaged or is missing parts or the instructions. Avoid recalled models, too. You can find out more about car seat safety from the manufacturer or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (http://www.safercar.gov).
Make tub time fun, but safe, for your little one. Prevent scalding by adjusting your hot water heater so that the water is no hotter than 120 degrees. Install no-slip strips on the bottom of your tub and a soft cover on the faucet to protect tender heads. Most important, never leave your baby or toddler alone in the tub, even for a moment.
Limit Baby’s Movement
If there are some rooms you don’t want to baby proof, use baby gates to keep your little one from getting into them. Also install gates at the top and bottom of the stairs beforeyour baby gets mobile. Don’t use accordion-style gates, which could trap the baby’s head. Look for gates that attach securely to the wall but won’t pinch small fingers.
Prevent Window Falls
Place your child’s crib and other furniture away from windows. Don’t rely on standard window screens — they’re meant to keep insects out, not children in. Instead, install childproof screens, or even better, window guards, which are proven to prevent falls.
Around Pools and Water Features
Take steps to safeguard areas around pools, hot tubs, and other home features with standing water, like fish tanks and ponds. Backyard pools should be completely surrounded by a 4-foot fence, preferably with a self-latching gate. Pool covers and alarms may provide additional protection. Don’t leave toys floating in pools. And just like in the tub, never take your eyes off a child near water.
Practice Toy Safety
Baby toys should be safe for babies. Your child’s toys should be much larger than his mouth, to prevent choking. Check that all the parts attached to a toy — like doll eyes or teddy bear bows — are securely fastened and can’t be torn off. Remove mobiles attached to a crib as soon as your baby can push up on his hands and knees.
You may leave appliances such as the toaster, coffee maker, or paper shredder plugged in for convenience. But some appliances can harm your child if she turns them on, pulls them down on her, or gets tangled in a cord. Unplug them when you’re not using them and put them away, out of reach, if you can.
Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are essential to your family’s safety. Install a smoke alarm outside every bedroom or sleeping area, and make sure there’s at least one on every floor. Don’t put smoke detectors near the kitchen or bathroom — these areas can trigger false alarms that may leave you inclined to ignore them. Check the batteries every month.
Choose a Safer Toy Box
Choose a toy box with a safe design. Avoid containers with hinged lids that slam down. You want one with a light, removable lid or one that slides. If yours has a hinged top, make sure it has a lid support that can prop the lid open. Pick a toy box with ventilation holes or a gap beneath the lid — in case a kid climbs in.
Get Your Child’s Point of View
The best way to baby proof is to see things the way your baby does. Get down on your hands and knees and crawl around. What’s at baby’s eye level and within easy reach? Kids can be curious about anything they see, like computer cords and glassware on low shelves. You might not notice breakable or hazardous items when you’re towering above them.
Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 27, 2019
Florida parents wrongly accused of Child
Abuse by state experts is ‘shocking,’ says
TAMPA, FL – A Florida lawmaker believes the state’s medical experts on child abuse need more checks and balances after an I-team investigation revealed several pediatricians have made questionable calls against parents who appeared to have done everything right.
“Any position of authority that isn’t checked by something is concerning,” said Florida Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani of Orlando. Eskamani was responding to our investigation that found several cases where child abuse pediatricians, who were hired to be the state’s experts on abuse, wrongly accused Florida parents of child abuse.
Child abuse pediatricians are a recent specialty medical field and hold enormous influence over whether a child’s medical condition is the result of abuse. Their conclusions can also determine if a child needs to be removed from their parents. But court records show, these doctors don’t always make the right call causing children, often babies, to be removed from their parents for months unnecessarily.
Our investigation also found cases where doctors appeared to have come to far reaching conclusions without thorough investigations and, in other cases, where parents were arrested after a doctor’s conclusion of abuse. In 2015, it happened to Jeremy Graham.
Graham, a firefighter and paramedic on Florida’s west coast, was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse after a child abuse pediatrician determined his 4-month-old son’s seizure was caused by a brain bleed, the result of physical abuse, according to court records provided to us by Jeremy and his wife Vivianna.
