Child Death Rate Down 46% Since Creation of Task Force
The Child Fatality Task Force (CFTF) is a legislative study commission that examines the causes of child death and makes recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly on how to reduce child death, prevent abuse and neglect, and support the safe and healthy development of children. The CFTF was created in 1991 by state statute, and since that time, the child death rate has decreased 46 percent. This reduction between 1991 and 2015 represents an estimated 16,400 more children reaching adulthood by averting lives lost had the 1991 death rate remained during that time span.
CFTF recommendations are formulated through data, research, and expert presentations at committee and full Task Force meetings where the focus is on evidence-informed practice. These recommendations are included in an annual report to the Governor and General Assembly, and also become part of the CFTF’s annual “Action Agenda.” This Action Agenda is the CFTF’s annual blue print of items it seeks to advance or endorse in order to support child safety and well-being. Agenda items may recommend changes to laws or policies, state funding of projects or programs, or other initiatives. (Scroll down this page for examples of CFTF impact and accomplishments.)
Members and Meetings: There are 35 members of the Task Force -- Four appointed by the Governor; 10 appointed by the Speaker of the House (including 5 legislators); 10 appointed by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate (including 5 legislators); and 11 Ex Officio (by virtue of their position in state government). Appointments address areas of expertise relevant to child fatality prevention. Committees meet 2 – 4 times per year and the full Task Force meets 3 – 4 times per year. Meetings only occur between legislative sessions.
Leadership and Committees: The CFTF is co-chaired by two members elected by the CFTF. There are three committees: Perinatal Health, Intentional Death Prevention, and Unintentional Death Prevention. The committees are co-chaired by one member of the CFTF plus one additional volunteer with issue expertise. A full-time Executive Director for the Task Force is housed in the Children & Youth Branch of the Division of Public Health.
Child Fatality Prevention System: The Child Fatality Task Force is part of a three-pronged Child Fatality Prevention System set up to identify and address system deficiencies. This system includes multidisciplinary local and state teams who review individual cases. Local Prevention Teams consist of Community Child Protection Teams who review abuse and neglect cases and related deaths, and Child Fatality Prevention Teams who review other deaths; in some counties these teams are blended. The State Child Fatality Prevention Team (State Team), with leadership from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, reviews cases involving unexpected/unexplained causes of death. The Child Fatality Task Force is the policy arm of the system (and does not review individual cases). For more information on the State Team, please visit http://www.ocme.dhhs.nc.gov/nccfpp/index.shtml.
EXAMPLES OF TASK FORCE IMPACT
- Reductions in deaths due to unintentional causes have been substantial, largely due to declines in motor vehicle deaths. With the passage of the graduated driver license in North Carolina, driver crashes are down 38% for 16 year olds and 18% for 17 year olds. Since the requirement for child safety seats, the number of motor vehicle related deaths for children birth through age nine declined more than 25%. Additionally, the number of children killed by fire and flame decreased by 44% following policies promoting broader use of smoke alarms. These changes have helped contribute to North Carolina being ranked in the bottom of the nation for death of children ages 1 to 14 to in the middle.
- The caseloads of Child Protective Services staff have been cut by a third. A lower rate allows staff more time to provide services to vulnerable children to assure that they can grow up in permanent, stable families. Thanks to other improvements in the child welfare system, the rate of children removed from their homes to live with foster families has declined more than 10%.
- A variety of strategies have contributed to a reduction in infant mortality. To help reduce SIDS and prevent other sleep-related deaths, professional and community trainings and educational messages have reached more than a million new parents, grandparents, medical professionals, child care staff and others in the past few years. To help reduce recurring premature births, North Carolina was a leader in use of 17-Progrestrone and cited by the National Conference of State Legislatures for the ground-breaking policy practice. The Task Force has also advocated for administrative policies to improve infant health by promoting breastfeeding.
CFTF COMMITTEES AND HIGHLIGHTED ACCOMPLISHMENTS
Two-thirds of all child deaths are to infants (under age 1). The Perinatal Health Committee (PHC) focuses on the reduction of infant mortality with emphasis on promoting equity in birth outcomes and reducing prematurity, birth defects, SIDS, and other perinatal conditions. Some accomplishments include being recognized as a national leader in the use of 17-progesterone to reduce subsequent preterm births, promotion of best practices for safe sleep, and breastfeeding, as well as creation of the NC Equity in Birth Outcomes Council.
Unintentional Death Prevention
The Unintentional Death Committee (UDC) focuses on preventing unintentional child deaths such as those due to motor vehicle accidents, poisoning, drowning, or fire. Some accomplishments include graduated drivers license requirements, increased penalties for speeding in a school zone, improvements in the Controlled Substances Reporting System, booster and infant seat requirements, ATV restrictions, increased fee to restore a suspended license to help fund the detection, deterrence, and conviction of impaired driving, bike helmet laws, and smoke detector and CO requirements.
Intentional Death Prevention
The Intentional Death Prevention Committee (IDC) focuses on preventing abuse and neglect, suicide, and homicide. Some accomplishments in this area include re-writing child welfare laws, supporting home visiting and family preservation programs, promoting Safe Surrender for babies who would otherwise be abandoned, increasing the penalty for selling a gun to a minor and manufacturing methamphetamines in a location that endangers children, and support for trauma-informed care.