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Reviewing Child Deaths: Learning From the American Experience

NCJ Number
Child Abuse Review Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: March-April 2005 Pages: 82-96
Lisa Bunting; Colin Reid
Date Published
March 2005
15 pages
This paper examined current systems for investigating child deaths within England, Wales, and Northern Ireland and explored how the lessons from the American experience of developing child death review teams (CDRT’s) might be used to improve these systems.
In recent years, the current systems for investigating child deaths in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland have come under intense scrutiny, and questions have been raised about the accuracy of child death investigations and resulting statistics. This paper examined these systems and explored how the lessons learned from the experience of creating multidisciplinary CDRT’s in America might be used to improve the systems. Under the current system, when a child dies in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the death needs to be registered by the Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages within 5 days before the body can be released for burial or cremation. This process is limited in its ability to provide in-depth information about the circumstances and factors which contributed to these deaths. In addition, a review of the current system notes the lack of multidisciplinary, multi-agency communication and the potential misidentification or misclassification of some deaths. A literature review on American CDRT’s suggests a number of possible benefits from utilizing this particular process, such as improved multi-agency working and communication, more effective identification of suspicious cases, and a decrease in inadequate death certification. While lack of funding, regional coordination, and evaluation limit the impact of American CDRT’s, the positive aspects of this process make it worthwhile, and timely, to consider how such a model might fit into the current system used in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Current policy developments and the development of local protocols for the investigation and/or review of child deaths highlight an increased focus on multidisciplinary processes in the United Kingdom. References, tables