About a month leading up to the seizure, the Grahams had visited several doctors because their son was vomiting and “wasn’t acting right,” said Vivianna.
After an 8-month fight, the state dropped its case against the Grahams over “insufficient evidence.”
Last year, Nydia Ortiz’s son and daughter-in-law were torn about from their newborn daughter after a child abuse pediatrician in Miami concluded their newborn daughter’s bruises were also the result of abuse. Turns out, it was a rare genetic disorder.
It’s a problem impacting families around the country.
In Texas, recent media scrutiny has led some state lawmakers to consider introducing a bill next year that would require an independent second medical opinion in some cases before a child is separated from their parents.
“That system would provide the oversight and accountability that parents deserve in facing the potential of a false accusation of abuse,” said Eskamani.
Representative Eskamani believes the additional measure could make sense in Florida. We found child abuse pediatricians who serve as medical directors of child protective teams in Florida often answer to no one and operate independently from region to region.
THE FLORIDA INVESTIGATIVE TEAM
Last summer, Vadim Kushnir and his wife found themselves on the defense after seeking help for their newborn son, who was having seizures. A state child abuse pediatrician determined their newborn’s seizures were “the result of shaken baby or blunt force trauma,” according to court records.
“It took them two minutes of investigation to say we were abusers,” said Kushnir.
The Kushnirs fought back spending $30,000 on attorneys and experts who argued the baby’s condition resulted from a complicated birth not abuse.
The judge agreed and in the final order, even criticized the state’s doctors for not knowing their month old son wasn’t breathing at birth, the umbilical cord wrapped tightly around his neck. One doctor who provided testimony admitted he “never reviewed all his medical records,” according to court records.
With the legislative session starting this week, Eskamani says it may be too late to file legislation here this session, but she vows to bring up the issue in Tallahassee and invites other families to share their stories with her of being torn apart and wrongly accused.
Contact Representative Eskamani
“The doctor was probably in the room with us less than 10 minutes,” said Vivianna Graham. “It’s just sad,” added her husband Jeremy whose son, Tristan, is now a healthy 4-year-old.
The Florida Department of Health oversees child abuse pediatricians who serve as experts for the state. According to an agency spokesperson, their top priority is the health and safety of children but says child protective teams are open to receiving input from others who are also involved in protecting the health and safety of Florida’s children.
How a stressed out Kentucky social
worker accused the wrong father
of Child Abuse
THESE MISTREATED, OVERWORKED, UNDERPAID WORKERS…. I’m almost in tears…. NOT!!!! This Dear couple, the Humphries, was most pobably being setup so these poor mistreated kidnappers could have their Children by now.
Who knows how many Children’s lives have been lost or ruined, and how many Families have been broken up or innocent lives lost because of these people’s above-the law crimes.
On a Sunday morning in late August, while Karin Humphries was still in her nightgown, a sheriff’s deputy knocked at her door.
Karin, 31, was home with two of her four children, including her second youngest — a three-year-old daughter. Her husband, Brandon, 31, had just left to get a haircut.
Stunned at the unexpected visit, Karin worried something had happened to her two oldest boys, and her stomach dropped.
But the Hardin County sheriff’s deputy was there for a different reason. Carrying a summons, he asked to speak to Brandon, who had been ordered to appear before a Fayette County judge the following week for alleged abuse and neglect of their three-year-old.
“YOU COULD LOSE YOUR CHILDREN. YOU SHOULD HAVE A LAWYER,” was printed in bold on the page.
Horrified, never having seen her husband abuse their daughter or noticing any signs of neglect, Karin told the deputy he’d made a mistake. He countered by referencing the detailed statement their Fayette County social worker, Brittany Philpot, had attached to the petition.
“But we don’t have a social worker, and I don’t even know where Fayette County is,” Karin remembers telling him. Other than a visit from a child protective services worker several years ago over an issue with Karin’s ex-husband, Karin said they’ve never had any involvement with the state Department for Community Based Services, which handles child welfare matters.
