Website tracks child fatalities in Florida, focuses on prevention

Unsafe sleep, drowning, substance exposure – hundreds of children die each year in Florida from preventable causes. In response to the number of reported deaths that come into the Department of Children and Families Florida Abuse hotline, the agency launched the Child Fatality Prevention website to raise public awareness about child fatalities and assist communities with identifying trends and solutions.

The site includes statewide data and local data and prevention information. Nearly 450 child fatalities were reported to the Florida Abuse hotline in 2013. While the site is a resource for data, it includes the reminder that each statistic represents a child taken too soon.

According to the site, in Northeast Florida, there were approximately 113 deaths of infants under age one from 2009-2014 that were investigated. Of those deaths, 47 were sleep-related due to unsafe sleep surfaces or a diagnosis of SIDS/SUIDs. At least a dozen additional deaths were attributed to other causes but included unsafe sleep conditions.

Child fatalities

The majority of the unsafe sleep and SIDS/SUIDs deaths included co-sleeping/bedsharing on a bed or couch. Many of the infants were also placed on their stomach or side – not on their back, which is the safest position according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Read the AAP’s full recommendations for safe sleep here.

Project IMPACT, the Coalition’s annual report on birth outcomes, infant mortality and the Fetal and Infant Mortality Review results, identified sleep-related deaths as a major area of concern. The annual Project IMPACT recommendations included providing education focused on babies sleeping alone on a safe sleep surface.

Parental substance abuse – both during pregnancy and after the child’s birth – impacted the lives of many babies. Several premature infants in Clay and Duval counties that died after hospital discharge were born substance-exposed after use of drugs by the mother during pregnancy. Several additional cases in those counties were attributed to parental substance misuse after birth.

Across the state, the majority of deaths occurred in children under one year of age. Sleep-related deaths — due to unsafe sleep or a diagnosis of SIDS/SUIDs — were the most common cause, followed by drowning.

The Child Fatality Prevention site includes critical information on keeping kids safe in a variety of situations: