A total of 931 combined child deaths were reported in Florida in both 2015 and 2016, according to the state’s Child Abuse Death Review Committee (CADR), which met in Tampa Friday to discuss the issue.
Broken down, 474 of those reviewable fatalities were in 2015, with another 457 reviewable notifications made in 2016. More than 200 of those are still open cases — 29 from 2015 and 175 from 2016, per graphs compiled in documents by the committee and released to FloridaPolitics.com.
The committee also released their 2016 annual report recently.
Among the 20 circuit districts the judicial courts and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) offices fall under across the Sunshine State, only three had completed, and closed, all of their investigations in 2015: Circuits 3, 7 and 18.
One, Miami’s 16th Circuit Court, had not completed or closed a single investigation into the deaths of minors, as said in a CADR review.
A call was placed to the child protection office for the 16th Circuit early Friday afternoon, but was not immediately returned.
Moving from 2015 into 2016, no districts had both completed and closed all their investigations.
(Again, the 16th Circuit had not completed or closed a single case, though without speaking to officials in the district, it was not immediately clear if other factors play.)
CADR is led by the Florida Department of Health, which is tasked with reviewing closed investigations into child deaths, Jessica Sims, DCF communications director in Tallahassee, told FloridaPolitics.com.
“DCF is a member of the committee and is one of many entities with a representative on each local review team, which are led by the local health departments,” Sims said by email. “DCF has no oversight of the committee or local review teams. … DCF’s quality assurance reviews or Critical Incident Rapid Response Team deployment to review child death cases are not related to the CADR — it is important not to confuse these different types of reviews.”
Death investigations conducted by DCF or by sheriff’s offices are generally closed within 30-60 days, say both DCF and CADR officials.
“Cases that remain open longer are usually due to a law enforcement hold, medical examiner determination, state attorney involvement or other factor,” Sims explained.
Various factors are considered in each investigation — primarily whether the deaths were preventable or not.
If they were, or are, found to be deemed preventable then they are classified as neglect, which the committee reported more dangers to children than most other settings.