A frantic Brandon, who arrived at their Rineyville home within minutes of Karin calling to say he’d been summoned, began thumbing through the paperwork with the deputy. His and Karin’s birth dates and Social Security numbers were correct, but he noticed his daughter’s information was correct on some pages but not others. And the legal name of the three-year-old’s listed biological mother was the name of a woman who lived in Lexington that neither he nor Karin knew. The Lexington woman and Brandon were listed as legal guardians.
“Within 10 seconds of reading it, I knew this wasn’t about us, that there had been a mistake,” Brandon said in his living room two weeks later.
Included in the summons were intimate details about the Lexington woman, a 21-year-old mother with two children, including a three-year-old daughter who shares an almost identical name to Brandon and Karin’s daughter. The woman later spoke to the Herald-Leader. Her identity is being withheld, along with her daughter’s name, because they are possible victims of abuse.
The paperwork given to the Humphrieses included the Lexington mother’s address, both her and her daughter’s Social Security numbers, which daycare the children attend, and details of their case, including results of drug tests the mother has taken, recent medical history, currently prescribed medications, instances of potential domestic violence, and details explaining why Philpot, 28, believes the three-year-old is “at risk of harm” in her mother’s home.
“We’re panicking, thinking, you’ve got the wrong kid, and is there a child in need somewhere and you don’t know where she is?” Karin recalled.
Around this time, more than 90 miles away, law enforcement knocked on the Lexington mother’s door with a copy of the same paperwork in tow, where the child the summons was issued to protect lives. Her copy, like theirs, included the address, birth dates and Social Security numbers of Karin and Brandon Humphries and their daughter.
For the Humphrieses, there was little they could do on a Sunday afternoon. They made several calls anyway, including to Philpot, whose number was on the summons. She didn’t pick up, so Brandon left a message.
Not knowing how quickly the issue would get resolved and being unfamiliar with the process, the couple was afraid their daughter might be mistakenly taken by child protective services, so they hastily found a lawyer for $250 an hour to appear for them in court the following Wednesday.
That night, Karin and Brandon couldn’t sleep.
“It was terrifying, literally, for two days,” Karin said, “to be sitting, watching your driveway, thinking at any moment someone might show up and take my three-year-old.”
Paranoid when their older children went to school Monday morning, Karin and Brandon asked their teachers to please call them first if anyone showed up asking questions about their kids.
Later that day, Karin phoned the Lexington mother for the first time, and found out the packets they both received were virtually identical.
When Karin shared with the Lexington mother they’d been given the specifics of her and her children’s case, “I was humiliated,” the mother said.
“I still am humiliated. I just don’t think anyone has the right to know those personal details about me and my children,” she said, adding that in the three weeks since, the state still hasn’t told her of the mix up. Earlier this week, a state employee called to say her case had been given to a different social worker without explaining why, she said.
At the Humphrieses’ that evening, state officials had begun returning phone messages, including Philpot, who wrongly assured the couple no one else had received their personal information, they said.
Two days later, the Humphrieses’ attorney returned from the hearing saying officials said all paperwork with their information had been collected and digital copies destroyed. He then handed over what he’d been given in court, which included bits and pieces of summons from other cases, they said. One of those papers included personal information about the Lexington mother’s son, who has a different father than her daughter. This led the Humphrieses to wonder, again, whether their personal information had been shared with someone else, perhaps this boy’s father, who lives in Eastern Kentucky.
Philpot and her bosses would later apologize in an interview with the Herald-Leader for her error as an “honest mistake,” but acknowledged it’s a symptom of a broader issue facing Kentucky’s child welfare system: caseworkers continue to struggle with untenable caseload volumes, increasing the likelihood for mistakes and unintended consequences.
In Kentucky right now, the average social worker manages at least double the number of recommended cases — each of which involves the welfare of a child. When Philpot pulled a wrong file that led to the mix up, she was managing nearly five times that amount.
