2017-2018 Session

Child Death Rate Down 46% Since Inception of the Child Fatality Task Force

Trend in Rate of Child Deaths (Ages Birth Through 17)

The Child Fatality Task Force is a legislative study commission which makes recommendations to the General Assembly and Governor for their consideration. Recommendations are based on data, research, and evidence-based practice and reflect hundreds of hours of volunteer input. For each of the past several years, experts have donated more than 1,000 hours of their time and consultation towards formation of the action agenda. The Task Force is supported by a single staff person housed in the Division of Public Health and co-chaired by volunteers who are members of the Task Force.

Over the past twenty years, recommendations made by the Task Force that legislators passed and the Governor approved as laws have contributed to an estimated 9,000 more children living to adulthood. Since about 1,600 children die each year, it is as if about five years of child death have been averted.

The Task Force has three committees: Perinatal Health, Intentional Death Prevention and Unintentional Death. The committees craft recommendations to bring to the full Task Force. A call-in option is available for each meeting to encourage participation by people across the state. Materials are posted to the CFTF website for maximum transparency. The Task Force hears from issue experts, reviews data and considers recommendations of the committees to create the final action agenda.

Specific accomplishments include the following:

  • Infant mortality has declined 29% since the inception of the Task Force. A variety of strategies have contributed to this reduction. To help reduce SIDS and prevent other sleep-related deaths, professional and community trainings and educational messages have reached one 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.
  • 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 20% for 17 year olds. For both groups, the positive effect has continued. 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 in third – from about 1 worker for every 30 abused and neglected children in 1991 to about 1 worker for every 10 or 11 abused and neglected children today. This 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%.

Perinatal Health Committee
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. 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, breastfeeding and tobacco cessation, and creation of the NC Equity in Birth Outcomes Council.

Unintentional Death Committee
The Unintentional Death Committee (UDC) focuses on preventing unintentional child deaths, such as those due to motor vehicles accidents, poisoning, drowning, fire and lack of supervision. Accomplishments include graduated driver license requirements, backseat seat-belt laws, increased penalties for speeding in a school zone, booster and infant seat requirements, ATV restrictions, increased fee to restore a suspended license to help fund detection, deterrence and conviction of impaired driving, bike helmet laws, and smoke detector and CO requirements.

Intentional Death Committee
The Intentional Death Committee (IDC) focuses on preventing child abuse and neglect, suicide and homicide. Accomplishments in this area include re-writing the 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. The current focus is looking at primary and secondary prevention strategies.

Child Fatality Prevention System
The Child Fatality Task Force is part of the Child Fatality Prevention System, which also includes local Child Fatality Prevention Teams and the State Child Fatality Prevention Team. The “Authorizing Legislation” tab has more details about the system. For more information about the work of the State Team, please visit http://www.ocme.unc.edu/nccfpp/index.shtml.