CHILD FATALITIES/NEAR FATALITIES RESULTING FROM ABUSE AND/OR NEGLECT
In California, federal and state statutes govern the disclosure of information related to child fatalities or near fatalities that are the result of abuse and/or neglect. Federal law, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), requires that states disclose to the public, findings or information about cases of child abuse and neglect that result in fatalities or near fatalities. Additionally, California Senate Bill (SB) 39 (Chapter 468, Statutes of 2007) set out the requirements for the county’s disclosure of child fatality information wherein there is a reasonable suspicion that the fatality was caused by abuse or neglect and when abuse or neglect has been determined to have led to a child’s death. Specifically, SB 39 requires the custodian of records for the child welfare agency to release specified information. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) issued All County Letter (ACL) 08-13 , dated March 14, 2008, ACL 09-02 , dated March 19, 2009, and ACL 10-06 dated March 6, 2010, to implement SB 39. The CDSS issued emergency regulations related to SB 39, effective January 1, 2009, which governed disclosure requirements for child fatalities that occurred on or after January 1, 2008. These regulations were adopted as final on November 10, 2009. These regulations and ACL 10-06, provide current guidance on the public disclosure of information in cases of child fatalities and near fatalities caused by abuse and/or neglect.
STATEMENTS OF FINDING AND INFORMATION (SOC 826) FORM
Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) § 10850.4 (j) requires the county welfare department or agency to notify the CDSS of every child fatality that occurred within its jurisdiction that was the result of abuse or neglect. The mechanism for county child welfare agencies to notify CDSS of a child fatality that was the result of abuse and/or neglect is the SOC 826 form.
In addition, ACL 08-13, ACL 09-02, and ACL 10-06, requires the county child welfare agency to report all near fatalities that are a result of abuse and/or neglect to CDSS. Pursuant to ACL 08-13, the definition of a near fatality is a severe childhood injury or condition caused by abuse or neglect which results in the child receiving critical care for at least 24 hours following the child’s admission to a critical care unit(s). The mechanism for notifying CDSS of a child near fatality that is the result of abuse and/or neglect is also the SOC 826 form.
CHILD FATALITY DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS
In accordance with WIC § 10850.4 (a) and Manual of Policies and Procedures (MPP), Division 31, section 31-502.31 , the local child welfare agency is responsible for releasing to the public, upon request, the following information for cases of child fatalities wherein there is a reasonable suspicion that the fatality was caused by abuse or neglect:
- The age and gender of the child.
- The date of death.
- Residence of the child at the time of death.
Welfare and Institutions Code § 10850.4 (c) and MPP section 31-502.33 , allows for the release of the following additional information for a child fatality that was determined* to be the result of abuse or neglect if the child resided with the parent or guardian and the abuse and/or neglect was inflicted by the parent or guardian. This information includes:
- All information listed in MPP section 31-502.2
- Any emergency response referral information completed by the county which pertains to the abuse and/or neglect that resulted in the death of the child.
- Any previous referrals of abuse or neglect specific to the deceased child that were determined to be inconclusive or substantiated while living with that parent or guardian.
- Any cross reports relating to the deceased child that were completed by the county and sent to a law enforcement agency.
- Any copies of police reports about the person against whom the child abuse and/or neglect was substantiated.
- Any health care records, excluding mental health records, related to the child’s death and previous injuries reflective of a pattern of abuse and/or neglect.
- Any risk and safety assessments, as defined by MPP sections 31-002(r)(7) and 31-002 (s)(1) , relating to the deceased child that were completed by the county.
For county child welfare agencies, the release of information meeting the list above is for those documents within the case file. The county child welfare agency is not required to seek additional information for which the county child welfare agency does not have primary responsibility or authority.
* Note : A determination that the fatality was the result of abuse and/or neglect exists when one of the following conditions is met:
- A “determination” of abuse and/or neglect by Child Welfare Services or Probation is the substantiation of abuse and/or neglect allegations which resulted in the fatality; or
- A law enforcement investigation concludes that the child’s death was a result of abuse and/or neglect; or
- A corner/medical examiner concludes that the child’s death was a result of abuse and/or neglect.
Requests for information related to such child fatalities should be directed to the local county child welfare agency.
The CDSS will release SOC 826 forms related to child fatalities that are determined to be the result of abuse and/or neglect pursuant to WIC § 10850.4 and Government Code §§ 6250 et seq. which governs California’s Public Records Act (PRA). The SOC 826 form is the Statement of Findings and Information related to a child fatality determined to be the result of abuse and/or neglect that is released by CDSS. View the CDSS’ public records policy .
CHILD NEAR FATALITY DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS
All County Letter 08-13, ACL 09-02, and ACL 10-06 identified CDSS as the responsible entity for responding to public requests for Statements of Findings and Information (SOC 826 forms) submitted by counties for near fatalities that are found to be the result of abuse or neglect. The SOC 826 form is the information related to a child near fatality determined to be the result of abuse and/or neglect that is released by CDSS. View the CDSS’ public records policy .
CHILD FATALITY/NEAR FATALITY DATACalifornia Child Fatality and Near Fatality Annual Report: Calendar Year 2008 | Calendar Year 2009 | Calendar Year 2010
ANNUAL PROGRESS AND SERVICES REPORTS
Analysis of child fatalities and near fatalities that occurred and were submitted to CDSS January 1-December 31, 2007, pages 208-215: Federal Fiscal Year 2008
Analysis of child fatalities and near fatalities that occurred and were submitted to CDSS July 21-December 31, 2006, pages 201-207: Federal Fiscal Year 2007
Analysis of child fatalities that occurred and were submitted to CDSS March 2005-February 2006, pages 166-171: Federal Fiscal Year 2006