Her slip up led to the spread of personal information, invoking fear and stoking two families’ distrust in the state’s largest branch of government. And for the Humphrieses, eventually to an ameliorating offer of $5,000 from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services to cover at least five years’ worth of credit monitoring and repayment of the Humphrieses’ attorney fees, they said. Cabinet officials would not confirm the specifics of the proposed settlement.
The offer, though, was extended on the condition that the couple agree not to sue the state, return the mixed documentation and that Karin take down a Facebook post she made about the incident, even though it didn’t include names.
They said no.
“The ability to tell our story is worth more,” Brandon said.
‘She made a mistake’
Philpot is a veteran in her profession, despite her young age. With more than six years as a state social worker under her belt, her tenure more than doubles that of many of her colleagues in Fayette County, one of the most case-heavy regions in the state, where most who leave the job do so after fewer than two years. That’s in part why she’s chief on her investigatory team, holding the highest position under her supervisor.
Her work history is also sparkling, one of her supervisors, Alicia Miller, said.
“I never have worried about a case that Brittany has investigated, or any of the information she brings back from an investigation,” Miller said.
Philpot took the job immediately after college, earnest and passionate about protecting children. In the nearly seven years since, she’s seen colleagues buried under hefty caseloads, inadequate pay and high stress spurred by long work hours flee to other professions. But it hasn’t shaken her resolve, even as she’s seen her own caseload grow to an unmanageable size. In one recent pay period, Philpot logged 48 hours of overtime, she said.
“I can attest to the caseloads in Fayette County — almost every worker I have has a high caseload and it’s due to staff turnover,” Miller said.
A year-long study completed by a state legislative committee in 2017 found Kentucky to have some of the highest caseloads in the nation, and the annual turnover rate in the profession was 24 percent. In a report issued this summer, the state average was still about 31 cases per worker — twice as high as the federal recommended standard of 15 to 17.
Raises were given to social workers across the state three years ago for the first time since 2008 as a way to stave off high turnover rates, boost morale, and create an avenue by which employees could work their way up to higher-paying positions. Starting salaries are now around $34,000. Philpot earns $43,090, according to state records.
In 2018, Gov. Matt Bevin’s biennial budget included $22.2 million tofund more pay increases for about 10 percent of social workers, and another $28 million to hire new social workers and replace outdated technology.
But progress is slow going.
Currently, the average caseload size in Fayette County is 33, according to state data. And the number of social workers hired in the area in 2019 compared with how many have quit is virtually break even: between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15, 19 social workers were hired and 16 left. In the 10 central Kentucky counties that make up the Southern Bluegrass region, including Fayette, 27 social workers have been hired this year, while 30 have quit.
Today, Philpot manages 60 cases — almost five times the federally recommended amount. Each case represents a family of varying size, meaning she manages well over 100 children, all of whom are in vulnerable and potentially dangerous positions. It’s a workload she admitted “is not doable.”
When she mistakenly swapped the Humphrieses’ three-year-old with the Lexington mothers’, she was managing 56 cases, according to her personnel records.
Philpot erred when she pulled the wrong name from Kentucky’s birth index, a statewide registry with personal information for every person born in Kentucky. That day, she also pulled information for about 10 other children, in order to issue similar juvenile dependency, abuse and neglect petitions to their parents.
Complicating matters, the Lexington three-year-old’s name was spelled incorrectly in the system, “so when I searched her in the birth index, the other child is the one that came up,” and, always tight for time, she didn’t double check her Social Security number and birth date, Philpot said in an interview Monday alongside Miller, Department for Community Based Services Commissioner Eric Clark, Cabinet for Health and Family Services Chief of Staff Tresa Straw, and DCBS Chief of Staff Lesa Dennis. They all defended Philpot’s work performance and said no reprimand was necessary.
“I made an honest mistake. I was very overwhelmed,” Philpot said. “I would never intentionally put stress on a family like this.”
Clark said he and others chose to speak publicly about the incident to admit a mistake was made, and to rebuff the Humphrieses’ notion that accountability means “publicly shaming” Philpot for a simple error.
