Special Efforts Being Made in Washington, D.C., to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

Following the release of Within Our Reach, and specifically CECANF’s finding that the Nurse Family Partnership home visiting program was the only evidence-based practice showing a reduction in fatalities, the D.C. Auditor commissioned DC Action for Children to provide a baseline report containing information on existing home visiting programs and funding.  Among other things, the report found that DC’s home visiting program targets services primarily to families that exhibit the highest need, and provides a variety of program options in each ward, increasing the opportunity for families to be matched with a model that meets their specific needs.  However, it also noted that differing data collection requirements by funding streams, program models, and providers create challenges in evaluating the effectiveness of services, even across different programs implementing the same models; current funding sources may be at risk and local funding levels are not sufficient to maintain programs at their current capacities in the event of a loss of federal funding; providers experience challenges hiring and retaining qualified, culturally competent home visitors, which can adversely impact participant retention; and the District currently lacks the capacity to reach all families who could benefit from home visiting programs. [Recommendation 7.1j]

CFSA internally reviews all deaths of children whose families had contact with CFSA within the current year or previous 4 years. CFSA’s QA unit convenes a Child Fatality Critical Event Meeting within 24 hours of receiving notice of a recent child fatality.  Meeting participants include representatives from relevant CFSA program areas. The meeting focuses on the immediate needs of the family and particularly any surviving children while still exploring circumstances surrounding the child’s death. Meeting participants assess the level of risk, if any, to other children in the home and recommend immediate next steps for the investigative social workers or other personnel, as appropriate.

CFSA educates clients on the dangers of co-sleeping, and expeditiously provides “Pack ‘n Plays” to clients who need them as part of their safe sleep education efforts. [Recommendation 7.1c]