Virginia was selected as one of eight competitively-selected states to participate in the National Governors Association’s (NGA) Three Branch Institute, which focuses on improving child safety and preventing child fatalities. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), which is leading the effort, will be working closely with other state agencies to develop and implement integrated various best practices and strategies in an effort to approach the prevention of child fatalities throughout the state. These efforts will be focused on children under the age of four, with a special focus on children under the age of one, to include four goals:
- Increase the understanding of risk and protective factors that are predictive/associated with child maltreatment and child fatalities
- Assess the effectiveness of existing screening, safety and risk tools and explore the development of new or expanded policies, practices and protocols
- Strengthen existing efforts to enhance child safety through primary prevention and family engagement strategies across systems
- Enhance child welfare recruitment and retention efforts in order to create and sustain a culture of safety in the workplace.
In SFY 2015, local departments of social services investigated 127 reports involving 131 child deaths suspected to be caused by child abuse or neglect. For those cases where child abuse and neglect was ruled out as a factor in the child’s death, 64% were related to an unsafe sleep environment and 72% occurred under the age of one. In support of the above mentioned Goal 3, this initiative has focused on sleep related deaths among children under one year of age through the promotion of safe sleep practices including the use of Baby Boxes.