Workforce retention is a constant struggle for the department, the officials agreed, and it’s likely to be exacerbated now that the Humphrieses are using “this as a platform to ruin a good worker’s career and publicly humiliate her,” Clark said.
“Let’s talk about mistakes. Let’s talk about outcomes due to high caseloads,” he said. “There are much more egregious things that can happen due to high caseloads outside of mailing something to the wrong address.”
Miller said it’s hard for people outside the industry to understand the toll it takes.
“For someone who doesn’t understand what the agency does and just wants to have an outlet for their own benefit when we’re here trying to protect kids, trying to make sure families have what they need, it puts a bad taste in your mouth. That there are people out there who have no clue what we do but want to drag us through the mud when we have really good workers who are trying to do their jobs.”
‘Not going to correct what happened’
In the weeks since the incident, Karin and the Lexington mother have been communicating regularly. She’s due in court for her daughter’s case in early October, and Karin, who said she feels obligated “not to turn our back on her and her kids,” plans to go.
Though Clark wouldn’t provide specifics, he said the state has tried “everything we can” to remediate the issue with the Humphrieses, but to no avail, because what they want is “more precious taxpayer dollars to pay them out for this mistake.”
The Humphrieses, though, said they’re not interested in money, especially if it comes with strings attached, and they don’t understand why they’re being portrayed as exploitative.
What they want is accountability and assurance that this won’t happen again.
“How big of a mistake are they allowed to make before something changes?” Brandon said. “They still can’t tell us who all has our information. We understand that mistakes get made, but we didn’t ask to be brought into this.”
But instead of getting bogged down scrutinizing isolated mistakes, Clark said, the department must focus on retaining more of its employees.
A big part of that means standing behind overworked staff by transparently owning minor mistakes and publicly defending them — what he called “a new way of operating.”
“We have got to stop workers from leaving our agency in two years or less,” he said, and figuring out, “how can we create an environment where workers feel supported in spite of high caseloads?”
As for what should happen as a result of Philpot’s mix up, Clark was unequivocal: “There does not need to be a change in how we operate in the Department for Community Based Services,” he said.
Accountability is necessary, he said, but this isn’t what it looks like.
“A new policy, a new procedure, disciplinary action is not going to prevent this from happening again, and it’s not going to correct what happened,” he said.
“It’s important for us to demonstrate to Brittany and our entire workforce that we care about them, because we need them. We’re not going to let bad outcomes define who we are.”
Hampton Roads leads region in Child Abuse and Neglect deaths
HAMPTON ROADS, VA – Some of the most vulnerable people in our community are dying at an alarming rate.
Child deaths from abuse and neglect are on the rise, and local groups are working to educate parents and make everyone a partner in prevention.
The Eastern Region Child Fatality Review Team says the rate of kids dying from child abuse and neglect in this area is the second-highest in the state — which is why is they’re working to increase awareness of the issue.
“So many of these deaths are accidental, but some of them are intentional and we have to worry about those, too. Some people just aren’t safe parents, and we need to protect children from those parents as well,” said committee member Betty Wade Coyle.
The committee says 14 children in Hampton Roads died from abuse or neglect last year. Five of those children were infants who never reached their first birthday, and five more victims were 3 years old or younger.
The team reviewed 49 cases of abuse or neglect that were investigated by local agencies last year, including the including the death of 5-year-old Levi Robertson in Isle of Wight.
His mother and her boyfriend were found guilty of manslaughter after the child was found unresponsive in January.
“Our number seems high compared to the rest of the state, but that’s because, in some ways, we feel it’s because we’re counting better than other areas,” explained Coyle.
Coyle says the three factors that contribute to the largest number of cases are substance abuse, mental illness and domestic abuse.
The committee says children are also dying in unsafe sleep environments.
Coyle says the safest way for babies to sleep is “alone, on their back, in a crib.”
Poverty is an underlying issue, but more can be done to help parents, like providing safe housing options and home visiting programs for families who are high-risk.